De-Mystified - The Role of a Conveyancer

The quality of a Conveyancer varies wildly throughout England and Wales. How efficient and prompt they are will depend largely on how qualified they are, and what price is paid for the service. But the following are the steps any seller and buyer should expect from their conveyancer:

Sales

Immediately the conveyancer should do two things (1) send the Seller a Welcome Pack and (2) obtain the deeds and despatch Contract papers to the Buyers' lawyer if possible the very same day the conveyancer is instructed. Many conveyancers are slow about sending out papers.

On return of client papers, the conveyancer should do two further and immediate things(1) get their own client signed up to the contract and so be ready and waiting weeks in advance and (2) obtain the balance owing on any mortgage and prepare a statement of the net proceeds. This avoids any nasty surprises later on, in case the Seller overlooked a deduction (e.g. estate agent's bill, a second mortgage, an early repayment penalty) or did not realise they are in negative equity and Agent and solicitor may not be paid if the matter does not proceed!

Once the Buyers' lawyer reviews the contract the Selling lawyer may have to deal with Buyer enquiries. If the Seller needs to help answer, then the conveyancer should email or telephone them through. Avoid letters that only delay.

A move date may be raised at this stage - though the sooner the better in any home move so lawyers have a target to aim for.

The Buyer will then call to say they are ready to exchange. Provided the Seller has no related purchase or if they do it is also ready, the conveyancers agree to exchange contracts. This is simply a telephone call where each lawyer agrees they hold a signed part of the contract and they promise that in that evening's post to swap parts, and the Buyer to pay a deposit, normally 10% of the purchase price. From hanging up the phone, both sides are locked into the deal and are no longer able to withdraw without facing a legal action for breach of contract.

It is our job to get the client to an exchange of Contracts as efficiently and as promptly as possible.

Between exchange and completion, the Seller's conveyancer will prepare by requesting a mortgage repayment statement and making sure the net proceeds are calculated accurately and the Buyer is made aware of what is coming to them on the day of completion by either a cheque or bank transfer.

On the date of completion the Seller's conveyancer receives the remaining sale price from the buyer's solicitor. On receipt they authorise the release of keys (usually via the Estate Agent). They also pay the Estate Agents, re-pay any mortgage provider deduct their legal fees and then send the Seller the net proceeds (or carrying them over to any related purchase).

Purchases

Immediately the conveyancer should dotwo things (1) send the Buyer a Welcome Pack and (2) chase the Selling lawyers for the legal papers.

Once Contract papers are received by the Buyer's conveyancer, their main work begins, and they immediately do two things (1) check through the Sellers' Contract papers and raise enquiries on any deficiency (2) send off the usual conveyancing searches(Local Authority, drainage and environmental). Both 1 and 2 can take several weeks or more, unless there is a pre-agreed timescale.

Once the Buyer's conveyancer is happy with the search results, and the replies they receive to their enquiries they should do two things (1) prepare a bound written summary - in plain English - of all the Contract papers they have received. This Report tells the Buyer about boundaries, items being left at the Property, any previous building works/alterations that have been disclosed, any restrictions in the deeds which the Buyer will have to comply with (i.e. no alterations, no business use, no trade vehicles at the Property) etc. - some solicitors still meet face to face with their clients to go through the papers, which is another way of reporting (2) along with the Report, the conveyancer will also send the Buyer the Contract for signing and request a 10% deposit (unless the Buyer is also selling in which case they would hope to use the 10% deposit coming in on the related sale to fund it).

At this stage, the Buyer can also raise any of their own enquiries arising from the content of the Report.

The conveyancer does not rest at that point. They check finance is in place ready to allow an exchange of contracts - either (1) that the Buyer's mortgage offer as been issued to the Buyer but more importantly that the solicitor has received not just a copy, but the Lender's actual letter instructing the convenacer to act jointly for the Lender and the Borrower - as sometimes that letter will have extra things to check, so exchanging before receipt of that letter is risky or (2) the Buyer has private means of purchasing in place without needing a mortgage.

After any outstanding issues with the Buyer's survey and enquiries have been dealt with, an actual move date is finally agreed, (and the Buyer's related sale if any is also ready) and finances are in place, it should be possible to proceed to exchange Contracts.

The Buyer will then call to say they are ready to exchange.

Between exchange and completion, the Buyers conveyancer will prepare by requesting mortgage funds, and by carrying out Land Registry searches to ensure that the Sellers have not added anything on to their title deeds, which the Buyer would otherwise take over (e.g. a second mortgage).

On the date of completion (the conveyancer will receive their client's own Buyer's money if they have a related sale and then) they transfer the remaining purchase price to the sellers' solicitor. On receipt the Seller's conveyancer authorises the release of keys through the Estate Agents (where there is one). The Buyer collects the keys from the Agents. The Buyer's conveyancer will telephone their client to confirm they may collect the keys and move into their new home.

While the Buyer moves in to their new home, the conveyancer will continue working behind the scenes for some weeks after. They will pay Stamp Duty to the Inland Revenue and register the Buyer's ownership of the Property with the Land Registry.