Moving home should be exciting, but for many people it is frustrating and stressful. Here is an outline of the conveyancing process in England and Wales, so that you understand what is happening every step of the way from the moment the sale is agreed, and what we do to get the sale completed.


Once the sale has been agreed, we kick off the process by preparing the memorandum of sale. This is a document which details the sale price, any special conditions, and the details of the buyer and seller. The agent sends it to the buyer, the seller and their solicitors.


So when the seller’s solicitor receives the memorandum of sale from the estate agent, they prepare a draft contract.

If you are holding any original deeds such as the lease, you will be asked to provide them at this point. The seller's solicitor sends the draft contract along with relevant title documentation to the buyer's solicitor. The seller's solicitor will ask the client to complete some forms at the outset of the transaction, including a property information form, and a fittings and contents form. These forms are sent to the buyer’s solicitor along with the draft contract, and provide the buyer with information about the property, such as who is responsible for the maintenance of boundaries and fences; whether the property has been altered by the seller in any way, and whether there have been any disputes with neighbours.

The fittings and contents form is an inventory of exactly what items are being left at the property on completion of the sale. With flat sales, an additional form (the leasehold information form) has to be completed to deal with such matters as maintenance and insurance of the building.


This is the task of the buyer's solicitor. He checks the draft and makes any changes which he considers to be necessary, and then returns this to the seller’s solicitors to agree to the amendments and forward a clean copy for signature.


At this stage, the buyer's solicitor will also raise any additional enquiries that he or his client may have about the property, and the seller’s solicitor may have to take further instructions from his client. This is the point where the estate agent can facilitate the process.

The transaction can slow down at this stage because the seller’s solicitor usually has to refer to the block’s management company to source the answers. The management company does not have quite the same sense of urgency as the buyer and seller, so we endeavour to help get them answered by deploying some diplomacy and persuasion!


This is carried out by the buyer's solicitor upon receipt of contract papers. It is a search carried out with the local authority for the area in which the property is situated. It reveals details of such matters as, planning permissions on the property; improvement grants which may have to be repaid; road schemes in the immediate vicinity and such matters as compulsory purchase orders, and notices under the Public Health Act.

This stage of the conveyancing process used to be the cause of serious delays due to the amount of time it took for local authorities to process searches. It is now much quicker due to the fact that many local authorities have become computerised in recent years. The average turnaround period for a local search is normally less than two weeks. Increased efficiency has however led to an increase in price! In 1986, a local authority search cost £16.30 throughout the country. An average search in Greater London now costs approximately £200 and each Borough fixes its own fee. The search lasts for a period of three months from the date of issue. As a result, some buyers will not apply for a search until they are absolutely sure that they are proceeding, which can be after they have received their survey result.


Unless the buyer is purchasing the property entirely with his own funds, then the buyer’s solicitor will wish to ensure that the buyer has a mortgage offer prior to exchange of contracts.

Since the financial crisis, mortgage applications have taken far longer than they used to and now that the sales market is booming, mortgage valuation surveys can also be delayed. It means that you really need to source a mortgage before you agree to the sale.

Once your lender has approved your mortgage application, they will instruct the valuation survey. This is where a Chartered Surveyor visits the property and provides an impartial report on its value against the price that is being paid. It primarily provides security for the lender, but serves to give you reassurance that you are paying a fair price too.

When this process is complete, a mortgage offer will be issued.

We agents liaise with the mortgage broker and surveyor to try and accelerate mortgage offers being issued. We have some great relationships with surveyors and brokers and it is often possible to achieve tight deadlines if we are working with people who want to help us.

We would always advise the buyer to arrange a more comprehensive survey, either a house or flat buyer's report or a full structural survey.


When all the terms have been agreed; additional enquiries answered satisfactorily; a mortgage offer received and a satisfactory local authority search has been obtained, you are at last ready to exchange contracts!

Your solicitor will send you the contract for signature together with the legal report about the property you are buying. At this stage, you should raise any final queries you may have about the property before returning the signed contract, and deposit to your solicitor in readiness for exchange. The deposit is usually 10% of the purchase price.

The seller's solicitor also sends the seller's part of the agreed contract to his client for signature at this stage. Exchange of contracts takes place over the telephone. The solicitors for the buyer and the seller complete the necessary details in their respective parts of the contract, including the completion date and they are "exchanged". The buyer's solicitor then sends the buyer's signed contract and deposit to the seller's solicitor, and the seller's solicitor sends his part of the contract to the buyer's solicitor.

From the point of exchange of contracts, the deal becomes binding on the parties and if either one of them backs out, he or she will incur penalties. The completion date is a mutually agreeable date agreed between seller and buyer. It can be within a few days of exchange or much longer if required. The buyer must ensure that all funds are available prior to the completion date as late completion will attract financial penalties.


After the exchange of contracts, the buyer's solicitor carries out a search at the Land Registry to check, for example, that no additional mortgages or other onerous matters have been entered on the title to the property since the "office copy entries" were issued. With unregistered land, a similar type of search is carried out with the Land Charges Registry in Plymouth.


At this stage, the contract which has been exchanged is formally "completed". The buyer's solicitor sends the balance required to complete to the seller's solicitor by electronic bank transfer. Once this is received by the seller's solicitors, the keys to the property are released to the buyer. All the buyer has to do now is move in.


After completion, the buyer’s solicitor will deal with registering the property into the buyer’s name at the Land Registry. The buyer will be sent an up to date copy of the register showing them as the new owner once registration has been completed. The buyer also has to pay their stamp duty land tax which is sent to HMRC with a transfer of ownership form.

I hope that you have found this helpful and we look forward to helping you do this for real!


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