Buying a property - how does the conveyancing process work?

Conveyancing is a vital part of buying a property, so it’s really important to understand the different steps involved.

Here we’ll explain the role of your conveyancer in your property purchase. This guide covers properties purchased in England and Wales.

Lisa Parker
November 8, 2023

What is conveyancing?  

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring ownership of the property you’re buying from the seller to you.

What will my conveyancer do?

To start the process, your conveyancer will receive a draft contract pack from the seller’s solicitors to review. This should include all the information about the property you’re buying and what’s included in the sale. It will contain details of any work the sellers have completed on the property with appropriate guarantees, and a list of which fixtures and fittings are included in the purchase. For example, they might agree to leave kitchen appliances, but want to take curtains and carpets. If there’s something you particularly want them to leave, make sure to ask as the seller may agree to sell them to you.

Your conveyancer will then raise enquiries about any information which is missing, unclear or incorrect, or conflicts with your understanding of what you’ve agreed to buy.

Once the contract pack has been received your conveyancer will need to carry out a series of searches to make sure there aren’t any issues that could affect the property’s value. If there are, these might not only impact your lender’s decision to offer you a mortgage but could also create issues for you in the future. For example, if the property has had alterations made to it such as an extension, but the seller didn’t get the correct permissions to do the work. This might lead to enforcement action by the local authority and could reduce the value of the property.

Searches that your conveyancer will need to carry out include Land Registry searches, local authority searches, environmental searches, water authority searches, and location specific searches, which identify whether there are any issues in the area you’re buying that you should be aware of.

The time taken for the conveyancer to receive the searches back can vary quite substantially from one local authority to another, and could also be affected by the type and number of searches that are needed, as well as how busy the market is at the time. Your conveyancer will be able to give you a good idea of the date that they should receive the searches back.

You can find out more about searches in our guide What are solicitor searches when buying a house?

If you’re taking out a mortgage to purchase your property, then a copy of your mortgage offer will be sent by your new lender to your conveyancer and they’ll go through the conditions.

What are the next steps?

Once the contract details have been formally agreed by both sides, you and the seller will then need to sign the contracts in front of a witness. But before they can be exchanged, you’ll need to arrange buildings insurance for the property you’re moving to. This is a legal requirement if you’re buying a property with a mortgage. You’ll be responsible for the property once contracts are exchanged, even though you won’t move in until completion.

Your conveyancer can then help arrange the completion date, which will depend on when everyone involved is able to move. Sometimes it can be just a few days after contracts have been exchanged, or it could be several weeks. On the completion date, the funds to buy the property will be transferred by your conveyancer. Once the seller’s conveyancer has confirmed these funds have been received, you should then be able to collect the keys to your new home.

Following completion, your conveyancer will arrange for the title register to be updated with you as the owner and will register your lender’s mortgage charge with the Land Registry if it’s in England or Wales.

What can I do to speed up the process?

Make sure you have any documents you might need readily available so you can get this to your conveyancer as soon as they request it. This includes proof of your identity and address and details of your buildings insurance.

You should also ensure your conveyancer knows how to get hold of you quickly in case they have any queries during the process. If your circumstances are more complex, and the conveyancer requires additional information, it can take longer and be more costly than a standard purchase.

You can read more in the following guides:

- Buying a leasehold property
- Buying through a Limited Company
- Buying a property with a gifted deposit

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