A buyer’s guide to conveyancing
This quick guide is intended to give you an overview of a typical residential purchase but please bear in mind that every transaction is unique and that variations may arise.
The start of the process
Survey and inspection
The property you are buying should be surveyed as the seller is not under a duty to tell you about any defects and you buy the property in the state that it is in at the moment of exchange of contracts.
It is essential that you inspect the property yourself and alert us to anything that you think may warrant further investigation such as tenants/lodgers at the property or third party rights over the property (e.g. a public right of way or a neighbour’s right to use a path). We will always ask the seller’s solicitors about these and other matters although we cannot be sure that the information received will be accurate or comprehensive so your own inspection is extremely valuable.
If the property is less than 10 years old we will check whether it is covered under the Buildmark Scheme of the National House-Building Council. The legal report we will send you about the property will explain the benefits of cover under this scheme.
Draft contract and other documentation
We receive a draft contract as well as property information forms and copies of the relevant title deeds and documents from the seller’s solicitors.
We will check the legal title to the property to ensure that it is acceptable to you and your lender.
When we have agreed the contract we will arrange for you to sign it and ask for your instructions on a completion date. When we have received the signed contract and your instructions regarding the completion date we will be ready to exchange contracts with the seller.
Agreeing the completion date
The completion date is not fixed until exchange takes place and it is written into the contract. It is usually 2-3 weeks after exchange but can be any working day that you and the seller agree on.
We will submit a number of searches against the property, namely:
- Local Authority searches (revealing obligations of a public nature);
- a water and drainage search;
- an environmental search (revealing actual and potential problems caused by contamination of land); and
- a chancel repair search (revealing any chancel repair liability that you may have as the owner).
The results of all searches and how they affect you, such as the need for certain insurance policies (e.g. for chancel repair indemnity), will be explained to you in our legal report on the property.
You make your mortgage application (if applicable).
This is part of the purchase price that is paid to the seller on exchange of contracts. The deposit is traditionally 10% of the purchase price but it is not uncommon nowadays for the seller to accept 5%. If you withdraw from the purchase prior to completion the buyer may be able to retain the deposit and may be able to sue you for the full 10% deposit if a reduced or no deposit is paid.
Your mortgage advance (if applicable) will not be available until the completion date so you will need to consider where your deposit funds will come from.
Pre-exchange of contracts
Investigation of title
We investigate the documentation supplied by the seller’s solicitors as well as the results of our searches and, where necessary, raise enquiries. When we have all the information we need we will send you a legal report on the property.
When your mortgage offer has been issued we check the terms of the offer and write to you about the terms (if applicable).
Responsibility for insuring the property will pass to you either on exchange or on completion, depending on what is specified in the contract. We will highlight the relevant date in our legal report to you.
Exchange of contracts
Contracts are exchanged and a date is fixed for completion. From this point onwards both you and the seller have a contractual obligation to complete the transaction.
Steps between exchange and completion
We will submit a Land Registry search against the property to ensure that no adverse entries have been placed on the register since our last search. (Where the land is unregistered we will submit a land charges search.)
The transfer deed is the legal document which transfers legal ownership of the property to you on completion. We will draft the transfer deed for approval by the seller’s solicitors. When approved we will send it to you for signature and then send it to the seller’s solicitor for signature by the seller. This will be returned to us on completion.
We will send you a completion statement specifying the income and expenditure involved in the whole transaction and this will let you know the final amount that will be due from you in order to complete the transaction.
Completion of the transaction
The seller is required to vacate the property prior to completion and you will be entitled to move in as soon as the seller’s solicitors receive the purchase money. The funds due from you must reach us on or before this date. We will forward the amount due to the seller’s solicitors.
Stamp duty land tax
We will organise the payment of any stamp duty land tax due on the property. We will already have the money for the stamp duty land tax as this will have been included in the completion statement sent to you.
We will register your ownership of the property and your mortgage over the property (if applicable) as well as the discharge of any existing mortgage at the Land Registry.