Freehold Conveyancing Process Walkthrough – Exchange of Contracts and beyond

The seller's Conveyancing solicitor or property lawyer should have had the contract signed by their client ( sometimes the Conveyancing lawyer can be authorized by his or her client to sign the contract ) . Once the buyer has signed his contract and paid his deposit to his conveyancing lawyers account both parties should be ready to exchange contracts. Exchange takes place over the telephone between the Conveyancing solicitors ( or property lawyer ). The formalities are completed by each party forwarding the other his client's part of the contract, but it becomes binding at the end of the telephone call.

In order to complete the seller's Conveyancing solicitor or Conveyancing lawyer must be holding a Transfer Deed signed by the seller. Convention used to dictate that this Deed is drafted following exchange, however given the time scales involved this is often impractical and usually it will be drafted, and signed, much earlier in the process.

The seller’s Conveyancing lawyer  must also have obtained a redemption statement in respect of the seller's mortgage/s, as he must give a binding assurance on completion to redeem all financial charges secured on the property.

A date for completion would have been agreed prior to exchange and inserted  in the contract. A couple of days before completion the purchaser's Conveyancing solicitor should carry out the completion searches. The Conveyancing solicitor or property lawyer   must also submit the Certificate on  Title ( sometimes known as a Report on Title ) to the lender. Many lenders require that the Report on Title be sent  5 working days ( 7 normal days ) prior to the day on which funds are required, however some do ask for longer. A lender will usually issue funds on shorter notice however they will not offer any guarantees and therefore contracts should not be exchanged for a completion date which does not allow time for the full notice period to elapse. If a simultaneous  exchange and completion is desire then exchange should be delayed until the advance monies are actually received.

Monies will normally be sent by telegraphic transfer. This method only guarantees that funds will reach the destination on the day of issue - it does not guarantee delivery by a certain time. It is sensible for the buyer’s Conveyancing lawyer  to request the monies for the day prior to completion in order to reduce the risk of placing the purchaser in breach of contract.
On completion day the purchase monies (less any deposit paid on exchange) will be sent by electronic money advance  to the seller's Conveyancing  solicitor ( property lawyer ) and not the seller directly. Provided his Conveyancing solicitor has received the funds the seller must give up possession to the purchaser by no later than the contractual time set for completion (2pm according to the Standard Conditions of Sale but often varied to 1 or even 12pm). The seller’s Conveyancing solicitor should call the seller as soon as the monies have arrived to notify him or her of completion and advise the estate agents ( if applicable ) to release the keys to the buyers. Various penalties apply for late completion including draconian interest penalties and damages set out in the contract. Once the completion monies arrive the seller's Conveyancing solicitor must redeem all financial charges revealed in the official copies ( supplied in the Home Information Pack ) relating to the property and in accordance with the assurances mentioned above.

Following completion the buyer’s Conveyancing solicitor or property lawyer must register the buyers new ownership at the Land Registry. There are 2 stages to the registration process. First, the Stamp Duty Land Tax return must be completed and sent  regardless whether or not the tax is actually due for the Conveyancing transaction. Once a satisfactory return is submitted the Inland Revenue should  issue a certificate which must be in turn  sent to the Land Registry. The change of ownership can not take place without the said certificate being issued and sent to the Land Registry.

The second stage is to submit an application to amend the register ( AP1 ) which should contain the following documents: Evidence of discharge of the seller's mortgage/s, the transfer deed signed by both the seller and purchaser, the mortgage deed (if applicable), the certificate SDLT5 and a cheque for the appropriate registration fee. There is no fixed time scale in which the registration process should be completed however it will generally take between 6- 8 weeks.
Once the registration has been completed  the buyer’s Conveyancing  solicitor should supply evidence to both the buyer and the lender. There is no requirement for the buyer’s Conveyancing lawyer to supply evidence of the change of ownership to the seller of the seller’s Conveyancing solicitor.

The buyer’s Conveyancing solicitor will then archive the Conveyancing file ( and is obliged to keep it for 6 years ). It is generally a good idea for a buyer to keep copies of the relevant documents to hand as this may make it quicker and cheaper to get a Home Information Pack together in the future. Do remember that the EPC is valid for 3 years and ( if appropriate ) a copy lease costs £20. Both are an expensive part of a Home Information Pack. It also wise to keep a copy of the Property Information Questionnaire for future reference as well.