Complete Guide to the Conveyancing Process
Whether you are selling a house, flat or bungalow, you will need to go through the standard conveyancing process with solicitors.
These are the steps behind the legal transfer of property and are necessary for every property transaction.
Generally, people use the help of a professional conveyancer to complete conveyancing work. A conveyancer is a lawyer with a specific conveyancing license, or a solicitor who specialises in property law.
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- Find the best conveyancing solicitors
- Instruct your conveyancer
- Complete the standard property information forms
- Send all property certificates, permissions, guarantees and warranties
- Provide photo ID
- Contact your mortgage lender
- Ask your conveyancing solicitors to send the draft contract to the buyer
- Arrange access for the buyer’s survey
- Renegotiate with the buyer (if necessary)
- Answer queries related to the buyer’s conveyancing searches
- Consider buying indemnity insurance (if necessary)
- Finalise sale contract and agree a completion date
- Request the buyers deposit and Exchange Contracts
- Exchange Contracts
The Conveyancing Process – Step #1
Before receiving an offer
1. Find the best conveyancing solicitors
The first step to selling your house or flat smoothly is choosing great conveyancing solicitors.
While having a top-grade conveyancer is not as important as it is when buying, a bad solicitor can slow down the sale process dramatically, and potentially even cause it to fall through.
There are two types of conveyancer. Licensed conveyancers, who should be registered with the Conveyancing Licensing Council (CLC), and solicitors, who should be members of the Law Society.
Both licensed conveyancers and solicitors can provide a good conveyancing service and will vary as much as each other. When choosing a conveyancer we have some advice as follows:
- Pick a conveyancing company which works on a “no sale no fee” basis. When this is the case, the company has an inherent motivation towards having your sale succeed first time and will work harder on it. A large percentage of house sales in the UK fall through, and a “no sale no fee” conveyancer could help protect you from this.
- Choose a conveyancer with experience of completing house sales like yours. If they have not sold a newbuild, a leasehold, or a listed building in the last couple of years, they are likely to be out of practice at best.
- Ensure your conveyancer will give you the name of the specific person responsible for your case, and a contact phone number and email for them.
- Ask about their day to day availability. Do they open on Saturdays, or outside normal working hours? More availability is better as it means things can be resolved quicker, but also generally drives up the price of the quote.
- Check if a conveyancing solicitor can work to your timescale. If you have a buyer already and both parties need to move fast, this can be especially important.
- Check online reviews, and not the ones featured on the company’s website. Less ethical companies often pay for complimentary reviews to be written about them, so negative reviews are more likely to be illuminating. Look out for specific details and themes, such as them getting things incorrect, or taking ages to complete work. Avoid companies that leave a trail of annoyed customers behind them.
- Get several conveyancing quotes. You should ensure all conveyancers include all possible costs to ensure their quotes are comparable.
- Do not pay too little. Usually, conveyancers charge sellers around £1,000. An additional charge of £150-£400 for leasehold property is generally paid for the additional work and disbursements required. Be very wary of any firm offering conveyancing fees for less than £600 when selling. Either they will be understaffed, overworked and slow, or they will sneak hidden fees onto that bill. Normally, both things will happen.
- Do not pay too much as an overall conveyancing cost. When selling a house, you need substantially fewer protections than you when you are buying. It is rarely worth spending £2000 on a top-flight conveyancing company.
- Locality rarely matters. Firms that offer conveyancing online can be just as fast as high street ones and often quicker. If there are no pressing reasons to investigate the property in person (IE boundary disputes) there is no need to hire a local conveyancer.
- It is normally a bad idea to follow your estate agent’s recommendation. Agents often have deals with big conveyancing companies and get kickbacks for referring customers. When recommending a conveyancer, your estate agent will likely not be acting in your interest.
- Pick a conveyancer on your mortgage lenders approved list. If you do not, they will, and having two conveyancers working on the same sale is a ridiculous waste of money and time.
2. Instruct your conveyancer
To formally instruct a conveyancing firm, you must sign and return a document called a letter of engagement. This is to confirm your acceptance of the conveyancing fees and services.
This will be provided by your chosen conveyancing firm once you have told them what you want to do. They will also provide a document containing the firm’s terms and conditions for the conveyancing process.
Once you have instructed a conveyancer, they should get back to you within 24 hours. If they fail to do so, they may be too busy to do a decent job with your conveyancing. You should want to consider finding someone else.
3. Complete the standard property information forms
The next step to selling a property is to fill out the initial forms your conveyancer sends you and provide the necessary documents.
How long this takes can depend on many factors—but mostly how well you have kept hold of your important documents. If you have all the information and required documents to hand the forms can be completed in just a couple of hours. However, if you need to request new copies from the original source this could add days.
You will also be asked to complete Property Information Form (TA6) and Fittings and Contents Form (TA10). If your property is a leasehold, you will also need to fill in leasehold Information Form (TA7).
Form TA6 discusses boundaries, access rights, drains, planning permission, building work, neighbour disputes, tree preservation orders, parking, and environmental matters. Many documents are required in support of this.
These will include planning permissions and building regulations certificates, a valid Energy Performance Certificate, guarantees and warranties.
The guarantees and warranties will be for any building work carried out on the property. These could also be for appliances such as cookers, boilers, washers, and dryers. If you have lost a guarantee, you can normally order a replacement from the company which did the work or supplied the appliance.
If any work has been conducted on either the electrical or central heating system since 2005, you will need to provide safety certificates for this. In addition,
If you have changed any windows or doors since April 2002 you will need to provide a valid FENSA certificate or equivalent.
Form TA10 asks what is included with the property.
This form is divided into several sections, based on rooms, and can include everything from carpets to garden gnomes. The form details anything sold separately, and the additional price the seller is asking for it. The TA10 form must be signed by all parties selling the property.
Form TA7 asks for information about a leasehold properties’ management. It confirms contact details, lease information, insurance details, and maintenance and service charges. Much of the information required by Form TA7 is contained in the leasehold management pack.
This pack is acquired from the freeholder, or their managing agent and it is worth ordering this as early as possible as it can take several weeks to arrive.
Unfortunately for leaseholders, freeholders and their agents normally charge around £300 to provide the leasehold management pack.
What if I can’t complete the forms?
If you are not sure about the answer to something in one of the forms, such as if you want to leave your appliances or curtains, you should talk to your conveyancer. In most cases, they will advise you to leave these sections blank, or write “for negotiation” or “TBC.”
All the forms must be completed accurately and honestly. Any lies on any of the forms could jeopardise your sale or lead to your buyer suing you for compensation.
If you cannot fill in a section of one of these forms, or provide the necessary paperwork to support it, it does not mean you cannot sell your property.
However, if this is the case you may need to purchase indemnity insurance to cover the missing documents or information, or alternatively drop the price during negotiations.
4. Send all property certificates, permissions, guarantees and warranties
Once you have gathered all relevant documents you should send these on to your conveyancing solicitors as fast as possible. This will help ensure your sale progresses quickly. Better still consider dropping these off in person if your conveyancer is local to you to avoid any postal delays. The certificates to include are:
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
Your conveyancer will be able to find this online via a simple search of the EPC register. If your property does not currently hold one you will need to read about how to arrange an EPC before your sale can proceed.
5. Provide photo ID
Your conveyancer will ask you to provide photo ID, as well as a proof of address. This could be provided as a utility bill or mortgage statement. They need this to be compliant with anti-money laundering and anti-fraud legislation.
6. Contact your mortgage lender
If you have a mortgage on a property, you will need to contact your lender to let them know you are selling.
They will confirm how much of the mortgage loan is still outstanding, and if you are liable to pay an early redemption penalty.
When a property sale completes, your conveyancer will have to send any outstanding sum to your lender before they can forward any remaining balance on to you.
While you have to pay off a mortgage when you sell a property, sometimes you can take it across to a new property. This is called ‘porting’ a mortgage.
If this sounds like something you would be interested in, you should speak with your mortgage lender to see if this is possible.
If, for some reason, your property does not sells for less then the outstanding mortgage you will need to make arrangements to pay the balance on completion of sale.
The Conveyancing Process – Step #2
Offer acceptance to exchange of contracts
Once you have accepted an offer this is when the status of your property is marked ‘sold subject to contract’ in the public’s eye and the conveyancing process begins.
The stage between accepting an offer and exchanging contracts takes relatively little work from the seller but is fraught with possible dangers.
You must agree on a contract of sale, deal with the results of searches and surveys, and potentially even negotiate with your buyer.
Thankfully, your conveyancer should help with much of this stage.
7. Ask your conveyancing solicitors to send the draft contract to the buyer
After you have accepted an offer and your estate agent has sent a copy of the memorandum of sale to both parties, you will need to get your conveyancer to draw up a draft contract for the sale.
They do this using the information provided in the Property Information Form, the Leasehold Information Form, and the Fittings and Contents Form.
The draft contract should include the fixtures and fittings which will be included with the property, as well as the prices of any which will be available separately.
It should also include information about any planning permissions, covenants, warranties, guarantees and building control certificates that apply to the property.
Your conveyancer should also obtain Office Copy Entries from HM Land Registry to prove your ownership to the buyer.
The draft contract may also include a provisional date of completion. This is usually one or two weeks after you exchange contracts. However, this is not fixed and is often a moving target.
8. Arrange access for the buyer’s survey
After receiving the draft contract, your buyer will arrange for a valuer or a surveyor to inspect the property. You will need to provide them with access to the property in order for them to complete this.
9. Renegotiate with the buyer (if necessary)
The survey may flag up issues which need further investigation or discussion. For example, the survey could flag up that expensive roof repairs are necessary or alternatively, it could find the property is suffering from damp.
10. Answer queries related to the buyer’s conveyancing searches
The buyer’s conveyancing solicitor will order all of the necessary conveyancing searches. These will reveal important information about the property. These will include the risk of flooding, any planning issues, or potential unforeseen costs, including chancel and canal liabilities.
Your buyer may have enquiries relating to their property searches, which you may need to help your conveyancer answer. By answering these promptly you will be helping to minimise the conveyancing timescale.
11. Consider buying indemnity insurance (if necessary)
An issue coming up in the survey or in one of the searches may lead to your buyer wanting to renegotiate. The best person to help in this situation is your estate agent who should offer advice to help you get the best price.
This may involve having additional work conducted on your property or buying indemnity insurance as part of the conveyancing process.
Often, indemnity insurance is used to cover building work which has no supporting documents. It is designed to cover any costs which may emerge if it turns out this work was carried out below standard. Offering to pay for this insurance can secure an otherwise faltering sale.
Note that indemnity insurance must be taken out 12 months or more after any work has been completed. This is because prior to this point a council can act against a homeowner due to lack of a sign off from building control.
12. Finalise sale contract and agree a completion date
Getting from the draft contract to the final contract can take some time. This is because the buyer needs to conduct their searches, and if these reveal any serious problems, renegotiate the purchase price. They could also have to request a revision to their mortgage loan or find a larger deposit in order to complete the purchase.
Leasehold property can take longer still because of the involvement of a third party, the freeholder, making everything more complicated. Additional paperwork is required, including the management information pack. Most property management companies do not respond to requests for this pack quickly and will charge several hundred pounds for it. This will be included in the conveyancing fees as a disbursement.
13. Request the buyers deposit and Exchange Contracts
When the buyer and their conveyancer are satisfied and ready to proceed, your conveyancer will send them the final contract to read and sign. They will also ask the buyers conveyancing solicitors to confirm they are in receipt of your buyer’s deposit monies.
Until contracts are exchanged either party may pull out of the deal without consequences, aside from any costs they have already incurred, but afterwards they are legally bound to complete the deal. The exchange only happens when everyone in a chain is ready to proceed.
Your conveyancer will usually have you sign a TR1 transfer deed at this point. This is an important legal document which is used to transfer the property over to the buyer. You must have an independent witness to your signing of this document for it to be valid.
The TR1 is used by your conveyancer on completion day which will usually be agreed just prior to the exchange of contracts.
When does the exchange of contracts happen?
This depends. If you are selling to a cash buyer and are not depending on this sale to fund another property purchase, you can exchange as soon as both parties are happy.
Normally, however, this is not the case, and you will be in a property chain. A property chain is a group of properties which are all dependent on each other to sell.
Say you are selling and buying at the same time. You will be buying a property off one person and selling to another. It is likely they are also both buying and selling.
Even if they are buying a newbuild, and selling to a cash buyer respectively, breaking the chain, this still means that your property transaction depends on four others.
All these transactions must be ready to proceed before the exchange of contracts can happen, and this can cause substantial delays. Given that chains can be a lot longer than this hypothetical five property example, getting them organised can take months.
If a chain breaks at the last minute, i.e, one party drops out just prior to exchange, repairing it can be a bit of a nightmare. Often a cash house buying service can help.
When all parties in the chain are ready to proceed, a date will be set for the exchange of contracts.
14. Exchange Contracts
The legal step of exchanging of contracts usually takes place on a recorded phone call between the buyer and the sellers conveyancers.
Once the legal representatives have exchanged, your conveyancer should receive the buyer’s deposit.
If the buyer pulls out following the exchange of contracts, you can sue them to cover all legal costs up to this point and keep the deposit.
Similarly, if you pull out of the transaction for any reason the buyer can sue you to cover their legal costs.
The Conveyancing Process – Step #
15. Completion of Sale
Once you have exchanged contracts, you now have until the completion date to prepare to vacate the property.
It is a good idea to check the contents of the property against the fixtures and fittings form. This can prevent you taking or leaving any items you have agreed to sell.
Completion day is typically scheduled for one or two weeks after the exchange of contracts.
If this does not work for you, you can negotiate to complete on another day, provided it is suitable for all parties in the chain.
Your conveyancer has several things to do on completion day. These are:
- To check the buyers conveyancer is ‘in funds’ having received the buyers deposit and all mortgage monies (if applicable)
- To transfer the legal documents proving ownership to the buyer’s conveyancer
- To pay off any mortgage balance you may have against the property
Your conveyancer will then confirm with you that completion has indeed taken place. They will then settle all remaining fees including estate agents and conveyancers fees from the proceeds of the sale. If you are expecting surplus monies to be paid to you after the sale it is at this point that your conveyancer will send these. This is usually be completed via bank transfer but can also be via a cheque sent to you in the post. The choice will ultimately be yours.
Finally, they will send you a sale completion statement. This confirms all costs associated with your sale and will include:
- Any estate agent fees
- Conveyancer’s fees
- The mortgage redemption figure and early repayment charge (if applicable)
15. Read meters, leave the property and handover keys
With your sale complete all you have to do now is leave the property.
This means ensuring you have packed all of your belongings ready for your next move.
You should take closing meter reads ready for passing these through to your energy suppliers. You will also need to contact your local authority to advise them you are no longer responsible for Council Tax at the property.
Finally, you must call your estate agent and set a time to hand over keys so that your buyer can collect these without delay.
Congratulations! You have completed the sale of your property.
For more information on how conveyancing works for both buyers and sellers, see our Ultimate Guide to the Conveyancing Process.
10 frequently asked questions when selling a property
How can I find conveyancing solicitors near me?
- Look for reputable conveyancing solicitors in your local area using online directories or review websites.
- Make sure you check their credentials and reviews to ensure that you get the highest quality service. Contact them to discuss your requirements and determine the best option for you.
- Alternatively, consider using one of the many specialist firms offering conveyancing online. These companies can often offer some real advantages in the conveyancing timescale with your case being just a few mouse clicks away.
Do I need a solicitor to sell a house?
- YES, you will need a solicitor to sell a house.
- A solicitor is needed to prepare and submit the legal documents for selling the property, handle payment negotiations and ensure that all legal requirements have been fulfilled.
How much are solicitors fees for selling a house?
- The average conveyancing cost charged by solicitors for selling a house typically range from £500 to £1,500. This can be more depending on factors such as the complexity of the sale and how much work is required.
How can I get conveyancing quotes?
- Getting conveyancing quotes for a property transaction can be done online. Search for local solicitors with conveyancing expertise, read customer reviews and compare fees to get the best deal.
- Ask for full details of services included in all conveyancing fees and quotes so you know exactly what you are getting for your money.
What is indemnity insurance?
- Indemnity insurance for houses provides financial protection in the event of unforeseen issues with a property such as subsidence, ground heave or landslip.
- Ask for this as an optional cost as part of gathering conveyancing quotes.
- Indemnity insurance aims to pays out cash reimbursements to home owners who incur costs due to damage or loss suffered because of identified events.
How long does it take to sell a house?
- The process for selling a house usually takes around three to six months, although it can take longer or shorter depending on market conditions.
- Generally, how long it takes to sell your property will depend on how quickly and efficiently you can find a buyer and how complex the transaction is.
What is a Memorandum of Sale?
- A Memorandum of Sale is a document that outlines the terms and conditions for the sale of a property. It usually contains the details of the parties involved in the purchase, including the buyer, seller and their agents or representatives.
- Additionally, it will outline all of the relevant details about the sale, such as price, date of transfer of ownership and any special conditions.
What is the Deed of Transfer Form TR1?
- A Deed of Transfer is a legal document that transfers the ownership of property from one person to another. It outlines the parties involved in the transfer, the type of property being transferred, and any conditions associated with the transfer.
- The deed must be signed by both parties and witnessed by a third party in order for it to be legally binding.
- Finally, Form TR1 must be completed prior to completion.
When is the best time to sell a house?
- Generally, the best time of year to sell a house is during the first two weeks of May. House prices tend to pick up during this period, and owners who list their homes during this timeframe typically get the highest price for their property.
- Other prime times for selling a home are mid-March to early April and from late May through June.
Can you exchange contracts without a completion date?
- Yes, it is possible to exchange contracts without a completion date. This means that both parties have agreed on the contract and have signed it, but they have not yet set a date on when the contract must be completed by.
- In these cases, either party can suggest a completion date at any point in the future once the agreement has been reached.