When buying a home, you’ll need to go through conveyancing – the legal process of transferring property ownership from one owner to another. This stage of the home-buying process is usually the longest and involves organising searches and drafting the contracts, so there’s a lot to consider! Here’s everything you need to know about conveyancing when buying a home.
Who does conveyancing?
Conveyancing can either be done by a solicitor or a licenced conveyancer. Both are fully regulated and insured – the only difference is that conveyancers specialise in conveyancing, while solicitors are also trained in other areas of the law. It’s possible to do it yourself, but worth noting you might find it easier with a professional on your side and most lenders won’t accept DIY conveyancing due to the risk.
Selecting a solicitor
Your estate agent or lender might recommend a solicitor, but you don’t have to go with their recommendation. You can also find your own through online research or recommendations from family and friends.
Top tip: your chosen solicitor doesn’t have to be based in your local area – conveyancing can be done completely virtually. The key thing to remember is that they have to be on your chosen lender’s ‘approved panel’ so be sure to check in with your lender or mortgage adviser to confirm.
When does the conveyancing process start?
Conveyancing starts as soon as you’ve had an offer accepted on a property, so to ensure you can get the ball rolling quickly, it’s best to find someone before you even look for properties. To kick off the conveyancing process, you ‘instruct’ your chosen solicitor, meaning you tell them you want them to work on your behalf.
How long does the conveyancing process take?
The conveyancing process takes around 4-12 weeks to complete, although it can take longer if the survey or searches raise any issues or if something goes wrong along the ‘chain’ of transactions. For example, if the seller is buying a property from someone who then pulls out of their process, they will have to start their home-buying process from scratch, which will mean knock-on delays for your purchase. You can speed things up by keeping in regular contact with your solicitor. If you have a mortgage case manager, they can do the chasing for you.
What is a typical conveyancing timeline?
Instruct your solicitor – Once you’ve found your chosen solicitor, you ‘instruct’ them, usually by completing and returning an instruction form.
Weeks 1 and 2: Pre-contract checks – Your solicitor will ask you for proof of ID, proof of address, proof of deposit funds and details of your lender and estate agent, so they can run anti-money laundering checks. They’ll start work by requesting a draft contract and legal pack from the seller’s solicitor. When they receive it, they’ll raise any initial enquiries. They’ll also give you a quote for their services and might ask for an upfront payment. Meanwhile, you’ll apply for your mortgage.
Weeks 3 to 6: Searches happen – Your solicitor will order searches for information about the property and its surrounding area, including any planning restrictions. They’ll investigate any issues and raise more enquiries if necessary. If you decide to order a home survey to check for any defects, you would do this at this point. Hopefully, you’ll have received your formal mortgage offer by now.
Week 7 to 9: Review and sign everything – Your solicitor will send you a ‘report on title’ to review – a comprehensive summary, including the contract, deeds, property information form, fittings and contents form and any relevant leasehold information. Now’s the time to ask any final questions, or sign on the dotted line if you’re happy to go ahead.
Week 10: Prepare to exchange – Through solicitors, you’ll agree on a completion date that works for everyone in the chain: you, your seller, anyone they’re buying a home from and so on. For exchange to happen, you’ll be required to pay 5-10% of the property value as a deposit. You’ll organise the funds and transfer them to your solicitor in advance, so that they’re ready for when you exchange contracts.
Week 11: Exchange contracts – Your solicitor and your seller’s solicitor will exchange signed copies of the contract, meaning the transaction is now legally binding for both you and the seller. If either of you were to back out now, there would be serious legal and financial consequences.
Week 12: Completion – Today’s the day! Your solicitor will transfer deposit funds to the seller’s solicitor and call you to confirm completion has happened. You can then pick up the keys from the estate agent and move into your new home, which is officially yours! Completion usually takes place 7-28 days after you exchange contracts.
Post-completion – Your solicitor will tie up any loose ends, including notifying the Land Registry of the change in ownership and paying any stamp duty on your behalf (if it applies).
How much do conveyancing fees cost?
Fees vary, but you can expect to pay between £800 and £1,500, plus fees for ‘disbursements’ (third party fees including stamp duty and searches). If you’re buying a leasehold property and there are extra searches needed on the lease or service charge, fees may be higher. Some solicitors will offer their services on a ‘no completion, no fee’ basis to give you peace of mind that if your home purchase falls through, you won’t have to pay the full bill.
Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.