We realise that buying or selling a property can be an exciting time, but equally stressful and sometimes confusing with all the various legal terms you could come across. whilst your conveyancing solicitor will be on-hand to guide you through the whole process, we have listed some of the most common questions we come across, and their answers along with some common legal terms you may find useful.
What is Conveyancing?
In its most simple form, Conveyancing is the legal process by which a property is transferred from one owner to another. This process involves a conveyancing solicitor or licensed conveyancer and a typical transaction has two major phases; the exchange of contracts and completion.
What happens on Exchange of Contracts?
Exchange of contracts is the point where the transaction between the two parties becomes legally binding. Until this process takes place, both the buyer and the seller are able to pull out of the transaction without incurring any serious costs. Before the exchange of contracts takes place, the solicitor or licensed conveyancer working on behalf of the buyer and seller will need to complete various searches and legal tasks. Once these have been carried out, the exchange of contracts can take place and is usually conducted over the telephone. The buyer’s and seller’s solicitor will check that that their clients have signed identical contracts and agree on a completion date. It is at this point that a deposit is normally sent to the seller’s solicitor – usually up to 10% of the purchase price – and the signed contracts are exchanged.
What happens on the Completion Date?
As agreed at the point of contract exchange, the completion date is the point where ownership of the property is transferred to the buyer. On the day of completion, the buyer’s solicitor will arrange for the purchase money to be transferred to the seller’s solicitor so that the seller’s solicitor can arrange for the keys to the property be handed over to the buyer.
What is Freehold?
If you are the freeholder of a property, this is the outright ownership of the property, including the land it is built on. The owner of a freehold estate in land has no time limit to this period of ownership (as opposed to leasehold). The freeholder is responsible for maintaining the property and the land on which it stands.
What is Leasehold?
If you are the leaseholder, you are the owner of the property for a fixed term but not the land on which it stands on. Once a lease expires, ownership of the property reverts back to the freeholder, unless you can agree to extend the lease. When purchasing a leasehold property you should take into consideration: how many years are left of the lease; what service charges and related costs are expected of you; the length of the lease and how this might affect a mortgage offer and the property resale value.
What are conveyancing disbursements?
Conveyancing ‘disbursements’ are the additional fees and taxes that must be paid to various third parties by a solicitor or licensed conveyancer on behalf of the buyer or seller as part of the house-buying process. Usually, these payments are paid up-front, although some of these expenses will be added to the final bill and paid at the point of completion of a house purchase. A conveyancer or property law solicitor will explain all of the required fees, but the most common disbursement costs include local authority searches, stamp duty and Land Registry fees.
How long does the conveyancing process take?
Whilst it is difficult to determine the exact time-frame, typically the conveyancing process can take up to 12 weeks, with some transactions progressing much faster if mortgage applications are already in place and only straightforward “searches” are needed for example. However, certain unforeseen delays – see types of delays below - could prolong the process, meaning that your conveyancer is required to carry our further legal work to resolve any issues and complete the transaction. Good communication with your chosen conveyancing solicitor will ensure you are kept in the loop at all times and are aware of how the case is progressing.
What are the common causes of delay?
Conveyancing is a complicated legal process and there are a number of outside factors that could cause a delay in the completion. Often these delays will be out of the control of the conveyancing solicitor, who will be working hard to progress the completion as quickly as possible. Here are some of the most common delays:
- Waiting on a mortgage offer
- Valuation survey delays
- Survey results requiring further investigation or attention
- Delays from the other party in completing the contract information or enquiries
- A long chain of property sale and purchase transactions
When should you instruct a solicitor?
Regardless of whether you are buying or selling a property, instructing a solicitor at the earliest stage will ensure you are getting the right advice. Ideally, if you are selling a property you should contact your solicitor before you put your house on the market. If you have found a property you wish to purchase, you should do so before making an offer to the seller.
Last Updated: Wednesday 10th July 2019
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