Buying your first home can be a daunting experience. Getting a handle on what you’re meant to do and when, can feel like a bit of a mountain to climb, especially when you’ve never done it before. We have put together this handy guide on the conveyancing process for first time buyers so that you can get to grips with what you need to do, what to expect and to better understand the entire process, from start to finish.
What is conveyancing?
Conveyancing is the legal and administration process that takes place in order for a property to change owners. It is required for residential and commercial properties; but for the purposes of this guide when we refer to conveyancing, it is in relation to residential properties only.
When should you instruct a conveyancer?
You can instruct a conveyancer as soon as you have had an offer accepted on the house you wish to buy. If you are going to be buying using a mortgage, you should also already have spoken to lenders, or an independent mortgage broker and you may even have a mortgage agreement in principle (AIP) with a lender; although this is not compulsory.
The conveyancing firm will now be able to begin the administrative work and the legal process that goes alongside the purchase of a property.
How much does conveyancing cost?
Many conveyancers offer fixed fees (you can view our fixed fees here) so you know at the outset how much it will cost you. These costs can vary depending on the type of property you are purchasing e.g. freehold or leasehold, house or apartment etc.
After you have contacted your conveyancing solicitors, they will send you a contract or terms of engagement, which will outline these fixed fees. This correspondence can also include details of third party costs you will need to pay e.g. Land Registry fees, local authority searches etc. that your conveyancer will bill you for and organise on your behalf.
Choosing a conveyancing firm
It’s possible that the estate agents you are buying a house through will recommend a conveyancer to you. However often in these cases, referral fees are paid to the estate agent for recommending a new client, so it may not always mean that the conveyancing firm you have been recommended actually offers the best service or value for money.
We always recommend choosing an experienced and established solicitor firm for conveyancing, as they will have a good understanding of the best ways to help the entire process move along as smoothly as possible; they will also have experience of dealing with any complications or bumps in the road on your first house buying journey.
What does conveyancing actually involve?
There are a wide range of tasks involved in conveyancing, which include:
- Checking there are no issues with the title deeds of the property
- Checking the terms of the lease (if leasehold)
- Making checks and carrying out all of the required searches for any problems with the property with local authorities, water and drainage supplier, environmental searches etc.
- Making sure all necessary documents are signed and held until required
- Fixing the completion date
- Sending the deposit and all required paperwork to the seller’s solicitor
- Requesting the mortgage funds from your lender upon exchange & sending on to the seller’s solicitor upon completion
- Organising payment of any Stamp Duty Land Tax due
- Registering your ownership with the Land Registry
- Completing all required documents and paperwork and sending you a copy of the title deeds
How long does conveyancing take?
The length of time that conveyancing takes will vary, depending on the circumstances and whether any complications arise during the searches, enquiries or any other part of the process. A straightforward conveyancing process can usually be completed in around 8 weeks, but every house purchase is different and may have different challenges.
What do I need to do whilst conveyancing is going on?
Once you have instructed your conveyancers, you will need to have the property surveyed, organise buildings insurance to start on the day of exchange and start to plan moving in (although you won’t have a final moving date until you have exchanged contracts).
When you know what date you will be able to collect the keys from the estate agent, you can start to notify people and organisations about your change of address, arrange for meter readings to be taken on the day you move in and choose a moving company or make your own arrangements for transporting your belongings to your new home.
Once the sale has been completed, and you pick up the keys, the conveyancing process is almost finished. Your solicitor will pay any Stamp Duty Land Tax payable by you and then register your purchase at HM Land Registry on your behalf. When this has been done, your solicitor will send all of the final paperwork to you. You can get on with enjoying your first home!
*Disclaimer: While everything has been done to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this article, it is a general guide only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought in relation to the particular facts of a given situation.
This article was originally published on March 23rd 2018, and was accurate at time of publication.