Buying a house is not a simple process. A complex array of legal work must be efficiently facilitated in transferring the property while protecting a buyer’s interest. This undertaking is called conveyancing and is usually administered by a professional with the expertise to perform the service on behalf of the buyer.
What Does a Conveyancer Do?
Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring ownership of property from a seller to a buyer. It begins when an offer is accepted and ends when the sale is complete. Some people opt to hire a licensed conveyancer or solicitor while others prefer handling the responsibility themselves. Although solicitors have extensive knowledge of the law, a licensed conveyancer specialises in all aspects of property law. Though quite difficult, it is possible for the buyer to perform the conveyancing if a mortgage is not involved. Fully understanding the role of a conveyancer will facilitate making an informed decision when choosing which avenue to take. Conveyancers manage all transnational elements of the following tasks:
- Handle formal pre-contract inquiries regarding the property
- Review guarantees on the property, planning permissions, and building regulations
- Search government entities for issues that could impact the property such as encumbrances or caveats
- Complete and file all necessary documents with the Department of Land Registry
- Make inquiries about rates, and outstanding liabilities
- Coordinate payment of the Stamp Duty
- Prepare the settlement statement
- Ensure that the bank is ready for settlement
- Review the Contract of Sale
If you are a Seller, see the Conveyancing Process for Sellers.
How Long Does Conveyancing Take?
The conveyancing process does not have a specific time frame; however, it typically takes between 8 and 10 weeks from the drawing of the contract to completion of the sale. If there are complex issues regarding the transaction, the process could take longer. When the purchase is taking longer than expected, it is the conveyancer’s responsibility to communicate with the buyer on the status of the transaction.
The Conveyancing Process for Buying a Property
Whether utilising the services of a conveyancer, solicitor or handling the transaction personally, it’s important to know what is involved and to understand the process. When buying a house, the conveyancing process can be broken down into the following framework:
- Buyer makes an offer on the property, and the seller accepts it
- Conveyancer arranges for the property to be surveyed
- Conveyancer confirms in writing the agreed upon terms of business and fixed fee costs
- Conveyancer obtains the contract pack from the seller, reviews the contract pact, and makes any pre-contract inquiries
- Conveyancer acquires a copy of the mortgage offer
- Conveyancer completes a report and presents it to the buyer along with the contract pack
- Buyer reviews and raises questions regarding its content, if necessary
- Buyer is prepared to exchange the contracts, and arrangements are made for a deposit that will be paid to the conveyancer as a fee for services rendered
- Buyer and seller set a completion date, and the contracts are formally exchanged
- Conveyancer prepares a draft transfer deed and completion statement form and sends them both to the seller’s solicitor
- Seller approves the draft transfer deed, and both parties sign it
- Conveyancer asks the buyer’s mortgage lender to release the loan
- On completion day, the seller vacates the property and releases the house keys to the estate agent.
- Seller’s solicitor sends the title and deed to the buyer’s conveyancer
The conveyancing process continues after the buyer is living in their recently purchased home. During this period, the conveyancer is disposing of all remaining administrative issues, such as:
- Ensures all documents are properly signed and legally binding
- Pays the Stamp Duty Land Tax which is required on all residential properties above a specific value per location
- Registers the property with the Land Registry and ensures that the required fees are paid
- Follows up with the Land Registry to resolve any possible issues
- Reviews the registration of ownership and mortgage documents for accuracy
- Sends all important documents including a copy of the deed to the buyer
Common Problems When Buying A House
Even though the conveyancer’s role is to ensure a seamless transaction, there are occasions when problems arise. If this happens, the buyer must depend on the conveyancer to try and rectify any issues that could impede the transaction.
Gazumping is a common yet very upsetting issue that can arise when purchasing a home. This occurs when after verbally accepting an offer, the seller accepts a higher bid from another buyer. This phrase is also used when the seller increases the asking price before the contracts are exchanged. Regrettably, the seller does not have to abide by the verbal agreement until the exchange of contracts.
One remedy for gazumping is asking the seller to take the house off the market as a condition of the offer. This could decrease the chances of a higher bid being offered. However, the seller has the option of placing the house back on the market at any time before the contracts are exchanged. Gazanging is similar to gazumping but happens when the seller abruptly decides not to sell the property. Usually, this is due to economic fluctuations in the market.
Overpricing is when the seller is asking too much for the property. When applying for a mortgage, the lender will evaluate the value of the house. If the lender determines that the asking price is too high, the loan may be denied or in some cases, a reduced amount will be granted. If this happens, the conveyancer can attempt to renegotiate the price with the seller or look for another mortgage lender. However, another lender may place a similar value on the property which could result in the buyer searching for a different house.
When buying a home, a survey must be completed to determine if the property has any unforeseen issues. A professional surveyor will carefully examine the house to uncover any possible structural problems such as dry rot or electrical issues. At this time, a market value will be given to the property. A mortgage lender may require that these issues are addressed before approving the loan. However, in most cases, the problems can be resolved without impeding the sale of the house.
A housing chain is a connection between three or more buyers and or sellers of a property. In these instances, the sale depends on all the parties involved completing the purchase on the same day. The links in a housing chain can also involve mortgage lenders, surveyors, and real estate agents; therefore the complexities of these transactions can create a variety of challenges when trying to meet a deadline. In addition, the entire chain could collapse if one of the parties pulls out of their deal. If this happens, most conveyancers will attempt to salvage the transaction, although it may be beyond their control. Consistent communication between the conveyancers, buyers, and sellers is essential to ensuring that the transactions are not stalled. Procuring the necessary documents from the various entities, such as the Land Registry can affect how long the conveyancing process can take. Both the seller and buyer can speed up this process by returning required documents to the conveyancer in a timely fashion.
Finding the Right Conveyancer
Conveyancing the purchase of a home requires organisation and attention to detail. A conveyancer’s role is to act on behalf of the buyer and make the experience a smooth and efficient process. It is important to know that some mortgage lenders insist on working with a professional conveyancer. In addition, most licensed conveyancers are covered by professional insurance which can be helpful should any problems arise. Conveyancers can differ in experience, style, and skill set; therefore, the following tips can help ensure a productive working relationship.
- Communicate expectations for the working relationship
- Give the conveyancer specific questions in advance
- Outline logistical preferences and ask for regular progress updates
- Attempt to negotiate a no sale conveyancing agreement
In 2016, it was reported that conveyance received more complaints than any other area of the law. This exemplifies the necessity of carefully choosing a highly reputable professional conveyancer. When searching for potential conveyancers, it’s important to inquire as to whether disbursements are included in their quote. This is necessary to get an understanding of how much the cumulative fees will be. Be sure to ask a variety of relevant questions to obtain a wealth of information to appropriately assess potential candidates. And finally, allow for enough time to adequately shop around for competitive quotes to obtain the best deal.