So you've been looking for your a new home and have finally found the property of your dreams; your offer has been accepted for a new property and it's time to instruct a solicitor to oversee the purchasing process. What happens now?

Whether you're buying a new home or selling your home and moving on to pastures new, this article written by our expert panel solicitors Penningtons Manches Cooper, aims to help first time buyers understand the conveyancing process, by breaking down each milestone to digestible steps.

First Steps

The conveyancing process happens before you exchange and complete the purchase (or sale) of your home. 

Your solicitor will need to check and obtain full ID and further documents from you, although this can be quite a long process, it is a legal and regulatory requirement and solicitors try to manage the timeframes as best they can.

Many firms now have online verification processes to speed up the process. If there are two parties involved (a seller and a buyer) each will have separate solicitors representing them but the first step process remains the same.

Seller’s solicitor goes first

The seller's solicitor will take the first step by assembling the title pack. This will include asking the seller to complete various information forms and provide any documents that they may have. It will also entail downloading documentation from the Land Registry and, if the property is leasehold, applying to the landlord or managing agent for an enquiry pack. The seller’s solicitor also drafts the contract.

The documents go over to the buyer's solicitors and it is then up to the buyer's solicitor to go through all the documentation provided to make sure that the property is suitable for the buyer to proceed to purchase and, if the buyer's solicitor is also acting for the buyer's lender, that it also meets the lender's requirements.

The conveyancing process happens before you exchange and complete the purchase (or sale) of your home.

The conveyancing process happens before you exchange and complete the purchase (or sale) of your home.

Due diligence

The sort of the things that the buyer's solicitor is looking for are, typically, to make sure the seller has the right to sell the property, that there are sufficient "rights" benefitting the property such as access, services etc and to see if generally there are any unexpected pieces of information disclosed such as problematic restrictive covenants.

The buyer's solicitor will also apply for searches which would typically be a search from the local authority, a drainage and water search, an environmental search, and a chancel search. The time of receipt of the local search varies from local authority to local authority.

This is something that a solicitor cannot control as most local authorities do not expedite searches. Again, it is up to the buyer's solicitor to analyse these documents and ensure there is nothing unusual. For example, there be a planning enforcement notice affecting the property, or the property may not front onto a roadway that is maintained by the local authority in which case the solicitor needs to make sure that there are adequate access provisions.

It is not the buyer's solicitor's role to obtain or carry out a survey. The physical condition of the property is something that the buyer themselves need to be happy with. Of course, if the buyer has any queries that arise from a survey, then their solicitor can pass them on.

It is up to the buyer's solicitor to raise any issues with the seller's solicitor and between them try to resolve them. Potential solutions would include indemnity insurance policies, retentions (so that the seller covers the cost of possible remedial works) or sometimes the need to resolve issues with third parties.

Exchange and completion

The seller's and buyer's solicitors also agree the form of the contract. When both sides are ready then the respective solicitors will speak to each other and fix a completion date and then date the contract. This is "exchange" and a deposit is paid to the seller’s solicitor at this point.

Between exchange and completion, the buyer's solicitor will carry out a further search at the Land Registry and supply their report to any lender. They will do any final accounting and provide a statement to the buyer.

Finally, the day of completion arrives, and any monies should be in the buyer's solicitor's account. They transfer the funds to the seller's solicitor and on receipt, the seller's solicitor should telephone the buyer's solicitor to confirm receipt and completion.

Then the buyer's solicitor deals with the Stamp Duty Land Tax and registering the property at the Land Registry.

The solicitors end up with a happy homeowner, a satisfied seller and a job well done.

Written by Mark Burrows, Senior Associate at Penningtons Manches Cooper.

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