What is conveyancing?

If you’re buying a new home one of the terms you are almost certain to come across is 'conveyancing’.

It is just one of many pieces of jargon used by professionals involved in the house buying and selling process. At Larkfleet we want to make sure you are fully ‘in the know’ about what is going so here, if you need one, is a quick explanation of ‘conveyancing’.

Conveyancing explained
Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring home ownership from the seller to the buyer.

When does conveyancing start?
The conveyancing process starts when your offer on a new home is accepted and finishes when you receive the keys. Understanding what it involves will help to ensure there are fewer surprises along the way.

Who does the conveyancing?
A solicitor or conveyancer usually conducts the conveyancing process but it is possible do it yourself if you are not taking out a mortgage.

What happens first?
Most people find that doing the conveyancing themselves can be extremely complicated and time consuming. If you have made the decision to have someone else do it, the first step is to find the right solicitor or conveyancer.

You can do this by searching online, asking friends or family for recommendations or visiting the high street.

If you are buying a new-built house from a builder you may find that it will be able to recommend a solicitor or conveyancer.

This professional will work for you, not the builder, and will look after your interests. However, because they will have experience of dealing with the builder’s own lawyers you may find that conveyancing is quicker (and therefore, probably, cheaper) using the builder’s recommended professional.

If you are buying a new Larkfleet home we can introduce you to a friendly and efficient professional to handle your conveyancing.

How does the conveyancing process start?
Once you have found a solicitor you are happy with, they will draw up a draft contract or terms of engagement with you, setting out their charges and deposits required.

Once you have agreed the charges with your solicitor, they will write to the solicitor working for the seller of the property to confirm that they have been ‘instructed’ (ie, that they are working for you). They will request a copy of the draft contract and any other details, such as the property’s title deeds (paper documents showing the chain of ownership for land and property) and the standard forms involved in buying and selling a house.

You can learn more about title deeds here.

The legal process
The legal process will start with your solicitor examining the draft contract and supporting documents. If they have any queries they will raise these with the seller’s solicitor.

This is a great opportunity also for you to go through all the forms the seller has completed and raise any concerns or queries which you may have.

Legal searches
Your solicitor will do a set of ‘legal searches’ to ensure there are no other factors you should be aware of with the property. This can include local authority searches such as finding out if there are plans for a new motorway near (or even on!) your property and checking flood risk (will you have problems getting insurance because your proposed new home is close to a river that frequently bursts its banks?).

Your solicitor will also check to see if there are liabilities for ‘chancel repair’ – medieval liabilities on the property to help pay for church repairs.

In addition, your solicitor will seek information about contaminated land at or around the property, landfill sites, former and current industry, radon gas hazards, ground stability issues and other related information which could have an impact on the value of your proposed new home – and your decision on whether or not to proceed with the purchase.

If you are buying a new home from a builder you should have no problems with any of this! And this is one area where using the builder's recommended professionals can save time and money – they will have done similar searches on other properties within the development so will not need to 'start from scratch' with searches relating to the home you plan to buy.

Your mortgage
It is vital that you have your mortgage 

in place and that you have the finance available for a mortgage deposit.

Your solicitor will receive a copy of the mortgage offer and go through the conditions with you.

Signing the contract
Once all the above is in place, you will be one step closer to signing the contracts and owning your new home. Before this can happen and you sign the contracts, your solicitor will need to ensure:

-       That all enquiries have been returned and are satisfactory.

-       That fixtures and fittings included in the purchase are what you expected.

-       That a completion date has been agreed between the two parties, which is usually 1-4 weeks after exchange of contracts, though this can vary widely.

-       That you have made arrangements to transfer the deposit into your solicitor’s account so that it is cleared in time for an exchange.

Exchanging contracts
The contracts have been signed! Now it is a simple case of exchanging contracts with the seller at a mutually agreeable time.

The contracts will be exchanged by your solicitor. This process is usually done by both solicitors/conveyancers reading out the contracts over the phone as this can be recorded to ensure that the contracts are the same. They will then immediately post them to each other.

If you are in a ‘chain’ (a line of buyers and sellers linked together because each is selling and buying a property from one of the others) your solicitor/conveyancer will do the same thing, but the contracts can only be released if everyone in the chain is happy to proceed.

This means if one person pulls out or delays, then everyone in the chain gets held up.

Once you have exchanged contracts you will be in a legally binding contract to buy the property (which means you cannot now change your mind) with a fixed date for moving.

On completion day
Official completion takes place when the seller’s solicitor confirms that they have received all the money that is due. Once this happens the seller should drop the keys at the estate agents for your collection if you are buying a second-hand home or the builder’s sales office will release the keys if you are buying a newly-built property.

After completion
Your solicitor will: 

-       Pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on your behalf.

-       Send you all the legal documents (usually about 20 days after completion) after they have sent them to the Land Registry – the official government body that records all sales of land and property.

-       Send the title deeds to your mortgage lender, who will hold them until you pay off your loan.

-       Give you a bill for their services – but often they will have taken what they are owed from the money they are handling on your behalf to complete the purchase of the property.

Professional jargon
There’s all sorts of jargon used by professionals in all walks of life. It’s no different when you are buying or selling a home. Conveyancing is just one of the terms which you’ll hear, maybe for the first time if this is the first time you’ve bought a house.

We’ve tried to explain several other bits of jargon on our website – including mortgage, snagging and part exchange

Don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand what people are talking about. It’s your money and your home so be sure you’re ‘in the know’. Larkfleet sales staff are happy to take the time to explain things. Believe us, there really is no such thing as a ‘stupid question’!