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What is residential conveyancing?

Essentially the legal process of buying, selling, mortgaging or transferring residential property. Due to its complicated nature both procedurally and legally, the majority of people instruct a solicitor to act on their behalf. Our team of residential property law experts can provide efficient advice and assistance.

If you are purchasing with a mortgage, your lender will specify that a solicitor must act on their behalf throughout the sale.

What do I need to know?

We thought it would be useful to provide a rough guide as to the stages in the conveyancing process.  We have separated the notes into two sections: selling and buying a property.  Of course many of us will sell and buy at the same time.  In these cases we will discuss with you tying in the transactions to ensure that you move from one property to the other.  When you are selling and buying you are in what is termed a “chain” so your progress in the transaction is linked to the progress made by your Buyer and Seller and timescales must work within this.

Buying or selling a property incorporates three separate stages:

  • Agreeing the sale/purchase
  • Undertaking the legal work
  • Exchanging contracts where parties become legally committed
  • Completing the transaction
  • Post completion formalities

Buying a property

Before Exchange of Contracts:

Once you have instructed us, we will ask you to complete a form confirming your identification, contact and financial details.  We do this as part of our regulatory and legal obligations.

Once the seller’s solicitor has instructions from the Seller, they will send to us contract documents including:

  • Property information form – providing information on  legal boundaries, any work completed on the property and planning regulations amongst other matters
  • Fittings and contents form – specifies what the Seller will leave at the property and what they will take with them
  • A copy of the title to the property – this determines whether the Seller is legally entitled to sell the property to you. Contract of sale – specifies the address and price of the property, plus the names and addresses of the Buyer and Seller

Upon receipt of the contract documentation, we usually carry out a number of searches, including:

  • Personal Regulated Local Search and/or Official Local Authority Search
  • Drainage Search
  • Environmental Search

Later in the process, further searches including bankruptcy and Land Registry searches will be carried out pre-completion.

If you need a mortgage to buy your property, you will no doubt have already made an application. We will need to receive mortgage instructions in writing before we can exchange contracts.  It is perfectly usual for your Lender to instruct ourselves to act on their behalf in a conveyancing transaction.  Kew Law LLP is on the majority of Lender (Mortgage Company) conveyancing panels, which prevents delay, but occasionally a Lender may wish to instruct their own solicitors.

We would recommend that unless you are buying a new property you have a full structural survey undertaken by a Chartered Surveyor.  We may be in a position to recommend one if you are unsure who to instruct. Surveyors very often have advance notice of planning and development if they are local to the area.  Although where a mortgage is required, Lenders will instruct a valuation, you should be aware that this does not provide any detail in terms of the property’s structural soundness.  A valuation is purely for the Lender’s benefit.  You should therefore consider carefully before relying on only  a basic valuation or homebuyer’s report provided by the mortgage lender.

Please bear in mind that we will not see or inspect the boundaries, so it will be for you and your surveyor to carefully check that the boundaries of the property are  as you expect.  Prior to exchange of contracts we will provide you with a Land Registry plan to check against the layout on the ground. As the Buyer you should be aware that the principle of “let the buyer beware” applies to the purchasing of property as much as to any other purchase.  You should therefore conduct surveys and test services and/or appliances to avoid any issues once you have exchanged contracts.

Once all the relevant searches are complete, any survey is satisfactorily performed, and any required finance is in place, you will receive a contract to sign in readiness for exchange of contracts. We will also request from you a deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price, unless funds are to be available from a related sale in which case we would aim to use those funds) to offer your Seller’s Solicitors on exchange of contracts.

We would advise that you inspect the property prior to exchange of contracts to ensure the property is in the condition you expect.  The Seller will not be liable for matters which would be apparent from survey or inspection.

You will need to agree a provisional completion state with your Seller. If you purchased through an estate agent, we would suggest liaising via them to ensure that this can be agreed as quickly as possible.  The completion date (the date the majority money changes hands and people move) will be fixed upon exchange of contracts, so you will be unable to change the date following exchange of contracts without incurring significant penalties.  You therefore have to be sure before agreeing a date.  We will assist with the time-frames needed to complete the legal side of things.

Exchange of Contracts

On exchange of contracts (which will take place on the telephone between solicitors), we then pay a deposit to the Seller’s solicitor, which is usually 10% of purchase price though can be less if the sum received on any related sale does not equal to 10% of the purchase price.  The phrase “exchange of contracts” is reflecting the fact that your’s and your Seller’s signed contracts are exchanged through the post.  In the majority of cases the insurance risk for a property being purchased passes to the Buyer, so you will need to put your insurance on risk on exchange of contracts.

After Exchange of Contracts and before Completion

We shall prepare a financial statement setting out the funds we require to proceed to completion. The statement shall set out all costs incurred with the transaction. We will require cleared funds one working day before completion.  If you have a mortgage, we will request drawdown.

On Completion

On the agreed completion date, we transfer the balance for the sale to the Seller’s solicitor. The contractual time is usually between 1pm and 2pm

After Completion

Following completion we shall deal with payment of your Stamp Duty Land Tax and registration formalities at the Land Registry.

Selling a property

Before Exchange of Contracts

Once you have instructed us we will ask you to complete a form confirming your identification, contact and financial details. We do this as part of our regulatory and legal obligations. You will also need to complete standard forms about the property itself, put together a legal pack to send to your Buyer’s solicitor, which includes legal forms such as:

  • Property information form
  • Fittings and contents form
  • A copy of the title to the property
  • A Contract of sale for approval

Usually the Buyer’s Solicitors will raise some enquiries.  Where we can, we will answer them, but more often than not we will need to ask you to answer some of the questions. We will then ask you to sign the contract and transfer documents and also request you to provide instructions on the completion date. If you have sold through an estate agent, we would suggest liaising via them to ensure that this can be agreed as quickly as possible.  The completion date (the date the majority money changes hands and people move) will be fixed upon exchange of contracts, so you will be unable to change the date following exchange of contracts without incurring significant penalties.  You therefore have to be sure before agreeing a date.  The property must be ready on the completion date, which will mean giving vacant possession on completion unless you are selling the property tenanted We will assist with the timeframes needed to complete the legal side of things.

Exchange of Contracts

On exchange of contracts (which will take place on the telephone between solicitors), we then require a deposit from the Seller’s solicitor, which is usually 10% of sale price though can be less if the sum received on any related sale does not equal to 10% of the sale price, or if your Buyers are obtaining over 90% by way of a mortgage).  The phrase “exchange of contracts” is to reflect the fact that yours’s and your Buyer’s signed contracts is exchanged through the post.

After Exchange of Contracts before Completion

If you have a mortgage, we request a settlement figure from your lender, which is the amount you need to repay your mortgage lender once your property is sold. You will  be asked to sign a transfer document if you have not signed one already.  It is vital that document is with us before the completion date.  At this point you should make sure that the Estate Agent has the keys to hand over to the Buyer on completion unless you have arranged a personal handover.

On and after Completion

On your agreed completion date, your Buyer’s solicitor will send us the balance of the payment for your property. The contractual time for completion is usually between 1pm and 2pm, so the property should be clear and ready by lunch time. We use the completion funds to pay off your mortgage, your estate agency fees, our fees and any costs incurred during the sale. Any money left over will be forwarded  to you, unless it is needed for a related purchase.

Call our mobile friendly number on 0800 987 8156 for a free no obligation quote from our conveyancing department.

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