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The conveyancing process can be daunting, particularly if you are a first time buyer or if it has been a while since you last moved home. We have created the below step by step guide based on a freehold sale and purchase.

Finding a Solicitor

When you are close to agreeing a sale it is a good idea to start looking for a solicitor and requesting quotes. Recommendations from friends and family are often a good place to start. You should consider what you are looking for in a solicitor. For some buyers price may be the most important factor, though you should be aware you often find you “get what you pay for”. Cheaper firms often have larger caseloads, work more slowly and do not provide such a high level personal service.  If you require a transaction to go through quickly and smoothly and require direct access to your solicitor you will likely find yourself paying a bit more. Here at Cheyney Goulding we pride ourselves on providing a first class service, progressing every matter as quickly as possible and being readily available to speak with our clients.

Once you have found a firm you are happy with you should confirm your instructions. The solicitor will then provide you with their client care letter setting out their terms and conditions. They will require two forms of identification from you, often in the form of a passport and driving licence or utility bill.

The Draft Contract Pack and Searches

Once your offer has been accepted your estate agent will send out the memorandum of sale (which sets out the details of the sale) to the solicitors.

At this stage the buyer should ensure he or she has submitted their full mortgage application if relevant.

The seller’s solicitor will then produce the draft contract pack containing the following to send to the buyer’s solicitor:

  • Draft contract
  • Official copy title entries for the property
  • Property information form (containing standard questions on the property and responses from the seller)
  • Fittings and contents form (listing the items to be left at the property and any monies to be paid in relation to specific items)
  • Any other relevant documents and guarantees such as planning and building regulation certificates and gas and electrical certificates

Once the buyer’s solicitor has received the pack they will submit the property searches which will usually include the following:

  • Planning search– this provides information on planning applications in the local area.
  • Local authority search– this provides planning information relating to the property along with other important information, for example relating to public highways, proposals for new roads, rail schemes or planning decisions that could affect the property  (please note local search results can take over three weeks to arrive).
  • Environmental search– this gives details of the past uses of the land and the land in the vicinity of the property and whether such past uses are likely to have caused any potential contamination of the land on which the property is situated.
  • Water and drainage search- this will reveal whether the property is connected to mains water and drainage and whether there are any public drains or sewers within the property.

Pre-contract Enquiries

The buyer’s solicitor will now review the contract pack and raise any initial enquiries with the seller’s solicitor. At Cheyney Goulding we aim to review the contract pack and raise enquiries within 48 hours, other solicitors often take in excess of 10 working days to do the same.

Once the search results have been received it is often necessary to raise additional enquiries.

The seller’s solicitor will forward on the enquiries to the seller for their comments and obtain any documents requested. The Seller’s solicitor will then provide the buyer’s solicitor with replies.

This process repeats until the buyer’s solicitor is happy with the replies.

Report on Title

The buyer’s solicitor will now finalise their report on title and send this to the buyer along with supporting documentation to review.

The report is often lengthy and pulls together all of the important information contained in the search results, contract pack and replies to enquiries.

The buyer should read through the report and discuss any concerns or points they do not understand with their solicitor.

If the buyer is happy with the report and the solicitor has received the mortgage offer from the lender (if applicable) the buyer will now be ready to exchange contracts.

Exchange of Contracts

The solicitors will send the contract, transfer document and mortgage document (to the buyer only and if applicable) to their clients to sign and return to their solicitor in hard copy.

The buyer and seller will agree a date for completion of the sale and the buyer will transfer their deposit (usually 10%) to their solicitor.

The solicitors will then call each other to exchange contracts with completion to take place on the agreed date. At this point both parties will be contractually bound to complete on the said date and the buyer will forfeit their deposit if they fail to do so.

The buyer’s solicitor will request completion monies from the buyer’s lender. Lenders usually require 7 days’ notice in order to release the monies, there is therefore usually a week or more between exchange of contracts and completion of the sale to allow for monies to arrive.

Completion

On the day of completion the buyer’s solicitor will send the completion monies to the seller’s solicitor.

Once the seller’s solicitor has received the monies they will phone the buyer’s solicitor to confirm completion and instruct the estate agent to release the keys to the buyer.

Both solicitors will date the transfer document and the seller’s solicitor will send their transfer document to the buyer’s solicitor. The seller’s solicitor will then pay the estate agent’s invoice and redeem any mortgage registered on the property before returning the balance of sale proceeds to the seller.

Once the buyer’s solicitor has received the transfer document they will send it to the Land Registry along with an application to register the property in the buyer’s name. The buyer’s solicitor will also submit the stamp duty land tax return to HMRC and make the SDLT payment.

Once the registration is complete the Land Registry will notify the buyer’s solicitor who will send the updated official copy title document to the buyer showing them as the registered owner.

The process usually takes around 6-8 weeks, though we do everything in our power to work to our client’s timescale. It is not unheard of for our transactions to go through in under two weeks!

Leasehold transactions are more complex and there will be additional steps involved. We are happy to discuss these steps with you if you wish.

If you have any questions, or if you would like to obtain a no obligation fee quote, please contact our property solicitor Charlotte O’Leary at Coleary@cheyneygoulding.co.uk or on 01483 796 007 and she will be very happy to assist.

This guide is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice.  If you would like to discuss anything in this article please get in touch.

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Cheyney Goulding LLP, law firm in Guildford, Surrey