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Conveyancing Process for Buying a House

When buying a property, you will need to go through the conveyancing process to successfully complete the transaction. Hiring a conveyancer or solicitor will ensure that you have an efficient process with minimal delay.

Whether you are a first-time buyer or are purchasing a freehold or leasehold, understanding the stage of the conveyancing process will ensure that you are confident when purchasing the property.
 
In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about the conveyancing process when buying a property. 

What is Conveyancing?
When buying a house, conveyancing takes up the majority of the process. This is because all the necessary searches and legal documents must be submitted. 
Hiring a conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor is not a requirement by law. However, it is highly recommended. Conveyancers guide you through the legalities of your house purchase. They prevent delays and minimise stress. Some people think that they can carry out the conveyancing themselves to save money. This is not recommended, especially if you are a first-time buyer who has not dealt with property transactions before.

Your conveyancer’s responsibility is to provide you with advice and guidance. They will also ensure that all documents are submitted correctly and on time. Make sure that your conveyancer or solicitor is regulated by either the SRA, CLC, LSS, LSNI, or CILEx.

Conveyancing solicitors charge more than conveyancers. This is because they are more qualified and have carried out more training. 
 
Instructing a Conveyancing Solicitor
The best time to instruct your conveyancing solicitor is once your offer has been accepted. You should begin your conveyancer search during the property viewing stage. Hiring your solicitor as soon as possible will ensure that you have an efficient process.

If you are part of a property chain, it’s best to hire your solicitor sooner as you will likely be buying and selling a property at the same time.
The best way to find a conveyancer or solicitor is by researching and comparing quotes, so you can find the right conveyancer for you. 
The conveyancing process starts when your offer is agreed on and ends on completion day. 
 
Stages of the Conveyancing Process for Buyers
Here are the stages of the conveyancing process when buying a property:

Step 1: Instruct Conveyancer
You will need to instruct your conveyancer once your offer has been agreed upon. This is the start of the conveyancing process. Your conveyancer will ask you for basic information such as your full name, your current address, and the sale price that was accepted. You will need to provide your estate agent with details on your solicitor or conveyancer.

Step 2: Receive Paperwork From Conveyancer
Your conveyancer will then write up a draft contract, stating the deposits and various charges that you will need to pay. Once you have read the contract and agreed on the quotes provided, you can sign and return them to your conveyancer. 
Your conveyancer will then begin to correspond with the seller’s solicitor. Your conveyancer will be sent a contract pack by the seller’s conveyancer. This includes a Fittings and Contents form and the Property Information form. This pack will include everything you need to know about the sale as well as what items are included and what will be taken.

Step 3: Apply for Mortgage and Book Property Survey
You will then need to apply for a mortgage and receive a mortgage offer before booking the relevant property survey. A property survey will highlight defects that can affect the property and surrounding area. The Level 2 HomeBuyer Report is best for newer properties and properties with standard construction. On the other hand, a Level 3 Building Survey is more comprehensive and goes into greater detail on defects. Where defects are found, your surveyor will provide repair costs and solutions. 
You can use the survey to renegotiate your offer, go ahead with the sale as is, or even withdraw from the sale completely. 
 
Step 4: Property Searches
Your conveyancer will need to conduct relevant conveyancing searches. The local council will hold most of the information on the property and surrounding area. The searches will reveal any environmental problems that can affect the property or surrounding area. The conveyancing searches consist of the Environmental Search, Local Authority Search, and the Water & Drainage Search.

Step 5: Receive the Draft Contract
You will receive your draft contract from your conveyancer after the searches have been completed. This tends to happen between 0 and 3 weeks once your offer has been accepted. This report gives you the chance to review the results from the searches and ask any questions you may have.

Step 6: Ask Pre-Contract Enquiries
Your conveyancer may also raise any pre-contract enquiries with the seller’s solicitor. If you have any concerns when reading through the contract pack, this is where your conveyancer can ask questions.

This stage can be completed quickly, or take some time. It is dependent on the communication between your conveyancer and your seller’s conveyancer.

Step 7: Arrange Deposit To Be Paid
Once you are happy with the contract pack, your conveyancer will draft up a transfer deed and completion information form. This will then be sent to the seller’s conveyancer for approval. Your conveyancer may carry out further searches and submit a completion statement. 
Arrangements will then be made for the deposit payment and the exchange of contracts will be organised. 
 
Step 8: Exchange Contracts
You will then need to exchange contracts which will make the sale legally binding. If you decide to withdraw from the sale after the exchange of contracts, you will face financial penalties. At this stage, both conveyancers will have all the contracts drawn up and prepared. Once the contracts have been exchanged, the completion date will be arranged.

Step 9: Completion Day
Completion Day marks the end of the conveyancing process. This is when ownership is transferred from the seller to the buyer, finalising the sale. You will be required to send your conveyancer your mortgage lender details.

Step 10: Pay Any Stamp Duty
Once completion day has passed, you will have to pay Stamp Duty within 30 days. Your conveyancer will make the payments on your behalf. Stamp Duty Land Tax is one of the final payments you will have to make before the house is officially yours. They will then receive the transfer deed, title deeds, and proof that the seller has paid the outstanding mortgage.

Step 11: Register With Land Registry
Lastly, you will need to be registered with the Land Registry. This is done by sending a TR1 form and mortgage deed over. Once this is done, you will receive copies of the registered title deed. Your conveyancer will send the documents on your behalf. When this stage is done, you can begin plans for moving into your new home.

How Long Does Conveyancing Take When Buying?
The conveyancing process takes between 8 and 12 weeks to complete on average. The process is defined as the period of time between the offer being accepted and completion day. However, the total length of time your conveyancing process will take depends on the difficulty of the case.

Here are the average steps and times for the conveyancing process:
 
Stages of the Conveyancing Process Approximate time taken 
Arranging a mortgage 4 weeks 
Conveyancing searches 2-6 weeks 
Exchanging contracts to completion 1-2 weeks 
Average time for the conveyancing process 8-12 weeks 

Some factors that can increase the time include whether the property is freehold or leasehold and if you are part of a property chain or not.
 
Conveyancing Fees for Buying
The average conveyancing fee when buying a freehold property is £2,239 including VAT when purchasing a house at the UK average of £277,000. This cost consists of solicitor fees and disbursements.

Different scenarios can impact the conveyancing costs. Buying a freehold property without a mortgage costs approximately £2,119 including VAT. It costs less as you won’t have to pay the £220 mortgage supplement fee.
 
Another scenario that can influence the cost is if the property is leasehold when using help to buy. This costs around £2,774 including VAT on average. Buying or selling leasehold properties boast higher fees due to the extra paperwork that must be submitted. On top of this, using help to buy incurs a supplement fee when applying for the Equity Loan.

Is it Better to Use a Solicitor or Conveyancer?
Conveyancers and solicitors are both qualified to guide you through the legal process. The major difference between them is the level of training that they have received. Conveyancers specialise in property and estate-related cases. Conveyancing solicitors will have received further training on top of their legal training. 
Conveyancing solicitors charge more as they can take on cases across various industries. On the other hand, conveyancers deal with property transactions specifically. 
Regardless of whether you choose a conveyancer or solicitor, make sure that they are regulated by a respected body. Consider regulatory bodies such as the SRA or the CLC. 
 
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