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Conveyancing with Enact: Holding your hand each step of the way

Conveyancing

The unfortunate truth is that moving home can be a complex, lengthy and stressful process.

We appreciate that, for the vast majority of people, conveyancing is a minefield in terms of knowing what to do. Most people go into a house move knowing little or nothing about the process or what to expect.

Rather than just provide you with a ‘conveyancing quote’, we have an experienced team of conveyancing specialists on hand from 8:30am to 8pm during the week, to answer all your conveyancing and property transaction questions, and to provide sound advice on each step of the home moving process.

Get an instant conveyancing quote today.

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Conveyancing with Enact: We are the UK’s leading conveyancing specialists

Enact conveyancing was set-up in 2000 and we have grown and adapted our conveyancing service as the housing market has developed over the years. Since our launch, we have been at the forefront of conveyancing, with a service that balances competitive pricing with industry-leading service.

Our business has changed as dramatically as the housing market has over the last 20 years, and we are proud of our position as the largest direct conveyancer in England and Wales.

Our conveyancers have helped over 1.2 million homeowners with conveyancing services since we opened our doors in 2000.

To give you some context about our conveyancing expertise, our specialist conveyancing teams help arrange one in every four remortgages, and we consistently help thousands of home movers to buy and sell their homes in England and Wales year-in, year-out.

Conveyancing: what is it?

Conveyancing, simply, is the legal process by which property is transferred from one owner to another. Whilst this concept in itself sounds simple, and it can be, unfortunately conveyancing has something of a reputation of being lengthy, complicated and overwhelming.

As experts in conveyancing, we try and reduce some of the mystery of conveyancing and our ultimate aim is to give our customers a fast, seamless completion with the minimum of stress during one of the biggest transactions faced in life.

As part of this, we’ve provided a selection of conveyancing facts and answers below to help those considering instructing a conveyancer or looking to understand more about how the conveyancing process works in real terms. We’ve also covered off the big conveyancing milestones, and detailed the step by step process you should expect as part of your experience working with a specialist conveyancer like Enact.

Instructing a Conveyancer – what to look for?

How do I choose a conveyancer or solicitor?

If you’re jumping onto the property ladder for the first time then amongst all the other tasks such as getting a mortgage in principle and house viewings, selecting a conveyancer or solicitor should be considered a priority before putting in an offer.

More than likely you’ll seek advice on a conveyancing recommendation from friends and family on who they will have used for their property transactions in the past, whether good or bad.

Your mortgage lender or mortgage advisor may also be able to give a recommendation on a reputable conveyancing firm as well as the estate agent you’re dealing with.

A quick online search is likely to show local as well as national conveyancers. It’s not essential to appoint a conveyancer that is local as many conveyancers offer online portals to access important information as well as to keep up to date on where your transaction is.

Therefore it’s down to preference on how you like to liaise with the person managing your property transaction.

Like many monetary outgoings, it’s always worth looking to obtain several quotes to help make your final decision. The cheapest firm may still charge you even if you don’t complete the transaction, therefore, making it a more expensive option. While a more expensive firm doesn’t automatically guarantee the best user experience.

For added peace of mind make sure your conveyancing solicitor is a member of the Law Society of England and Wales and a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.

Conveyancers, like us, must be members of the Council for Licenced Conveyancers.

What does a conveyancer do?

Essentially your conveyancer manages your property transaction from start to finish working through the legal aspects of the transfer of ownership, including:

  • Draw up draft contract
  • Verify your identification
  • Order local searches* & title documents (*and additional property searches if required)
  • Check for any conditions outlined in your mortgage offer
  • Raise any issues highlighted within a property survey
  • Go through the paperwork and each search carefully to raise any queries with the seller’s conveyancer
  • Negotiate a date for exchange
  • Agree a date for completion

After completion, there will be a few loose ends to tie up. If you are buying they will:

  • Pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on your behalf
  • Register you as the new owner at the Land Registry
  • Notify the freeholder if the property is leasehold

If you are selling they will pay off any mortgage and settle your estate agent’s fees, and then provide you with the balance of remaining money.

Licensed conveyancer / Property Solicitor differences

When looking to appoint a conveyancer you may wonder what the difference is between a licensed conveyancer and a property solicitor.

When looking to understand the role of a solicitor you’ll find that some will cover both residential property law as well as commercial property law, providing legal services for individuals, groups, developers, companies, investors, public bodies or even governments.

On the other hand, some will simply focus purely on property law relating to the buying and selling of residential homes (also known as residential conveyancing) or commercial property. It’s worth noting they may not solely handle property-related cases but on the other hand, they can provide wider legal advice.

Licensed conveyancers are only trained to deal with property transactions and cannot offer advice relating to other fields. A licensed conveyancer will have undergone a series of rigorous examinations to obtain their qualification and are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.

The conveyancing process

The Key Stages

Instruction

In order to start the conveyancing process, you need to instruct a conveyancer. If you’re selling a property it’s a great idea to get a conveyancer or solicitor instructed whilst your house is still on the market. This means you can start completing all the paperwork which will be required once you find a buyer. This can drastically reduce the time to exchange contracts. If you’re buying, while you won’t be able to instruct a conveyancer until you have had an offer accepted on a property, you can definitely obtain a quote based on your likely purchase price.

If you have decided on your conveyancer at the time of making an offer, this can help to show a seller you are serious and are ready to move quickly.

Identity checks

All conveyancers have certain Know Your Client obligations, which basically require the conveyancer to establish that their client’s identity can be verified, through either online or paper checks (usually of passports and driving licences). If you are selling a property you don’t live at, you’ll often be asked to provide some form of identification linking you to the sale address.

Source of funds/wealth and Searches

If you’re buying a property, you will almost certainly be asked to provide evidence of how you are funding the purchase, unless it is immediately obvious (e.g. you are getting a mortgage and the rest is coming from the equity from a property you are selling). All conveyancers and solicitors are under strict obligations to comply with Anti-Money Laundering legislation and have to be able to evidence that property purchases are being funded honestly. It can seem something of an invasion of privacy as frequently bank statements will need to be supplied, but it is a normal part of the process.

At the same time, a buyer will usually be asked to pay upfront for the property searches required on the property. The most common searches are a local, water and drainage and environmental search.

Preparing the contract papers

Whilst the buyer is busy providing source of funds information and getting their searches ordered, the seller and seller’s conveyancer have to start pulling together the “contract pack”.

This, collectively, is the documentation which proves the seller has a right to sell, amongst other things.

The Contract pack will consist of (at a minimum):

Official Copy Entries and Plan – these are obtained from the Land Registry and evidence that the seller does indeed own the property in question, they indicate the boundaries of the property, any other third party interests in the property (e.g. mortgages, people who have a right of way over the land) and any restrictions or covenants which affect the property. The concept of “title deeds” is now quite outdated but if the property is not registered at the Land Registry, title deeds will still be required to sell the property.

Property Information Form – a form completed by the seller regarding boundaries, neighbour disputes and alterations to the property, amongst many other things.

Fixtures, Fittings and Contents Form – a form completed by the seller which indicates what items will be left at the property, and what will be removed, on completion.

In leasehold property, a copy of the Lease will also be supplied, along with a Leasehold Information Form which is completed by the seller.

Pre contract enquiries

The “enquiries” stage of a conveyancing transaction is generally the most time-consuming part of any transaction. This is also where conveyancing gets a bit more technical, so if you work with a conveyancer or solicitor who isn’t keeping you updated, you could be forgiven for thinking nothing is happening.

This is the stage where the buyer’s conveyancer checks the contract pack and looks for any anomalies. If the buyer’s lawyer finds anomalies, they then raise questions or “enquiries” to have the position clarified.

Some common enquiries would include:

  • Asking for building regulation approval or planning permission for the original property or a future alteration, for example an extension.
  • Asking for evidence of a right of way to get to the property or its garage.
  • Establishing whether there has been a “breach of covenant” – for example, where there is a requirement to obtain the original developer’s consent to alter the property (this is common on newer properties) but no consent has been supplied for a conservatory at the property.
  • In leasehold properties, asking the managing agents whether any major works are to be carried out at an apartment which might make service charges increase.

When trying to answer enquiries, it’s common that the seller’s conveyancer will have to approach the seller, the local authority, the landlord/managing agent or other third parties to try and satisfy the buyer’s enquiries.

This can result in some “back and forth” which can lead to delays in the conveyancing process if any party is not forthcoming with information.

Mortgage Offer and Mortgage Deed

When a buyer needs the assistance of a mortgage to buy a property, a Mortgage Offer will need to be issued.

The mortgage company will issue their offer once they are happy with the valuation of the property and once the buyer has been through their affordability and credit check processes.

The mortgage offer confirms the details and basis on which the loan will be made, for example, the term of the loan and the interest rates.

From the conveyancer’s perspective, it also will often include “special conditions” which need to be satisfied, for example confirming whether any part of the deposit money is a gift from a relative or confirming that an offsite parking space or garage is included in the property being purchased.

The conveyancer will ask the buyer to sign the Mortgage Deed, which confirms the buyer will comply with the terms of the mortgage.

Contract and Transfer Deed

The two important documents which need to be signed in every transaction (although there are others) are the Contract and Transfer Deed.

The Contract is usually signed in “two parts” – this means that the seller and buyer sign their own copy, rather than signing the same document. The Contract contains key information such as the seller and buyer names, the property address, the agreed price and the terms and conditions on which the property is to be sold.

The Transfer deed is the document which is lodged at the Land Registry after completion to change the property ownership from the seller’s name to the buyer’s. The seller and buyer will usually sign the same copy of the Transfer (also known as the TR1).

Traditionally, the Transfer was signed in between exchange and completion, but as the time between exchange and completion has reduced over the years, most conveyancers will now arrange for the Transfer to be signed before exchange.

The seller will usually sign the Contract as soon as the buyer has approved it. The buyer usually is asked to sign their Contract once all enquiries are satisfied. The buyer’s conveyancer will usually produce a report on the property and ask the buyer to sign the Contract if they are happy with the contents of the report.

Exchanging and the Deposit

Once all the legal work is complete and the buyer has their mortgage offer and searches, exchange of contracts can take place. Exchange of contracts is the point at which the sale and purchase become legally binding.

The completion or moving date is agreed at this point as a term of the contract.

The seller’s and buyer’s solicitors will take authority from their respective clients to exchange and then they go through the terms of the contract with each other on the telephone and agree exchange has taken place.

The original signed contracts are then “exchanged” through the post.

On exchange a 10% deposit is required from the buyer. There are serious repercussions for failing to complete after exchange, and losing that 10% deposit is one of them. This is why it is so important to work with reputable conveyancers and to ensure all finance is in place and all legal matters dealt with before exchange.

Completion Statements
A completion statement is a financial statement which shows a buyer or seller the financial transactions that will happen at completion, as well as any money which is due or will be owed. For a seller, for example, it will show the price being paid and then deductions for any mortgage which needs to be paid off and for estate agents/ conveyancing fees. The balance remaining is the amount then due to the seller.


Completion

Completion is the day on which all the money changes hands – or in more exciting terms, it’s moving day! The buyer’s conveyancer will arrange to transfer the purchase money to the seller’s conveyancer and at the point that money is received, the purchase has completed and the buyer can collect the keys to their new home.

How long does conveyancing take?

What is the usual conveyancing timeline?

On average, the length of time it takes for a property sale or purchase to complete is between 10 – 14 weeks. While we always strive to complete a transaction as quickly as possible there are some cases that unfortunately take longer than expected.

For example, those in a long chain are more likely to be held up, or if something unexpected comes up in the searches or enquiries your conveyancer will look to resolve these so both parties are satisfied.

When looking to understand the different stages in conveyancing and buying a property there’s a fairly standard timeline you’re likely to follow:

  • Find a property – once you’ve settled on your location, speak to local estate agents and use online property tools to arrange property viewings to find your dream home
  • Put in an offer – once you’ve found your ideal property put forward what you’re willing to offer. Don’t forget to make any conditions clear at this stage
  • They will more than likely want to see your ‘mortgage in principle’ too so be ready to have this to prove you have the necessary funds to meet your offer
  • From offer to exchange – typically this is 10 to 12 weeks
  • Your offer is accepted – firstly you’ll need to appoint your conveyancer and notify the estate agent managing the sale of who this is.
  • In parallel, the mortgage valuation will be undertaken by the instruction of your mortgage lender and if you choose one, a property survey will be undertaken
  • Exchange – once all the legal work is complete the buyer and seller can exchange contracts. At this stage, you pay your deposit and legally it’s very difficult to get out of the purchase without major financial implications
  • Exchange to Completion/Moving day – this does vary – it could happen immediately, or in 4 weeks, but the usual timescale is about a week
  • Completion – if you’ve taken out a mortgage then your conveyancer will ensure the remaining monies required to purchase the property are handed over in exchange for the keys. Congratulations, yo