Frequently Asked Questions and Common Terms
Buying and selling a property can be an exciting time, but the processes involved can sometimes seem confusing, with complex legal procedures that must be followed. Your conveyancing solicitor will make sure that you are fully aware of your obligations, providing guidance right the way through your property transaction. In this article we highlight what the conveyancing process is, and the most common conveyancing questions our expert conveyancing solicitors receive about the conveyancing process.
What is Conveyancing?
The term ‘conveyancing’ is the legal process by which the ownership of a property is transferred from one owner to another. Conveyancing has two core phases; the exchange of contracts and completion and will be carried out by a conveyancing solicitor or licenced conveyancer.
What is the difference between the Exchange of Contracts and Completion?
Exchange of Contracts - The ‘Exchange of Contracts’, is the point at which the two legal representatives of the buyer and the seller swap the signed contracts, and the buyer pays the deposit.
This is the point at which the agreement becomes legally binding and until this stage of the process takes place, either the buyer or the seller can withdraw from the transaction without incurring any serious costs.
For the exchange of contracts stage to take place, the property solicitors or licenced conveyancers representing the two parties will have needed to complete various searches and legal obligations. Following this, the legal representatives of each party will confirm that each of their clients have signed identical contracts and successfully agreed upon a completion date.
A deposit is then sent to the seller’s solicitor – usually up to 10% of the agreed purchase price – and the signed contracts are exchanged.
What happens on the Completion Date?
The ‘Completion Date’ is the final stage of the conveyancing process, where the ownership of the property is transferred to the buyer from the seller. The date agreed at the exchange of contracts stage, is when the buyer’s solicitor will arrange for the purchase money to be transferred to the seller’s solicitor and the seller’s solicitor will arrange for the keys to the property to be handed over to the new owner on confirmation of funds received.
The date will have been agreed at the point of the contract exchange. This is the date the buyer’s solicitor will arrange for the purchase money to be transferred to the seller’s solicitor and the seller’s solicitor will at this point arrange for the keys to the property to be handed over to the buyer on confirmation of funds received.
What is Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) and How much do I need to pay?
Anyone purchasing a house, flat or other land and property over a certain price in the UK must pay Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT).
You can calculate the amount of Stamp Duty Land Tax by visiting the Governments website,
SDLT Calculator The calculator will work out the SDLT payable for most transactions.
This calculator can be used for property purchases that are:
- For first-time buyers
- Replacing the main residence
- Additional property
- Aesidential or non-residential
- freehold or leasehold
What searches and surveys need to be completed?
Having certain surveys carried out is advisable before the purchase of a property as these will likely identify if there are any issues or potential problems with the property that is being purchased. Numerous surveys can be performed, and these will be dependent on the age and location of the property, however, the three core checks are rot, damp, and structural problems.
Whilst these types of surveys are advisable, they are not a mandatory requirement and some buyers may choose not to have them.
If you require a mortgage, however, there will be certain searches that your mortgage lender will require before agreeing to give you a mortgage. These will include:
- Water and Drainage Searchers - Residential water and drainage searches ensures the property being purchased is safe from any flooding, leaking or damp caused by public waterways and drains.
- Environmental Searches – An environmental search is carried out to identify what the land and the land in the vicinity of the property was previously used for and whether such uses are likely to have caused any potential contamination of the land.
- Local Authority Searches – Evaluating the local area to identify if there is anything that might affect the property in the future.
What is an Energy Performance Certificate?
Also known as an EPC, these are documents which provide buyers with details of how efficient a property is in terms of its energy consumption. Your property's EPC needs to be available to potential buyers as soon as you start to market your property for sale or rent. You must get an approved Domestic Energy Assessor to produce the EPC. If you are buying or renting a property, an EPC allows you to compare the energy efficiency of different properties easily.
What are the title deeds?
Title deeds are documents showing proof of ownership and the chain of ownership for land and property. They can include:
- Contracts for sale
It is now compulsory to register a property at the Land Registry so the days of having bundles of paper title deeds have become a thing of the past. Now, the title deeds will likely consist of a copy of the electronic registers held at the Land Registry.
What is a Freehold Property?
Freehold is the outright property ownership, including the land that it is built on. There is no time limit to this period of ownership of a freehold estate in land (as opposed to leasehold). If you are the owner of a freehold property you will be responsible for maintaining the property and the land on which it stands.
What is a Leasehold Property?
If you are the leaseholder, you are the owner of the property for a fixed term but not the land on which it stands on. Once a lease expires, ownership of the property reverts to the freeholder, unless you can agree to extend the lease. When purchasing a leasehold property, you should take into consideration: how many years are left of the lease; what service charges and related costs are expected of you; the length of the lease and how this might affect a mortgage offer and the property resale value.
What are conveyancing disbursements?
Disbursements during a conveyancing process are the additional fees and taxes that apply to all transactions and that must be paid to various third parties by the solicitor or licenced conveyancer on the behalf of the seller or buyer. These will usually be paid at the start of the process, however, some of these additional expenses will be added to the final costs and paid at the final point of the property transaction. The required fees will all be explained, but some of the most common disbursement costs include:
- Stamp Duty Land Tax
- Land Registry
- Survey Fees
How long does the conveyancing process take?
Typically, a standard conveyancing transaction can take up to 12 weeks, with some transactions progressing much faster if mortgage applications are already in place and only straightforward “searches are needed. However, it will be difficult to determine an exact timeframe, and if there are certain unforeseen delays – see types of delays below – this could prolong the process. Certain matters will require your solicitor or conveyancer to carry our further legal work to resolve any issues that occur and complete the transaction.
What are the common causes of delay?
The conveyancing process can often be complicated and there could be various outside factors that cause delays in the completion. The conveyancing solicitor will be working hard to progress the completion as quickly as possible, however, some of these delays are out of their control.
Here are some of the most common delays:
- Waiting on a mortgage offer
- Valuation survey delays
- Survey results requiring further investigation or attention
- Delays from the other party in completing contract information or enquiries
- A long chain of property sale and purchase transactions
We are not married; how do we protect ourselves when buying a property together?
There are various legal documents you could consider, including a cohabitation agreement or if you are putting unequal amounts into the property, the person who is paying the larger amount towards the purchase or mortgage can protect that money by a “trust deed”.
A trust deed is a legal document which sets out who is entitled to what from the proceeds of the property in the event of a separation. For example, it can state that if the house is sold, the person who put in the deposit gets that amount first, before the remainder of the value is shared out.
Wainwright and Cummins have an experienced family law team who can provide advice and guidance to couples on several cohabitation matters or assistance to separating couples on property and finances.
Can I move home during the COVID-19 lockdown?
You can still move home. People outside your household or support bubble should not help with moving house unless absolutely necessary.
Estate and letting agents and removals firms can continue to work and people looking to move home can continue to undertake viewings.
Follow the national guidance on moving home safely, which includes advice on social distancing and wearing a face covering.
When should you instruct a solicitor?
Regardless of whether you are buying or selling a property, instructing a solicitor at the earliest stage will ensure you are getting the right advice. If you are looking for advice regarding a residential property transaction, our experienced team of property solicitors in Brixton offer a personalised conveyancing service to private individuals, handling sales and purchases of residential properties.
Regardless of your property matter, we are here to help. Call our experienced property team on 0207 095 5700 or make an enquiry here.