Most people instruct a solicitor to take care of the conveyancing process. Before this begins, you’ll receive a Letter of Engagement from your solicitor that you’ll need to sign and return. This basically gives them the green light to represent you and will list how much they charge and when payment is due.
If you’re not sure where to start with finding a solicitor, ask a friend (or even your mortgage advisor or estate agent) for a referral. Finding a good one will help with all the steps that come next.
Setting everything up
The first decision is to let your solicitor know how you want to hold the property – for instance, whether you are the sole owner or if it’s a joint purchase. If you’re buying a place with your significant other, then you have two options:
- Joint Tenants – you’ll both own a 50/50 share of the property. If anything happens to one of you, the other will inherit the whole property.
- Tenants in Common – you’ll both hold a specified share of the property and, you can leave it to anyone you want to when you die.
Once that’s taken care of, you can let the estate agent know which solicitor you’re using so they can send you a Memorandum of Sale. This essentially confirms the agreed price and some other basic information, although it’s not legally binding.
Doing the legal legwork
Now it’s time for the solicitors to get the ball rolling. Your solicitor will ask the seller’s solicitor for a draft contract, which will include details on the title to the property, answers to a few questions you might have, and a copy of the lease (if it’s a leasehold).
They might then raise questions with the buyer’s solicitor and generally go back and forth a bit while they do things like:
- Searches – these include Local Authority searches, checking the title register and title plan at the Land Registry, and checking for flood risks etc.
- Questionnaire – if you’re buying a leasehold, then you’ll receive a questionnaire back from the landlord or association managing the lease.
- Surveys – if you’re taking out a mortgage, your lender will carry out a survey. However, you can arrange your own surveys such as a RICS HomeBuyer Report or a full structural survey.
You’ll also need to confirm your mortgage in principle and send this offer to your solicitor.
If everyone is happy with the draft contracts and any questions have been cleared up, you’ll be asked to sign on the dotted line.
This is also (big gulp) when you’ll send the first payment, usually 10% of the purchase price, to your solicitor. If your deposit is tied up in the sale of your property, the deposit can sometimes be paid at a later date.
There are a couple of things you’ll need to do before contracts are exchanged:
- Take out buildings insurance.
- Agree on a completion date with the seller.
When you and the seller both give the go-ahead, the solicitors will exchange contracts and you’re then legally committed to buying the property.
If anyone gets cold feet or has a change of heart after this point, the other can claim compensation.
You’re now on the home straight. There’s usually just a week or two before exchanging contracts and completion (picking up the keys).
Your solicitor will have a few final items to take care of such as drawing up the Transfer Deed (to register the property in your name). They should also send you a final statement to let you know how much money needs to be transferred before the day of completion.
This leaves you with the fun task of packing boxes, sending out the house-warming invites and getting ready to take the obligatory selfie on the morning of completion when you can pick up the keys from the estate agent.
Although the conveyancing process sounds mind-twistingly complex, in reality it’s just a series of small steps that are mostly carried out by your solicitor and the estate agent – and, after all, they’ll know the process inside out. You’ll be guided from beginning to end, and have the chance to ask questions if you’re unsure about anything. That’s why we suggest finding a solicitor that you trust and keeping communication open at all times with the estate agent. If you’re considering buying or selling a property in East London, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to help.
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