With the recent changes to stamp duty more people are now thinking about buying their next home. Moving house can be one of the most stressful things any of us do but Bartletts Solicitors experienced conveyancers are here to help you at every stage of the process.
Here Khalid Mahmood, Bartletts’ Licensed Conveyancer, takes us through some of the key things our clients ask about when moving home and the conveyancing process.
What is conveyancing?
You may think buying a house is the same as buying anything else. The money is paid, the previous owner moves out and you move in. In a way that’s true. But when something as valuable as a building is bought and sold, then the process involves something called an exchange of contracts and completion which requires a significant amount of legal involvement before matters proceed to finalisation of the transaction, monies being paid and property ownership and occupation changing hands. This is process is called conveyancing and to complete the property sale and purchase in the most efficient, legally protective way, you need a residential conveyancing solicitor to help you through the whole process.
You’ll be able to buy more quickly and with total peace of mind, when you use a property solicitor to carry out the legal conveyancing process.
What does a conveyancing solicitor do?
A conveyancing solicitor mediates and manages all of the legal and practical process between the buyer, the mortgage lender or bank and whoever is selling the property to the buyer. The solicitor oversees the conveyancing process and carries out necessary checks to ensure everything goes smoothly and legally correct. Whilst conveyancing is a relatively straightforward process, each property transaction is unique, meaning complications can arise. That’s why conveyancing solicitors are essential for a stress-free conveyancing process.
What are the stages of purchasing a property?
The conveyancing process starts as soon as you decide to buy a property. If you are a buying a property you will need to instruct a conveyancing solicitor to act on your behalf and the seller of the property you are buying from will have their own conveyancing solicitor acting on their behalf. These solicitors will liaise with each other as well as the Estate Agents throughout the process. The pre-contract stage takes up most of a conveyancing solicitor’s work during the conveyancing process.
The first job for the conveyancing solicitor who is acting for the Seller is to create a contract pack. This includes:
- Sale contract
- Title deeds
- Property information documents
If you are the buyer of the property your conveyancer will consider the title deeds and other documents included in the legal pack, carry out searches relevant to the Property including local authority search to check Local Authority records, water & drainage search to check the Water Authority records, environmental search and practical issues with the property. Iron out any issues which arise from his/her investigation of the legal pack and searches. It is important that these checks are carried out as soon as possible, so that any problems can be dealt with early on before they become an issue. Your conveyancing solicitor will also liaise with your mortgage lender to ensure that the property offers sufficient security for the loan.
Once these documents are acceptable to all parties in the sale and purchase process, contracts will be signed by all parties and an agreement will be reached on when completion (i.e., when the final balance of monies due is paid and keys are handed over) takes place.
What is Exchange of Contracts
Contracts are usually exchanged by both conveyancing solicitors reading out the contracts over the phone (which is recorded by both of them) to make sure the contracts are identical. The contracts are then immediately sent out by them to one another in the post. This is known as exchange.
If you are in a chain, your conveyancing solicitor will do the same thing, however, they will only release the contract to the conveyancing solicitor acting on the other side if all the parties in the chain are happy and ready to go ahead. That means if one person pulls out or delays everything gets held up.
As soon as the contracts are exchanged you will be in a legally binding contract to buy or sell the property. If you do not complete on the date agreed in the contract and you are the buyer, you risk losing your deposit and you can be sued. However, if you are the seller, you must sell to the buyer. If you do not the buyer can keep their deposit and sue you.
Why Do We Exchange Contracts?
Until you exchange contracts neither side has any legal obligation to buy or sell the property. Both seller and buyer can pull out of the transaction without any penalty. It is only when contracts are formally exchanged by the solicitors does the deal become legally binding. If completion is late penalties start to accrue. For each day that completion does not take place interest will accrue at a rate specified in the contract until completion has taken place.
When Do I Exchange Contracts?
You usually exchange contracts between 7 and 28 days before completion although you can exchange contracts on the day of completion in exceptional circumstances. You need to make sure you have everything in place before hand, so that nothing can go wrong. For example if you are buying-
- You have agreed on an offer
- You have had a mortgage valuation and any other surveys you require
- You have had a formal mortgage offer in writing
- You have deposit funds available
- Your solicitor has carried out and reported to you on the relevant searches, reported to you on the contract, title deeds and mortgage, raised enquiries and received satisfactory replies to those enquiries and you have confirmed you are happy with everything received.
- You have organised building insurance. After you exchange contracts, you must put your buildings insurance on risk as you will be liable for the property immediately after exchange.
- You have agreed a date for completion with the other party. The date will be written into the contract.
- You have read, understood and signed the contract.
What happens once we have exchanged contracts but not yet completed?
During this time the buyer’s conveyancer requests mortgage advance/loan from the mortgage provider and the balance required form the buyer and manages and ensures the smooth transfer of funds to the sellers solicitors. At this point, the conveyancing solicitor’s focus is almost entirely on finances and pre-completion checks/searches. Smooth completion of the move is dependent upon this going well. At the same time, the buyer and seller will be finalising their removals.
What is completion?
The day the seller vacates the property and the buyer moves into the property is known in the conveyancing process as the ‘day of completion’. If selling and buying, we receive the monies from your sale and send the money for your purchase to your sellers solicitors. You move out of the property you are selling and hand the keys to your Estate Agent unless you have made private arrangements with the seller. If you are purchasing you collect the keys from the sellers Estate Agents.
Please note that the keys will only be released once the sellers solicitors have received the money which is usually around lunch time. Once we have sent the money, we have no control over the length of time taken until the sellers solicitors receive it. Likewise we have no control over the length of time taken to receive money from the purchaser’s solicitors as this is due to the bank system.
After the completion has taken place, the conveyancing solicitors will continue to conduct administration tasks to do with paying stamp duty land tax to HM Revenue and Customs, as well as registering the title deed at the governments Land Registry for the buyers. The Sellers conveyancing solicitor will be responsible for paying off any mortgages on the property sold by the Seller and ensuring the buyer has a clear and unencumbered title to register their new ownership.
For further information or advice about Residential Conveyancing please contact Bartletts Solicitors today on Freephone 0800 833288, or 01244 311 633 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Khalid.email@example.com