The residential conveyancing process can take anywhere from 6 weeks up to 6 months from start to finish.
It can be difficult for a solicitor to advise exactly how long conveyancing will take since every transaction is different to the next.
While they may provide indication based on their experience and your circumstances, this will only be a guide as so many external variables are at play – mortgage applications (where relevant), availability of searches, unexpected issues shown in the searches and as well as waiting for information from other parties, to name just a few.
The Conveyancing Process: Why Conveyancing takes so long!
Once you have agreed in principle the purchase or sale price of your property, the next stage is to instruct a solicitor to represent you through the conveyancing process.
Sale price: At the outset, the vendor and buyer will need to agree an initial sale price. This will be subject to searches and contracts, and as such, is also subject to change.
Mortgage application: For non-cash buyers, a mortgage application will be submitted to the building society or bank who will value the property to ensure the price matches the agreed price of sale. The process of going from an initial mortgage in principle to a final mortgage offer can take around a month.
Identity checks: Proof of identity checks will be made by both parties’ legal representatives, in accordance with money laundering regulations.
Memorandum of sale/Notification of sale: These documents will be sent by the Estate Agents to all legal representatives, and should include detail of the agreed property prices, both parties and their legal representatives. The vendor and buyer are to sign the document.
List of assets: Both parties will agree a list of assets to be left with the property, including fixture, fittings and contents. This should be documented in a Complete Fittings and Contents form as well as a Property Information Form.
If the property is leasehold, a ‘Sellers Leasehold Information Form’ and ‘Leasehold Information Pack’ (from the management company) will be obtained and checked by the buyer’s legal representative.
Title deeds: The buyer’s solicitor will write to the Land Registry to obtain the Title Deeds which show land boundaries, ownership of the land and property.
Once received, these should be checked by the solicitor and enquiries made where issues are identified, for example the land does not match the property paperwork provided by the Estate Agents.
Chain: Conveyancing will usually take longer for a property that is in a ‘chain’, where the transaction is subject to another property being bought or sold.
Leasehold: If you are purchasing a leasehold property, it’s important to obtain formal confirmation of the number of years left on the lease. This will be required by the mortgage company (where relevant).
In addition, the solicitor should request a ‘Managing Agents Questionnaire’ from the Managing Agent to obtain property information, including maintenance charges, details of agent, insurance, potential changes etc.
Property searches: A set of searches will be carried out on the property and the land it resides on; some recommended by your Solicitor, others required by the mortgage lender (where applicable) and some are optional.
These include Local authority, water, drainage and property and environmental searches. Additional searches such as Chancel Repair Liability and Mining and a Land Registry Search may also be required or recommended, depending on the circumstances.
Your solicitor will organise these searches, review the reports to identify issues and act to resolve these to your satisfaction.
Statement of loans: Your solicitor will also liaise with your mortgage lender for a full statement of loans attached to the property you are selling, to ensure all is in order.
Surveys: The mortgage lender will require a building survey to confirm the value of the property, and identify any obvious problems with the house. For a more comprehensive report, the buyer may wish to proceed with more detailed surveys such as a detailed building structural survey on the property.
Dates: Both the vendor and buyer are to agree between their solicitors the dates for Exchange of Contract, Transfer of Deeds and completion date. These dates will need to coincide with the buyer having access to the funds for the deposit – to be paid on exchange of contracts – and access to the balance of funds by completion date.
Exchange of contracts: The buyer’s solicitor will draw up a contract for both parties to agree to. This will include the terms for house completion, including the date for completing and the amount of deposit to be paid by the buyer. Until contracts are exchanged, both parties are technically free to walk away.
Once contracts have been exchanged, if either party withdraws before completion, they will incur penalties. The buyer will lose their deposit and may be liable to pay compensation to the vendor. If vendor withdraws, they must return the deposit and they also face compensation for losses incurred.
At the exchange of contract stage, the Land Registry application for the Deed of transfer for the property will also be prepared, signed by both parties and any final searches will also be undertaken.
House completion: The buyer’s solicitor will be responsible for transfer of funds. Once the balance of funds has been transferred to the seller, completion can go ahead.
The Transfer of deeds will be handed over and the property deeds will be sent to the lender if there is a mortgage.
Why take legal advice
uying or selling a property can be a stressful experience.
Choosing an experienced conveyancing solicitor will ensure your interests are safeguarded, that you remain well-informed at every stage of the conveyancing process and any issues are identified and resolved effectively.