The conveyancing process involves the transfer of “good” title (meaning that the vendor is actually in a legal position to sell) or ownership from one party to another.
The work that a solicitor undertakes in relation to this includes:
Checking the background of your property with the local authority and title searches.
Examining the legality of contracts and leases for leasehold properties.
Preparation of the contract for sale, which is the culmination of the legal process. The contract contains details of the property, the identity of the buyers and sellers, the price and details of anything that is included with the sale, and the date on which the transaction will take place, also known as the completion date. The contract has two parts: Particulars of Sale and Conditions of Sale. The Particulars describe the property and details of the lease or freehold. The Conditions have information about the proposed completion date and any deposit required when contracts are exchanged.
The solicitor sends a list of pre-contract enquiries to the seller’s solicitor, in order to uncover some basic information about the property.
Your solicitor may send you a property information form. This has summary information about many of the things that will go into the draft contract – boundaries, fixtures, fitting etc. You should make sure that this is accurate and quickly let your solicitor know if it is not.
Careful scrutiny by your solicitor will hopefully confirm that the seller actually owns the property, has good title (i.e. is free to sell it) and that the sale includes any covenants associated with a property or its land.
A local authority search is undertaken which is a check with the local authorities to establish if any new developments are planned in the vicinity of the property you are buying and to check the water drainage systems and other social infrastructure. This can highlight any public works such as a new motorway, waterworks or alterations to road systems, as well as anything else that has had permission to take place immediately adjacent to the property. The local search will also tell you whether there are any planning restrictions that may affect your intentions to renovate or extend the property. Depending on the area you live in, you may have to undergo various other searches, such as a coal-mining search or a search from a local railway network.
The search won’t tell you everything, however. It only covers those areas immediately next to the property and not everything in the surrounding area. The planning department of your local town hall can make sure that the search has not overlooked anything.
Once both parties are satisfied that all the details of the draft contract are accurate, and the solicitor has made sure that there is nothing that should reasonably either preclude the seller from buying, or warrant your withdrawal from the sale, then the draft contract is approved and sent to both parties for signature.
Selling your house
Until you exchange contracts, both you and the vendor can walk away without any contractual liability.
The contract is a legally binding document that commits all parties to the deal. There’s no backing out once the exchange has taken place, unless you have a desire to be potentially liable for significant financial penalties.
It is unlikely you will be able to exchange contract until all the following have taken place:
- The survey or valuation report has been completed and accepted by both you and the lender.
- You have had a formal written mortgage offer from your lender.
- All the conveyancing work is satisfactorily complete.
- You have agreed a completion date for the sale, which is included in the contract.
- You have settled any outstanding issues with the vendor, such as obligations for the completion of work on the property, and have made appropriate written agreements.
Tying up loose ends
Even once you are in, there are still a few things to be done. Your solicitor will need to check the title deeds once more and arrange for them to be registered in your name. In the case of a leasehold property, they need to make sure that your name is on the lease. They also need to get the transfer stamped to officially approve the sale and the despatch the title deeds to the lender.