What does my conveyancing solicitor do for me?

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In a nutshell, they ensure they report to you the implications and risks in their successfully transferring to you legal ownership of residential property (freehold or leasehold, registered or unregistered).

The crux is the quality of the nut the shell contains. Conveyancing quality can range wildly by those who offer their services in the market place. In England & Wales you can have a Solicitor, Chartered Legal Executive or  Licensed Conveyancer, though the latter are solely limited to property transactions. Conveyancing can and does impact many areas of the law – trusts, wills, disputes, employment, matrimonial and company law.

Whoever you select as your conveyancer, to ensure you know that you are receiving actual quality, you should expect the following, as a minimum:

Sellers:

  • If your deeds are registered at the Land Registry your conveyancer can instantly obtain a copy and dispatch contract papers to your buyers the very same day you instruct them.
  • You can be sent your copy of the contract to sign. As a result you are signed up and potentially ready to exchange within days of instructing!
  • Early on, your conveyancer obtains a record of the balance owing on your mortgage (if any) and they prepare a statement of the net proceeds owing to you. This avoids any nasty surprises later on, in case you overlooked a deduction (e.g. estate agent’s bill, a second mortgage, early mortgage repayment penalty).
  • Your Buyers will review our Contract papers, and if they wish to raise any questions, your conveyancer should attempt to deal with them, but if they require your input then should ideally email or telephone them through to you and request your answers – to keep up the pace of your house move. Post is a slow approach.
  • Once the buyer is happy with the contract papers and replies to their questions, (and your related purchase is ready if applicable), a specific move date is set, and the buyer’s finances are in place, it should be possible to proceed to exchange contracts.

NOTE: Exchange of Contracts is simply a telephone call between the buyers’ and sellers’ conveyancing solicitors to confirm that each party will not back out (as either party can until exchange), and will move (i.e. complete) at a fixed date shortly in the future. This then allows house clearance, carpet ordering (etc) and property removals to be booked without fear of cancellation and lost deposit.

 It is your conveyancer’s job to get you to an exchange of Contracts as efficiently and ideally as promptly as possible.

Once Contracts have been exchanged the deal is legally binding. You and the buyer are fully committed to the transaction and cannot withdraw without facing substantial damages and penalties. Exchange of Contracts can be a lengthy and often frustrating process depending on the number of parties in the chain. Your conveyance should aim to shield you from this though the process can only move forward as quickly as the slowest person in the chain.

  • Your moving date, or more commonly ‘completion date’, is normally a week or two after Exchange of Contracts. Your conveyancer will prepare by requesting a final mortgage repayment amount calculated to the specific move date. They will also telephone/email you a day or two before completion just to check you are ready.
  • On the date of completion they receive the remaining sale price from the buyer’s solicitor. On receipt they will authorise the release of keys through the Estate Agents (where there is one). The Buyer collects the keys from the Agents. Any spare keys can be put through your letterbox.
  • They pay your Estate Agents, re-pay your mortgage provider and deduct their legal fees before sending you the net proceeds (or carrying them over to any related purchase).

Buyers:

  • Without any delay, your conveyancing solicitor will chase the selling lawyers for the legal papers.
  • On receipt, they should do 2 things:

1. check through the sellers’ contract papers and raise enquiries on any deficiency.

2. send off the usual conveyancing searches (Local Authority, drainage , church repair and environmental).

 Both 1 and 2 can take several weeks or more, unless there is a pre-agreed time scale both lawyers are working to.

  • Once they are happy with the search results, and the contract papers, they should do 2 things:

1. send you a single written summary – in plain English – of all the contract papers they have received telling you about your boundaries, items being left at the Property, any previous building works/alterations that have been disclosed, any restrictions in your deeds which you will have to comply with (i.e. no alterations, no business use, no trade vehicles/caravans at the Property) etc.

2. Along with the Report, they also send you the Contract for signing and request a 10% deposit, (unless you are also selling in which case they would hope to use your Buyers 10% deposit to fund yours) both for sending back to them - they will hold them both until you give permission for us to exchange Contracts.

  • They check your finance is in place ready to allow them to safely exchange contracts:

1. Either that your mortgage offer as been issued to you (and a covering letter by the lender to your conveyancer too) or

            2. You have private means of purchasing in place without needing a mortgage

  • After any outstanding issues with your survey and enquiries have been dealt with, an actual move date is finally agreed, (and your related sale if any is also ready) and finances are in place, it should be possible to proceed to exchange contracts.
  • Your moving date or more commonly ‘completion date’ is normally a week or two after Exchange of Contracts. Your 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 you would otherwise take over (e.g. a second mortgage). They also telephone/email you a day or two before completion just to check you are ready.
  • On the date of completion (they receive your own Buyer’s money if you have a related sale and then) they transfer the remaining purchase price to the sellers’ solicitor. On receipt they authorise the release of keys through the Estate Agents (where there is one). You collect the keys from the Agents. They will telephone you to confirm that you may collect your keys and move into your new home.
  • While you move in to your new home, they continue working for you behind the scenes. They will pay stamp duty on your behalf to the Inland Revenue and register your ownership of the property with the Land Registry.