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Conveyancing Transaction Process

I want to book my removal company and a day off work to supervise, how long is this purchase going to take?

The short answer is a normal transaction takes about 10-12 weeks.

The longer answer is more complicated. To understand it you need to read the information below which sets out the stages in a conveyancing transaction. If you read and understand the following information you will find the transaction is a lot less stressful and goes more smoothly.

The background

Buying a house is usually very stressful. There is so much to organise before the move. There are so many people to talk to. So many forms to fill in. Sometimes you feel so powerless. We sympathise, we really do.

The trouble is that you are asking professionals including, at least 2 sets of solicitors (but in a chain, many more), an estate agent (possibly more), a surveyor, (possibly a heating engineer, an electrician), a credit broker (or more), a couple of lenders (yours and the sellers), a professional landlord if the property is leasehold, the local authority or a search agent, a title insurance company and H.M. Land Registry all to work together do something REALLY COMPLICATED with very limited resources.

All these professionals, and the genuine issues that need to be considered by each and every one of them, introduce delay and uncertainty exactly when you are already stressed and anxious. A ‘conveyance’ tends only to come together in the last week.

Traditionally there would be a 21 day break between exchange of Contract, when all the professionals had done their stuff and the transaction was good to go, and completion. That was the time for you to get involved and sort out removals, a day off work, notifying utility companies etc. Sadly, in the modern age, most home movers are exchanging and completing on the same day. This means that you are left trying to sort out the ‘practical’ things at the same this as the professionals are navigating through the sea of uncertainty.

If you really want a ‘low stress’ conveyance try and insist upon a long gap between Exchange and Completion when you put in your bid and then leave the professional to tell you as and when it’s time for you to do your part. The trouble is not many estate agents or sellers are willing to agree to this. They want their money quick at the expense of your stress levels.

Since we will probably all be working alongside each other we thought it would be helpful for you to understand the likely steps taken by us in the transaction. Please be aware that we have to complete each stage in turn. Time lost completing each stage pushes back commencement of the next stage.

Step 1: Instructing us, obtaining the mortgage offer and the contract pack.

Once you’ve found your ideal property and have had an offer formally accepted you need to tell us to legally complete the purchase.

  1. Please give our details to the estate agent. They will share them with the seller and their lawyers. Ask the estate agent to send us a copy of the sales particulars and the memorandum of sale.
  1. If you haven’t already done so, please either “click” to accept our quote or return the written acceptance of our quote form
  1. Whether or not you have instructed us on-line we will write to you (1) confirming our quote, (2) enclosing our terms and conditions of business (3) setting out our anti-money laundering and prevention of terrorist financing requirements and (4) enclosing a purchase questionnaire for you to fill in and return to us.
  1. The seller’s solicitor will send us the ‘contract pack’. This will include the replies to 2 standard questionnaires: the Seller’s Property Information Form and the Fixtures and Fitting form.

The documents contain important information about the property such as a plan, boundary disputes, planning permissions, guarantees and warranties and environmental matters. The Fittings and Contents Form contains a list of items that will be included in the sale of the property, such as curtains, blinds, carpets etc.

If the property is leasehold a copy of the lease will be included in the contract pack.

The pack will also contain the title deeds indicating the type of ownership of the property.

  1. If purchasing the property with the help of a mortgage, we will have to wait until we receive a copy of the formally accepted mortgage offer before we can proceed.

Tips: (1) The biggest delay here is getting the mortgage offer over to us. You might want to speed the matter along – stay on top of your lender and make sure they get their valuation survey done and the offer out to us.

(2) The second biggest delay at this stage is getting the contract pack off the seller’s solicitors. If you want to speed matters along you may want to get the estate agent to chase up the seller’s solicitors.

(3) We cannot request the searches until we have the plan from the contract pack. Searches are taking about 6-8 weeks to come back – See section (3) below. If you are in a hurry you can ask us to commission the searches now to save time later. Warning if you commission the searches but do not proceed with the transaction then you will lose this money (usually in the region of £250).

Time scale: 2 weeks for the contract pack, 3 weeks for the mortgage offer.

Step 2: Arrange a Property Survey

Although it is not legally required, it is a wise idea to commission an independent survey of the target property. The survey report will highlight any major faults with the property, and may recommend additional investigations, making you aware of potentially costly repairs and allowing you the opportunity, before exchange to renegotiate the purchase price.

Whilst a survey is recommended for every home buyer, it should be viewed as a necessary expense for those buying a property that:

  1. is a listed building
  2. is an old or unusual build
  3. is in poor condition

The results of the property survey may influence your decision to go ahead with the purchase, or decide to pull out, if you deem the work required to fix any issues with the property too expensive or time consuming.

Usually a survey will cost in the region of £750 + VAT – this is a lot cheaper than paying for any nasty surprises.

If you wish to renegotiate the price please do this via the estate agent or with the seller directly. Remember you will have to keep both your lender and ourselves informed about any price changes

Time scale: The surveyor usually takes about 3 weeks to prepare a report.

Tip: Please tell us if you have commissioned a survey report. Please let us have a copy of the report.

Step 3: Conduct property searches/completing anti money laundering requirements

  1. Please comply with our identity check requirements. This will usually involve you calling into our offices with your driving licence and passport. Note (1) other documents are acceptable if you haven’t the ones requested -talk to us. Note (2) we will need proof of identity for each and every buyer AND any other persons (parents, friend etc who may be gifting or lending you money). We will use this ‘paper’ information to carry out additional electronic searches to confirm your identity.
  1. We will need to understand where any funds you are putting into the transaction will be coming from. Some will be obvious: the sale proceeds of another house, a mortgage advance. Some will not be so obvious, for instance we will need to see bank statements covering the last 6 months showing any savings you are planning to use.
  1. You should, at this stage investigate buying at least ‘bricks and mortar’ property insurance for the property’s full reinstatement value. You do not have to put the property ‘on risk’ at this point but (a) satisfy yourself that you can obtain and afford the insurance and (b) email us with contact details, policy number etc in order that the property can be quickly be put ‘on risk’ later on in the transaction.
  1. If you haven’t already done so, we will need money from you now to pay for the searches against the property. The exact amount varies and will be shown on your quote letter. It is usually in the region of £250.
  1. We will now carry out searches to find out vital information on the property and any associated risks, before you exchange contracts with the seller.

The type of searches that you need depend largely on the location of your property.

These are the main types of searches that are advisable for all properties:-

Local Authority

Combined environmental and flood risk

Water and drainage

Mining searches

Be aware some of these searches are quite limited in scope. For instance the local authority search does not tell you much, if anything, about neighbouring properties. If you are at all concerned about neighbouring properties, developments etc please let us know: we may be able to do a more advanced search.

Time scale: Searches usually take between 6-8 weeks depending how busy the local authority and search agents are.

Tip (1) Please do comply with our anti-money laundering requirements. Make an appointment to come and see us. We are very friendly and we would love to get to know you.

Step 4: Reviewing the documents, raising requisitions and reporting to you.

Now our work really begins. We will

  1. review your mortgage offer. Sometimes, but not always, they have specific requirements. Some of these may require information or help from you.
  1. review the documents in the contract pack, the search results etc. Usually the review results in our having to raise a series of questions of the sellers.
  1. send you a copy of the contract pack and the searches. We will let you have our preliminary comments on the documents. You must read through the documents and letter carefully and let us have your comments. Now is the time for you to raise with us any issues of concerns relating to the purchase. Your comments will form part of the questionnaire we ask of the seller.
  1. Once we have your comments we will ask questions of the other side. Depending upon what has been asked it can take up to 4 weeks to get proper replies.
  1. Often the replies are inconclusive and will result in a second round of questions – usually these take less time to reply to.
  1. In the event that there is a problem with the title to the property we will discuss this with you at this stage. It may be possible to correct the defect by obtaining insurance. There will then have to be a discussion about who is to pay for this.

Timescale: It usually takes 6 weeks to resolve all the questions regarding a property and a mortgage offer. Note it can take significantly longer.

Tip (1) Please do read the documents through carefully. Look at the plans. Think about the property when you visited it. If necessary ask to see the property again after you have read all the documents and comments. Do the boundary’s shown on the plan line up with the boundary’s on the ground? Do the answers look right when you compare them with the property? Let us know if something doesn’t sound or look right.

(2)Pay especial attention to the SDLT form. You need to let us know if you are seeking any special allowances. You need to be satisfied that you are paying the right amount of stamp duty.

(3)Now is the time to start firming up removal firms, holidays, utility contracts etc.

Step 5 Exchanging contracts.

Because people these days generally insist upon simultaneous exchange and completion this is usually a terrible rush. Please tell us of any pre-booked holidays or other issues well in advance.

  1. Depending upon what has come up in stage 4 above we will have either dealt with the issues by exchange of emails or we will send you a final report.
  1. We will send you a contract, mortgage deed, transfer (TR1) to sign and return to us well in advance of Exchange.
  1. We will send you a Stamp Duty calculation for you to review. You need to check this and let us know immediately if you disagree with it.
  1. We will agree with you, the seller and the other parties in the chain the day for exchange and completion.
  1. We will send you a completion statement. This will show the amount of money we need from you to complete or might be owed back to you from any sale proceeds.
  1. You will need to transfer any monies to us 2 days before exchange – as a minimum we will generally need 10% of the purchase price to hand for exchange. If we are exchanging and completing on the same day then we will need all the money including the stamp duty and our fees.

(6) We will arrange to draw down the mortgage advance (if any) 1 day prior to completion.

(7) Immediately before completion we will arrange to comply with the lender’s requirements for further searches and HM Land Registry’s requirements to protect the purchase.

(8) Immediately after completion the seller will arrange for the keys to be released to you (usually from the estate agent).

Time Scale: It usually takes about 2 weeks from finalising the questions about the property to exchange contracts. The main reason for the delay is the lender’s requirement to have notice to do final checks and to find the money they are lending you on the money markets. The other reason is simply to find a date for moving that everyone, including the removal companies, can agree upon.

Tip (1) Don’t forget to take photographs of the meter readings for both your old and new properties.

(2)Don’t forget to put the new property ‘on risk’ with your insurer immediately after exchange of contracts.

Warning: After exchange you will become legally obliged to purchase the property.

Stage 6: Post Completion

In the final stage of the conveyancing process we will arrange for any Stamp Duty (if applicable) to be paid to Revenue and Customs. We will arrange for HM Land Registry to register you as the new owner of the property with the HM Land Registry.

Albinson Napier Ltd. Registered in England & Wales. Company No. 08755592. VAT No. 152416489

Registered Office: 20 Bold St, Warrington WA1 1HP

Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority SRA Number 611814.

The SRA Regulations can be found at www.rules.sra.org.uk. We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all our dealings with clients, third parties and employees. We are a Signatory to the Law Society Diversity & Inclusion Charter.

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