Residential Conveyancing FAQs
1. How long will it take?
Each property transaction is unique and as such there is no ‘one size fits all’ timeframe. The average time, however, for a residential property transaction to be at the point of exchanging contracts is 6 to 8 weeks from the point of receiving the contract documentation from the seller’s solicitor. Once the documentation is received the clock starts ticking and we will do our searches and raise enquiries.
2. When can we exchange contracts?
Contracts won’t be exchanged until all legal matters are resolved and satisfactory answers to enquiries have been received from the vendor’s solicitor. This is because once we have exchanged, you are committed to buy the property and cannot withdraw without loosing your deposit if you find out information that would mean you didn’t want the property. Prior to exchange we will also ensure that all funding is in place. We will always take your authority to proceed prior to committing you to an exchange of contracts.
3. Why do you need to tell the Lender?
In most cases where a buyer is obtaining a mortgage the Lender will also instruct us to act for them. This means that as well as telling the client of any risks identified in the searches we are also required to tell the Lender to ensure that their interest in the property is protected.
4. What is an indemnity insurance policy?
In some circumstances, certain pieces of documentation or information for a property are no longer available. This can happen where certificates were not issued or where deeds or documents have been lost over time as the property has changed hands.
Indemnity insurance is an insurance policy which can be purchased as a one off premium to protect a buyer in place of them having copies of the missing documents. Indemnity policies are usually paid for by a seller and they can be passed on from one purchaser to the next when the property changes hands. There may be a small cost to pay to increase the premium on a policy to match the increased value of the property at the time of the next sale. The price of indemnity policies can vary depending on the risk which is covered, the value of the property and the likelihood of a claim being made.
5. What happens on completion?
The process on completion will vary slightly depending on whether you have a sale and purchase, or just a sale or purchase.
If you are just purchasing a property the completion funds will be sent to your seller’s solicitor within the first few hours of the working day. It can take a few hours for the funds to clear into the solicitor’s account. Once they have received the funds they will call us to confirm receipt and you will be able to collect the keys.
If you are selling a property the buyer’s solicitor will transfer the funds to your solicitor’s account. Once your solicitor receives the funds they will pay off any mortgages, their own fees and estate agent costs. This will then leave the sale proceeds which will either be transferred to you or added to funds on your related purchase to then complete that matter.
6. What if I change my mind?
Up until the point of exchange of contracts you are free to change your mind and can walk away from a sale or purchase without any obligation to the buyer/seller on the other side. Once you have exchanged contracts you are legally committed to the sale/purchase. If you were to withdraw after that point you would forfeit the deposit funds and would be in breach of the contract.
Dependent on the amount of work undertaken on a matter you may still be required to pay a proportion of your fees to your solicitor and you will be liable for any costs that have already been paid, for example search fees.
7. What should I do with my deeds?
In most cases, Lenders will now not require that they hold the original deeds for a property as the Land Registry will hold electronic copies of documentation. Once your purchase has been registered we will provide you with copies of all of the deeds and documents obtained during the conveyancing process. You should keep hold of all of these documents as you will need to pass these to your solicitor when you come to sell the property.
8. What is the difference between exchange and completion?
On exchange of contracts you will become legally committed to sell or buy a property on a certain date for a certain price. If you are buying a property, at the point of exchange a 10% deposit will need to be put in place. There is no set timeframe between exchange and completion; they can take place on the same date, a few days apart, weeks or even months. The key point to be aware of is that once you have exchanged you are in a legally binding contract. On the agreed date completion will take place following the process set out above at point 5.
9. When does the higher rate SDLT apply?
Higher rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax will apply when you purchase a property and are already on the deeds to one or more other properties. An example of this would be where you own your residential home and then purchase a second property as a buy-to-let or as a holiday home. The exception to the rule is where you are purchasing a property as a residence to replace your previous main residence, for example if you owned a residential property and a buy-to-let property and were moving house. At the start you would own two properties but as you were selling your previous main residence and buying a new main residence the standard rate of Stamp Duty would apply.
10. Do I have to attend the solicitors’ office in person?
Yes, it is important for you to attend your solicitor’s office during the conveyancing process so that the necessary identity checks can be done. All solicitors will be required to verify the identity of their clients. You will also need to physically sign the sale contract and transfer deed. In the event that you cannot attend the office of the solicitor you have instructed e.g. due to distance, you will need to attend a local solicitor instead and complete an ID1 form.