There’s a lot to be done when selling property, whether for the first time or the fifth. One of the most important stages is the conveyancing process, the legal transfer of property ownership from the seller to the buyer.
The conveyancing process can seem complex, but it will be much easier if you consider it as a joint effort between you and your conveyancer. You need to be on the ball and involved in the process. It can be time-consuming, particularly if you’re selling and the buyer has questions about the property. We’ve written a more in-depth guide to the conveyancing process with our conveyancing and property guide that you can download for free. You can also check out our guide to conveyancing fees if you want to know what to expect financially and take more control over your budget.
For sellers, their role in the conveyancing process is different from that of buyers. So here’s our quick look at the conveyancing process from the seller’s point of view, step by step, so you know more about what happens during this vital stage of selling a property.
Step 1 — You instruct your conveyancing solicitor
When you’re selling a house, the first thing you need to do is instruct a conveyancing solicitor — the specialist solicitor you choose to manage the property ownership transfer. You should do this as early into the process as possible, as the earlier your solicitor is on board, the more likely it is you can get off to a good start with your house sale.
Make sure you do your research. It’s so important you don’t just hire the first solicitor you stumble on. You need to know how to choose the best conveyancing solicitor.
Let your estate agent know so they can update their records and confirm the details of your sale to your solicitor.
Step 2 — You sign up with your solicitor and confirm your ID
Once you have instructed your solicitor, they will confirm those instructions as part of your welcome pack. The pack will confirm that they are working on your behalf and should also contain a full breakdown of their terms of service and information about their fixed fee costs. It will also include a variety of property forms that you will need to fill out.
At the same time, your solicitor will conduct ID checks so everyone involved in the sale is confident you are who you say you are. This might seem minor, but ID fraud during property purchases and sales does happen.
Many solicitors are still doing all this the old-fashioned way by post. At Lockings, we give you the choice of doing things this way or securely and quickly via our online portal. It’s your choice.
Step 3 — The contract pack
Once everything is organised with your solicitor, they will provide the buyer’s solicitor with a contract pack. This will include all of the necessary documents, including:
- A contract for the sale
- The title for the property. Most of the time, your solicitor will download this from the land registry. However, if the property hasn’t changed hands for a long time, the deeds will be needed, which is a longer process. So it will help your solicitor if you can tell them where the deeds are.
- All of the completed property forms sent to you in your Welcome Pack (now filled out by you)
The contract pack will also contain any additional documents you may have, as well as information about the buyer’s solicitor.
Step 4 — Gather the legal documents/mortgage statement checks
Your conveyancing solicitor will contact your mortgage provider if you’re selling your home and there is still a mortgage attached. They will request a settlement statement (the “redemption statement” in legal jargon) — the breakdown of how much there is left to repay on your mortgage. This check allows your solicitor to ensure you have enough money to settle the mortgage upon selling your home. Although not common in the current market, if there is not enough money, this situation is described as “negative equity” and your solicitor will need to speak to you about the funds necessary for the sale to go ahead.
Your conveyancing solicitor will also collect all of the necessary legal documents involved in the sale.
Step 5 — Answer buyer enquiries
When the buyer’s solicitor receives the contract pack, they will thoroughly check the title/deeds and ensure all the forms are filled out. If the solicitor thinks anything is missing (or omitted), they will contact your solicitor with enquiries.
These kinds of enquiries are often standard and are most often related to the paperwork the buyer’s solicitor has received from your solicitor. If your solicitor has the information they need, they will respond directly to the buyer’s solicitor. If they are missing any information, they will reach out to you. Remember, the more communicative you are and the faster you respond to these questions, the faster your house sale.
Step 6 — Answer any questions thrown up by the buyer’s searches and survey
In addition to information from the seller, the property searches (organised by the buyer’s solicitor) and their survey (usually organised by themselves or their lender) are the other key sources of information about the property being sold. They’ll be looking for things like flood risk, access rights, and any planned developments near the property.
Of course, the more enquiries there are and the slower you or your solicitor are to answer them, the slower the sale will be.
Step 7 — Organise the completion day
Completion day is when you will be legally transferring the ownership of your home to the buyer. The money they are paying you will also move into your bank account on the same day.
If you’re still living in the house you’re selling, completion day is the day you are expected to move out.
Organising the completion date means you’re getting close to the end of the selling process. However, there are still a few things to do before you can formally complete. Exchange and completion days can be frantic and so some buyers and sellers will try to exchange and complete on the same day. Speak to your solicitor about this if it sounds appealing, but it can add unnecessary stress to your sale.
Step 8 — Sign the contracts
Both you and the buyer will now sign the contracts. Your solicitor will talk you through the contract, so you understand what’s happening. Remember, you will need a witness when you sign your contract as it is a legally binding document.
Step 9 — Exchange day
This is the day the contracts are exchanged between the buyer and the seller. Although you have planned when completion day is (Step 7), so far that has been an informal deadline. Now, however, the official completion date is added to the contract. It’s worth pointing out that you can stop the sales process at any time before this stage. However, once that contract is exchanged, pulling out of the sale can have financial repercussions.
Your solicitor will speak to you on exchange day to get a verbal confirmation that you wish to proceed with the sale and confirm the contract terms. The team at Lockings will contact you again later to ensure the exchange of contracts has occurred.
Step 10 — Completion day
This is when you hand over the keys to your sold home. You won’t hand the keys directly to the buyer; instead, you will give them to your estate agent. Generally, this should be done before 2 pm on completion day, but speak to your estate agent beforehand as they may have different criteria.
Completion itself happens once your solicitor has received the funds from the buyer’s solicitor, so your solicitor can’t confirm the time the actual completion will take place. Only when your solicitor has received the money will they confirm completion. The estate agent will then pass the house keys to the buyer.
If you have any outstanding mortgage payments, your solicitor will now send the necessary funds to the lender and your estate agent. The remainder will be sent to you.
Step 11 — Registration of the property in the name of the new owner
Once completion has taken place, the buyer’s solicitor will arrange for the property to be registered in the new owner’s name.
Understanding the Conveyancing Process Step by Step
It can seem incredibly daunting to sell or buy a property. The cost and the complexity can easily start to get overwhelming. That’s why you need to spend time finding the right estate agent, property surveyor, and conveyancing solicitor. Get the right professional on your side and the experience will be much more streamlined.
If you’re considering selling your home, or you need a solicitor to help you buy a new one, contact the friendly office team at Lockings today. Request a callback, and we’ll organise a FREE consultation with our advisors once we establish which of our team is best suited to help you.