Residential conveyancing is the legal process by which a property is sold by one person and bought by another. This process often involves a solicitor, because most mortgage lenders require that a home buyer is represented by a solicitor when they buy a home using a mortgage. For anyone buying or selling a residential property, it’s hugely useful to involve a solicitor to deal with the legal processes involved, especially if it’s your first time as a buyer or seller.
The conveyancing process
There are three stages in the process by which a property is bought and sold: the agreement to sell, the exchange of contracts, and the completion of sale. At each stage of the conveyancing process, both the seller and buyer have certain obligations to meet. For each stage, these obligations must be met in order to proceed to the next stage.
1. Agreement to sell
- The seller must complete forms that provide details about the property, and provide these to the buyer to review.
- The buyer conducts legal searches on the property, and takes care of matters such as a home valuation and survey. They also review the documents provided by the seller, and finalise their mortgage.
2. Exchange of contracts
- The buyer makes a deposit on the property, and the seller arranges for full and final payment of their mortgage, to be completed once the sale is finalised.
- Both parties sign the purchase and sale contracts. Once this happens, the sale is final, and neither party can back out without paying a financial penalty. There are some exceptions to this, which are stipulated in the contracts. For instance, the results of a pending building survey may provide the buyer with the legal right to back out of the contract without penalty.
3. Completion of sale
- On the official date of completion, the buyer sends the balance of payment, and the seller uses the funds to pay their outstanding mortgage balance, and any fees associated with the sale for which they are responsible.
- The transfer deed is signed by the seller, and handed to the buyer, who adds their own signature. The buyer is then the new legal owner of the property.
What assistance can a solicitor provide?
Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, a solicitor can provide invaluable help and advice throughout all three stages of the conveyancing process. It’s much easier to deal with when you have professional help, and it’s the best way to make sure each stage proceeds smoothly, and without errors. It’s also useful to have a solicitor at the ready just in case negotiations hit a snag before the sale is final.
During the agreement to sell phase, a solicitor can act on your behalf to perform all the necessary legal searches. These searches look for potential problems that may affect the property, such as:
- Land registry searches to ensure that the seller is the legal owner of the property, and that there are no prior claims.
- Local authority searches that look for pending construction work and other issues that might affect the property.
- Water authority searches that confirm where the property’s water comes from.
- Environmental searches that report on the land the property is built on.
Property valuation and surveys
It’s important that the buyer of a property know as much as possible about it before the sale is final. For this and other reasons, the property must be evaluated by various surveyors to assess its value and condition. A solicitor can arrange for these surveys to take place, and negotiate with the seller to cover any repairs that might be needed.
Solicitors can perform a large number of other services for the buyer or seller of a residential property. If you’re the buyer, they can arrange payment of your deposit and later, the balance of the money you owe for the property. If you’re the seller, they can arrange receivership of thse payments, and the payment of the balance of your mortgage. In addition, they can help you fill out all the documents you need to complete and ensure those documents are sent to the necessary parties, review documents and reports, and in general ensure that your best interests are represented at every stage of the conveyancing process.