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Purchase Conveyancing Process Explained

Get a Purchase Conveyancing Quote!

By Mahinan Pathmanathan

The decision to buy or sell a house/property is the easy part; but the purchase conveyancing process that goes on behind the scenes to effectively execute a sale/purchase is not so simple.

Here is an attempt to breakdown the buying process in layman’s terms to help a buyer/seller understand the nitty gritty involved in the buying process. If you have doubts that fall outside the purview of these guidelines, please seek advice from your conveyancing solicitor.

Preliminary Stage

  • Once you’ve decided to buy, the first step is to identify a conveyancer and enlist his services. On receipt of the Letter of Engagement or Confirmation of Terms of Business, you must sign it and return it at the earliest so that the conveyancing lawyer can start working on your case. You must also advance the funds required to cover initial expenditure.
  • Once your purchase offer has been accepted through an estate agent, the agent will send your property solicitor and all relevant parties the Sale Memorandum which includes important information such as personal details of the purchaser and seller, the property address, the agreed price and contact details of the seller’s conveyancer.
  • Your property lawyer will then confirm in writing/email to the seller’s property solicitor that he has been retained by you to execute the purchase and will request the draft contract.
  • The seller’s property conveyancing solicitor will send a draft contract and Office Copy Entries that includes information on the property’s title, fixture and fittings form and other standard forms completed by the seller. Other relevant legal documents pertaining to the title will also be included.
  • If you are also selling a property and need the sale and purchase transactions to be tied together, your purchase conveyancer should be kept in the loop right from the get go.

Joint Ownership

  • If you are interested in joint ownership of the property, your conveyancer will advise you accordingly and detail ways in which you can jointly own a property. You can be joint tenants where both parties have an equal share in the property and if one dies, the survivor consequentially owns the entire property.
  • Or you can be tenants in common, where each party owns a specific share of the property that can be willed to anyone in the event of death.

Legal Work – Cross-Checking By Property Solicitor

  • your conveyancing lawyer will have to study the draft contract and all other conveyancing documents. If the property is a leaseholdleasehold, a copy of the lease is essential. He will also require additional documents to corroborate service/maintenance charges, accounts and ground rent receipts.
  • If there is lack of clarity in any of the documents he will bring up his queries with the seller’s solicitor. You too will have to go through all the forms that the seller has filled and submitted and notify your conveyancer if the documents are okay in your eyes. If not, you can seek necessary clarifications.
  • In the case of a leasehold property your property solicitor will send a standard Managing Agents Questionnaire to the seller’s solicitors which will have to be completed and returned.
  • The seller’s conveyancer will either request the information from the relevant Landlord/Managing Agents/Residents Association or pass on the form to them to complete. This could cause unnecessary delays in the purchase conveyancing process and add to the cost as many management companies charge for management information.

Mortgage Offer

  • If you are taking out a mortgage in order to make the property purchase you must ensure that your conveyancing solicitor receives a copy of the mortgage offer. He will go through the conditions and if necessary request clarifications and more information.
  • Under normal circumstances, your conveyancer will take on the legal work for your mortgage lender as well. This will simplify the process as it eliminates a third conveyancer coming into the fray.

Preparation for Exchange of Contract and Deposit

  • Your property lawyer tracks your case and confirms that he has received clarifications to all enquiries and that all forms that were sent out have been duly completed and returned. He will then consolidate the information and documents and examine them once more.
  • Once your solicitor is satisfied that all the required documents are in order he will set up a meeting in his office for you to go through the paper work one final time and sign the contract and mortgage documents.
  • Once you’ve signed the contract you will have to make arrangements to transfer the deposit (usually 10% of the purchase offer) into your conveyancing solicitor’s account so that it is cleared in time for the exchange of contracts.
  • If you are taking out a mortgage, then your lender will want you to have a Building Insurance Policy in place, which will come into effect once contracts are exchanged.
  • At the same time, the seller’s conveyancer will do his due diligence and arrange for the seller to sign the contract in readiness for the exchange.

Exchange of Contracts and Liability

  • Once the property purchaser and seller are in a position to execute the exchange, they will, in concurrence with their respective conveyancing lawyers, agree on a completion date.
  • This can be done over the telephone between the respective lawyers confirming the name and address of parties; the property address; the amount of deposit; the time of exchange and the date of completion.
  • When a date has been fixed, your conveyancer will request the mortgage advance from the lender be released in time for the specified completion date.
  • The conveyancers can exchange the signed contracts in person or can have them delivered to each other.
  • From the time the signed contracts are exchanged you are legally bound to buy and the seller is legally bound to sell.
  • If either party fails to meet the terms of the contract, which results in the completion being stalled or shelved, the offender will be liable to a pay the other party compensation for losses incurred.
  • After the exchange of contracts, your solicitor will send your deposit to the seller’s property solicitor as surety for you paying the balance amount and completing the sale. If for some reason you are unable to go through with the property purchase, the seller can keep your deposit and could take you to court if the deposit is not compensation enough for violating the contract.
  • The same applies to the seller. If he exchanges contracts and backs out of making the sale, you could approach the court for an order to force the seller to sell. If not you can demand your deposit back and sue the seller for compensation.
  • Very rarely is a sale compromised once contracts have been exchanged.

Between Exchange and completion

  • Your property solicitor will carry out some pre-completion enquiries of a technical nature once the deposit has been transferred.
  • Your property lawyer will then draw up a transfer deed so that there is no time wasted in registering the property in your name after completion of sale.
  • Before completion, your solicitor will draw up a statement consolidating all the expenses you incurred. You must ensure the total amount is credited to your conveyaner’s bank account on time.
  • If you are taking out a mortgage, your conveyancing solicitor will draw up the loan amount in time for completion.

Completion of purchase conveyancing Process

  • On the morning of the date set for completion, the seller will leave the keys with the estate agent.
  • The seller’s conveyancing solicitor will confirm that conveyancing is complete once he has received the balance amount of the property purchase offer.
  • He will then authorise the estate agent to release the keys to the property purchaser.
  • The seller’s conveyancing lawyer will have to redeem the mortgage and pay the estate agents fee once he has received the funds from your property solicitors.

Post Completion

  • Your property lawyer will have to pay the stamp duty from the money you have entrusted with him for costs incurred. This has to be done at the earliest as there are penalties if it is delayed.
  • The seller’s conveyancer will send all the original documents and deeds relating to the property, including the transfer documents, to your property solicitor.
  • If you have taken out a mortgage, your conveyancing lawyer will send the deeds to your lender for safe keeping until you sell the property or pay off the loan.
  • Your conveyancer must seek a copy of the confirmation that the mortgage has been redeemed from the seller’s conveyancing solicitor and must forward this confirmation to the Land Registry.
  • Your conveyancing lawyer will then make arrangements to get the title deeds registered in your name and, if applicable, any mortgage at the HM Land Registry. If the property is leasehold he will ensure that your name is entered on the lease. The transfer document will be stamped to officially approve the sale.
  • The registration formalities may take a month or two to complete, depending on how busy it is at the Land Registry.