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Conveyancing A-Z: 10 Steps to Buying a House

Commercial Property - July 4th, 2018

The reality is, whether buying your first home or remortgaging your third, conveyancing, as it's called in the business, is a complex, long, and often frustrating process.

For many people, owning their own home is a dream they have had since being a child.

They picture finding the ideal house and, in an instant, being handed the master keys. The rest of their dream consisted of pulling up after a hard day’s work at their new home — spread out over 10 acres and with a lake and helipad — and being greeted by the dog.

The reality is, whether buying your first home or remortgaging your third, conveyancing, as it's called in the business, is a complex, long, and often frustrating process.

Therefore, the more you know about conveyancing beforehand, the easier and smoother the whole process will be.

First things first, it helps to know what conveyancing actually means. The term is applied when solicitors act to legally transfer ownership of property or a piece of land from one person to another.

It begins when a buyer has an offer accepted on a property and ends when the money clears and they receive the keys and the registration process has completed. Depending on the number of properties in the transaction, referred to as the chain, this process can take between 6-12 weeks. But it can be significantly longer or shorter — again, something that is influenced by how prepared those on both sides of the table are.

So, let’s ensure you're ready for conveyancing by diving into our ten simple steps to buying a house, taken from a legal point of view.

Step 1

Assuming you’ve found your dream property (or as close to it as you can get), the conveyancing process gets underway with the estate agents writing to both your and the seller’s solicitors with all the details of the property and proposed sale to be made.

Step 2

The solicitors, acting on behalf of the buyers and the sellers, then write to their clients, outlying their terms of business.

This may include, for example, safeguarding against property fraud by verifying your identity and how you acquired the money to be used in the transaction. If you’re getting a mortgage to help finance your purchase, it will also involve gathering details of the lender and the ‘offer in principle’ — an illustration of what the lender is prepared to offer you.

Step 3

At this stage, the sellers will also be clarifying details by completing property forms, such as the fixtures, fittings and contents List.

This form is basically a list of items the seller intends to leave or remove from the property on completion of the sale. It's also the place where details of new windows that have been installed, extensions that have been added, and problems such as flooding will be described.

Step 4

With all the paperwork taken care of, the seller’s solicitor is now ready to send a draft contract, along with the property forms and a copy of the deeds, over to the buyer’s solicitor.

Today, deeds are typically downloaded from the Land Registry, so you don’t need to worry about them being lost in a pile of other documents or getting misplaced in the office if the property has already been registered at the Land Registry. The deeds include important details such as previous conveyances, contracts for sales, wills, mortgages, and leases.

Step 5

Halfway through the steps to buying a house, the buyer’s solicitor put’s on their detective hat and examines all the forms and deeds to ensure there are no discrepancies in the agreement.

For example, the solicitor may check for rights of way such as a shared drive or back lane, neighbours that have rights over the property, and clauses in the deeds that restrict building work such as an extension (or helipad).

This stage can involve a lot of back and forth — gathering paperwork for things like new windows, gas installations, and electric work. However, thankfully, the solicitors handle it all and raise enquiries with the seller’s solicitors if any issues need ironing out. Also as this stage the buyers Solicitors will report to them on the mortgage offer received.

Step 6

With the details of the interior and structure of the property now confirmed, the buyer’s solicitor carries out all necessary searches which usually includes: local, environment, and draining and water and mining.

The local search looks for information held about the property by the local authority, such as building work and plans for nearby developments. The environment search looks at whether the property is built on contaminated land or water, say, for instance, if it was previously used for industrial purposes. And the draining and water search looks at things like where the pipes run and if there are any public drains on the property, which may affect building work you want to do in the future.

Step 7

Here’s where it gets exciting (or more exciting). When the seller has responded to all enquires from the buyer’s side, the buyer’s solicitor then sends a report to the buyers explaining all the deeds and the paperwork.

The buyers then, after carefully reviewing the content of the contract, sign it in readiness to exchange contracts.

Step 8

Once a moving date is agreed and all parties have signed the necessary paperwork, the solicitors are ready to perform the exchange of contracts — arguably the most important part of buying a house (well, maybe other than getting the keys).

On exchanging contracts, both parties are legally committed to the transaction. In short, that means there’s no backing out — at least without incurring a penalty.

Step 9

The penultimate step to buying a house is when the day finally arrives that the sale completes, otherwise known as the satisfyingly sounding ‘completion day’.

Completion day is the day that the solicitors deal with the money coming in and going out. On the buyer’s side, the purchase money is sent by the banking system to the seller’s solicitor. Once it arrives, typically around midday, their estate agent calls to say the buyer can have the keys.

Step 10

The final step involves tying up loose ends, such as the seller repaying any outstanding money on the mortgage, paying the estate agents, and the buyer registering the change of ownership with the Land Registry.

The buyer is then sent a copy of the registered title from the Land Registry and at last becomes the official, undisputed owner of their new home. All that’s left to do now is bring those childhood dreams of arriving home from work, opening your own front door, and enjoying the freedom, and — let’s face it — embracing the inevitable stresses of being a homeowner to reality.

The process of buying a property is complex, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Get in touch today and claim your free 30-minute consultation with a member of our friendly and non-jargon-speaking legal team.


DISCLAIMER: The contents of this article and any documents on our website are not intended to constitute legal advice but are intended for general information purposes only. We are not responsible for any loss resulting from acts or omissions taken in respect of the content presented herein. Please see our legal and regulatory information, privacy and terms policy on our website.