What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the process of transferring ownership of residential properties, such as houses or flats between parties. It is facilitated by property conveyancers or residential conveyancers who specialise in managing the intricate details of property transactions.

The role of a conveyancer

Conveyancers, often called property solicitors, navigate through a series of steps to guarantee a seamless and legally binding transfer of property ownership. From initial inquiries to finalising contracts and completing registrations, residential conveyancing ensures that all aspects of the transaction comply with legal requirements and safeguard the interests of both parties involved.

In our comprehensive conveyancing guide, we cover all your questions and explain everything you need to know about buying, selling or remortgaging a house.


Key Stages for Buyers

How long will my property purchase take?

Depending on the complexity and the length of the chain within a purchase, your personal timeline may vary. Without any unforeseen delays, a house purchases can typically take 8-12 weeks.

  • Week 1 – Instructing your solicitor and gathering required information to onboard you as a client
  • Week 2 – Receive draft contract and associated documents from the seller’s conveyancers
  • Week 3 – Submit search requests
  • Week 4 – Review draft contract package and raise enquiries
  • Week 5 – Receive search results and raise any further enquiries
  • Week 6 – Sign documents
  • Week 7 – Agree completion dates
  • Week 8 – Exchange contracts
  • Week 9 – Complete purchase

Mortgage affordability

Mortgage affordability is a critical aspect of the home buying process, which evaluates a borrower’s financial capacity. It considers factors like income, expenses, debt, credit history, and loan terms. Lenders rely on the debt-to-income ratio (DTI) to assess affordability, comparing monthly debt payments to gross income. A lower DTI indicates lower risk for lenders. Other factors like credit score, employment stability, and deposit size also influence affordability evaluations. By analysing these aspects, lenders determine the maximum mortgage amount borrowers can manage while minimising default risks. This ensures responsible lending and sustainable homeownership.

Searches

Once your offer has been accepted and you have instructed your solicitor, there are searches and surveys that need to be carried out to assess any potential problems such as damp, rot or structural problems.

Other searches that your mortgage lender will require before agreeing to lend to you include:

Environmental searches

Assess for flood risk, ground stability, landfill sites and any other environmental factors that could impact your property.

Local authority searches

Anything in the local area that might affect the value of the property in the future such as plans for new roads/buildings.

Water and drainage searches

Determine whether the property is connected to the main water supply, where the water mains are and where public sewers are in relation to your property.

When buying your first home, there are a number of other costs involved, beyond the purchase price of the property that you need to consider before making your decision such as the typical 5-10% deposit you will need to put down, Land Registry fees, survey fees and Stamp Duty land tax.

Our transparent fees consider any searches that need to be made, as well as our legal advice and guidance through the process of drafting contracts and handling the sale through to completion and updating the Land Registry. As your trusted residential conveyancer, we will handle everything from drafting contracts to transferring funds via BACS and updating the Land Registry, ensuring a smooth transition into homeownership.

Exchanging contracts

Exchange of contracts is the legally binding stage of the conveyancing process where the purchaser and seller exchange signed contracts. During this stage, the completion date is agreed upon, and a deposit is paid by you the purchaser. Once contracts are exchanged, both parties are legally obligated to proceed with the transaction. Pulling out at this stage can be a very expensive thing to do.

Completing the purchase

Completion day is the final stage of the conveyancing process when ownership of the property is transferred to you, and the keys are handed over. On completion day, the buyer’s solicitor pays the remaining balance, and the seller vacates the property. You can then collect the keys, usually from the seller’s estate agents and move into your new home.

Buying myths and facts

“Don’t I need to have a 20% deposit?”

No. A 20% deposit will mean you have a lower interest rate as you are putting down more but there are many circumstances where you can put down 5, 10 or 15%. Usually, the lower deposit you put down, the higher your interest rate will be as your lender is having to provide you with a larger sum. There are also several schemes now available to help people buy such as first-time-buyer schemes, government help or equity loans.

“Isn’t it cheaper to rent than buy?”

This can be argued either way and more so depends on your own personal circumstances which you will need to weigh up and calculate. It is possible to have mortgage payments cheaper than your rent and the main benefit of buying a home is that the payments you make increase your equity in the property, whereas you receive no benefit from paying rent.

“I have debt, surely I’m not eligible for a loan?”

Having other debt does not mean you won’t be eligible for a mortgage offer. Lenders will assess your overall financial picture, including income, expenses, and debt-to-income ratio. Even if you have other debt, managing your debt responsibly can improve your chances of mortgage success.

“My credit score isn’t very good, will I need to get this up before I can apply for a mortgage?”

While a good credit score is important, it’s not the only factor determining your mortgage approval. Lenders will consider other elements such as your income, employment history, and overall financial stability.

“Surely it’s better to apply for a mortgage with the bank I use?”

No, you have the flexibility to choose any lender, whether that’s a bank, building society or any other loan provider. It is up to you to find the best products available that suit your needs using tools such as Money Super Market or a mortgage broker who can assess the whole market for you and advise you based on your circumstances.

“I haven’t found a house yet so I don’t need to talk to a mortgage broker”

Incorrect. Confirming your affordability with a broker will keep your property hunt to homes that realistically fit your budget and help you avoid disappointment or wasted efforts. Once you start viewing homes, we recommend speaking to a broker to confirm your affordability as this will help you to improve and adapt your search based on what money is available to you.


Key Stages for Sellers

How long will my property sale take?

Depending on the complexity and the length of the chain within a sale, your personal timeline may vary. Without any unforeseen delays, a house sale can typically take 8-12 weeks.

  • Week 1 – Instructing your solicitor and gathering required information to onboard you as a client
  • Week 2 – Providing evidence of your ownership of the property
  • Week 3 – Drafting contract and supplying this to the buyer with evidence of title
  • Week 4/5 – Dealing with enquiries from buyer’s conveyancer
  • Week 6 – Sign documents
  • Week 7 – Agree completion date
  • Week 8 – Exchange contracts
  • Week 9 – Complete sale, Redemption of mortgage, Remitting proceeds of sale to you

Selling myths and facts

“Pricing my property higher will ensure I get better offers right?”

No. Pricing your property higher than its market value may deter potential buyers, leading to fewer inquiries and offers, as buyers may perceive the property as overvalued. Pricing competitively based on market conditions and comparable sales is more likely to attract serious buyers and generate multiple offers.

“I’ve renovated so surely, I’ll reap the benefits in my sale?”

Not always. While renovations may enhance your home’s appeal and potentially increase its value, the return on investment isn’t always guaranteed to cover the costs. It’s essential to weigh the expenses of renovations against the potential increase in the property’s value.

“They’re buying my property, not my belongings so I don’t need to do anything”

While buyers are primarily interested in the property itself, the presentation and condition of your home can significantly impact their perception and willingness to make an offer. Decluttering and staging your home can help potential buyers see your home more clearly and envision themselves living in the space, making it more appealing and memorable. Additionally, addressing any maintenance or cosmetic issues demonstrates that the property has been well-maintained, instilling confidence in buyers.

“I need to wait for perfect market conditions”

Incorrect. Market conditions are influenced by various factors, beyond your control. Instead focus on factors you can control, such as preparing your home for sale, pricing it competitively, and working with a skilled real estate agent who can help navigate market fluctuations effectively. By being proactive and adaptable, you can maximise your chances of a successful sale regardless of market conditions.

“I can’t accept the first offer I get”

Incorrect. While it’s important not to rush your decision, you don’t want to wait for every single offer to come in otherwise you may find that process takes longer, or your buyer has had another offer accepted elsewhere. You also don’t want to completely disregard your first offer based on the fact it is the first to come in. Working closely with your real estate agent can help you evaluate each offer to help you make informed decisions that align with your needs.


Moving home checklist

  • Confirm your moving date
  • Provide your landlord with notice (if you are renting your current property)
  • Contact your utility suppliers
  • Get quotes from removal companies
  • Ensure you have the following from the sellers; where the water mains supply, gas and electricity meters, fusebox and thermostat
  • Settle up all of your existing bills, eg: council tax
  • Notify relevant parties of your address change including; your work, bank, pension, credit card companies, DVLA, TV licence, electoral register, council, doctor, dentist, national insurance
  • Set up home insurance to be in effect for moving day

Remortgaging

What is remortgaging

Remortgaging involves shifting your mortgage from one lender to another to find a better deal. Once your introductory offer has ended with your current provider, you will be on the lender’s Standard Variable Rate (SVR), however this may not be the cheapest option anymore.

What to consider when remortgaging?

Before you decide to remortgage, you need to consider whether there is an early repayment charge, how much your exit fee is and how much you owe your current lender.

Once you have assessed the above and decided to remortgage you will need to consider how much equity you will need in your house (how much of your properties value are you looking to borrow from a new lender).

How long will my remortgaging take?

Depending on the complexity and the length of the chain within a purchase, your personal timeline may vary. Without any unforeseen delays, a house remortgage can typically take 8-12 weeks.

  • Week 1 – Instructing your solicitor and gathering required information to onboard you as a client
  • Week 2 – Provide evidence of ownership of property
  • Week 3 – Receive mortgage offer
  • Week 4 – Receive redemption figure for existing mortgage
  • Week 5 – Sign documents
  • Week 6 – Complete transaction

Common delays in the conveyancing process

Before embarking on the conveyancing process, it is essential to be aware of common delays that may arise. Delays can occur for some reason, including incomplete paperwork, searches revealing unexpected problems or difficulties in coordinating with multiple parties in the chain.

Understanding these potential hurdles can help you prepare and mitigate any risks that may arise.  Some reasons for delay to be aware of include;

  • Title: Discovering discrepancies or defects in the property’s title, such as unresolved boundary disputes, or incorrect ownership details, can lead to delays while these issues are resolved.
  • Financing: Delays can occur if you/the other party encounter difficulties securing mortgage financing or if the lender requires additional documentation or appraisals.
  • Survey or valuation: Issues identified during property surveys or valuations, such as structural defects or discrepancies in property measurements, may require further investigation or negotiation, leading to delays.
  • Chain: In a chain of property transactions where multiple parties are buying and selling properties simultaneously, delays can occur if one transaction encounters problems or if there are delays in coordinating the completion dates of all transactions in the chain.
  • Legal complexities: Legal delays such as disputes over property boundaries, planning permission, or easements can arise, requiring additional time and legal expertise to resolve.
  • Searches and enquiries: Delays can occur if local authority searches or other necessary enquiries uncover unexpected issues or if there are delays in obtaining search results.
  • Communication breakdowns: Ineffective communication between parties involved in the transaction, including solicitors, estate agents, mortgage lenders, and buyers or sellers, can lead to misunderstandings or delays in providing necessary information or documentation.

General Guidance

Leasehold vs freehold

If you decide to purchase a leasehold property, you will not own the land which the property stands on. The most common situation is where the property is a flat, in which case you do not own the land your flat is on, or the shared parts such as the hallway and stairs or the structure of the building.

What’s involved with buying a leasehold property

When purchasing a leasehold property, you will need to consider the following before making your decision:

  • The number of years left on the lease, as this can impact the property’s long-term value and your ability to secure financing.
  • If you will have the option to extend the lease, which can provide peace of mind and stability for future ownership.
  • If you will have the option to buy a share of the freehold, which will offer greater control and potential investment value in the property.
  • If you will have the right to take over the management of the property, allowing for more direct control over maintenance and service decisions.
  • The ground rent you will have to pay both now and in the future, as this can affect your ongoing expenses and financial planning.
  • The service charge for the property, which covers communal maintenance costs and amenities, impacting your overall cost of ownership.
  • Whether there are any restrictions in the lease, such as limitations on alterations or subletting, which can affect your ability to use and enjoy the property as desired.
What does freehold mean?

If you purchase a freehold, you will be responsible for maintaining the property and the land. The benefits of owning the freehold means that you do not have to be concerned about the lease running out, paying any additional charges such as ground rent and service charges, as you own the property outright.

Buying a freehold property

If you decide to purchase a freehold property, you will own both the property and the land on which it stands. Owning the land outright offers potential long-term financial benefits, as you won’t be subject to lease renewals or escalating ground rents that can occur with leasehold properties.


New Build

Buying a newly built property

New build properties are sold as freehold properties. The appeal to purchasing a new build is often due to having a shorter chain. For first-time buyers there is likely to be no chain as you may be moving from a rented home or from a family home, and for sellers there will just be one property in the chain, making for a quicker and often more seamless process.

What to consider when buying a new build property

While new builds typically come with warranties and guarantees, you should research the developers reputation. You should also consider the possibility of delays in construction timelines and whether your mortgage offer will expire before works are complete, as well as any future development that may impact your enjoyment of the property long term.


Buy-To-Let

What is buy-to-let?

Buy-to-let is when someone buys a property with the purpose of renting it out to tenants instead of living in it themselves. The idea is to earn rental income from the property and possibly profit from its increasing value over time. Investors usually use the rent they receive to cover costs like mortgage payments and property maintenance. It’s a common way to invest in real estate for steady income and potential long-term gains.

What to consider when purchasing a buy-to-let?

When deciding to purchase a buy-to-let property you should consider whether the property is viable as a rental investment by considering factors such as its location, the rental market trends, potential rental income and expenses such as mortgage payments, maintenance costs and taxes.

You should also assess your financial position, mortgage affordability, potential rental yield, the long-term investment strategy and the costs involved with ongoing management of the property such as maintenance and compliance with landlord regulations before making your decision on whether to purchase a buy-to-let.


Stamp Duty

What is Stamp Duty, and why do I need to pay it?

Stamp Duty (SDLT) is a tax imposed by the government on certain documents or transactions, including property purchases. It’s calculated as a percentage of the property’s purchase price and is payable by the purchaser. The purpose of stamp duty is to generate revenue for the government and regulate property transactions.

Do I have to pay Stamp Duty as a first-time buyer?

If the property you are purchasing is £300,000 or less first-time buyers will pay no Stamp Duty (SDLT).

If you are paying between £300,000 and £500,000 you will pay SDLT at 5% on the amount of the purchase price in excess of £300,000, a reduction of £5,000 compared to the amount of SDLT you would have previously paid.


Why is hiring the right conveyancer important?

Hiring the right residential conveyancer is essential as the right conveyancer will know the ‘ins and outs’ of the process, be able to navigate complex legal processes and documentation, and ensure a smooth transaction with minimal delays and stress. A skilled conveyancer stays updated with legal requirements, ensuring compliance and minimising the risk of penalties, and their negotiation skills are vital for advocating favourable outcomes, whether it involves price adjustments or dispute resolution.

Choosing the wrong conveyancer can lead to legal and financial problems, which is why our team is dedicated to help navigate legal procedures and documentation with precision. Our commitment to excellence is reflected in our 4.9 stars FEEFO Platinum rating and our ability to offer additional services such as wills, pre and post nuptial agreements, cohabitee agreements and more, to cater to your needs beyond completion.

You can do your own conveyancing, but it’s not recommended for most people because it’s complicated and could cause legal and financial problems. Conveyancing is a specialised area of law that requires an in-depth understanding of property transactions, legal procedures, and potential pitfalls. Trusting in our licensed conveyancers guarantees peace of mind, knowing that you have a skilled professional guiding you every step of the way.

Why work with our residential conveyancing experts?

Buying or selling a home? We understand the stress and complexities involved. Our experienced conveyancing team is known for meticulous attention to detail, ensuring your transaction is handled efficiently and transparently. Our clients consistently praise our service – see for yourself with our 4.9-star FEEFO Platinum rating. Beyond conveyancing, we offer expert advice on wills, pre/post-nuptial agreements, and more.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our team who would be willing to help you no matter what stage you are at in your property journey.

You will be allocated a single point of contact early on, ensuring seamless communication and regular updates throughout the process.

We are completely transparent with our pricing from the start and once you have been assigned a dedicated team member, you will be provided with a breakdown of costs.

Learn more about our conveyancing services >


FAQs

Written By

Published: 28th June 2024
Area: Buying or Selling Property

Purchasing a house - frequently asked questions


Selling a house - frequently asked questions


Property conveyancing glossary



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Raza specialises in all areas of residential property, acting for individuals and companies in a variety of transactions. He has assisted clients in buying, selling and refinancing their properties whether freehold, leasehold, registered or unregistered land.

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Our residential property solicitors provide a specialist service working with a range of clients, varying from those buying or selling for the first time, or those looking to invest in residential properties and begin or expand their existing property portfolio.

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Whether you’re a first-time investor, or already have a portfolio of properties, we can support you through the complexities of buying or selling a buy-to-let property.

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