The First Time Buyer’s Conveyancing Timeline in 6 Stages
If you’ve never bought a property before, then buying your first home can be a strange experience. We summarise the key milestones any property transaction follows with our conveyancing timeline.
Often there can be a flurry of activity at the start of the process, and at the end. On the other hand, in the middle, you might not see much going on, and you might think that that means that nothing is happening.
Actually, in the middle is when the most important work takes place!
We understand that it can be unnerving not to hear much from us, so below is a step by step guide to buying your first property, to reassure you that great things are happening in the background.
Stage 1: When your offer is accepted
This is stage one of our conveyancing timeline. This stage usually takes place before you’ve instructed solicitors. You’ll have been in touch with estate agents (probably more than one!) and you’ll have seen a number of properties. You’ve finally set your heart on the property of your dreams. You’ll have spoken to financial advisers to work out what you can afford, and you’ll have put in an offer (or possibly more than one!) until the vendor accepts and a provisional deal is agreed. There can often be quite a great deal of activity whilst terms are agreed, estate agents draw up heads of terms and you negotiate over whether they are leaving the oven and taking those hideous curtains! This is the point at which you need to officially appoint your conveyancing solicitor, make a full mortgage application, pay your mortgage and survey fees and make a payment on account to your solicitors for searches.
Stage 2: The solicitors start talking
As soon as we’re instructed, we will make contact with the solicitors acting for the vendor. This is the second key step in our conveyancing timeline. The process here usually happens around 5 days to a week after your offer has been accepting. We will check that they have the same information that we have (eg price, address of the property, any special terms, timetable etc). The vendor’s solicitor will send us a pack of papers; this includes the contract, proof of the vendor’s ownership, and information regarding the property such as what is being included in the sale, any rights of way over the property and all the other things we will need to know to advise you on any risks involved in the purchase. Once we have this pack, we will order the searches on the property such as the local authority search, which will tell us if any extensions done comply with building regulations. We will receive the searches back (which can take a couple of weeks) and then we will review all the information we have on the property. This usually leads to us asking the vendors solicitors for more information, a procees called raising additional enquiries. The answers and further questions can go back and forth for a few weeks, or even months, before everything is ironed out. We don’t normally tell the client what the position is until we’ve got all the answers we need, as until we are certain of the position, there is no point in troubling you with something that may be an issue but may have a simple explanation.
Stage 3: Being solicitors, we LOVE paperwork!
By this stage, you may be concerned that you aren’t hearing much from us, but we’re really busy beavering away on the paperwork. For us, this is often the busiest period in the purchase, and we are putting together all the paperwork that is necessary to transfer the property to you.
We should also be receiving the offer from your mortgage company which we will go through and make sure everything is in order. We will also have made any necessary changes to the contract, and sent it back to the vendor’s solicitors for them to amend ready for everyone to sign.
All enquiries and search results should be back and we will compile your contract report on title in a file. You should have received the survey results and hopefully be happy to proceed.
Stage 4: Getting ready to exchange.
By this stage, we are in a position to start giving you information about the property, which is called the Report on Title. Ideally we’d meet up with you to talk you through it and make sure you understand everything, but we can do this by phone or email if necessary. At this point you will need to pay over to us any funds that we will need at exchange. This is likely to be at least 10% of the purchase price (which is the standard deposit) but sometimes this is more or less depending on how much you are raising by way of a mortgage and any special terms you’ve agreed with the vendor. You’ll have the chance to ask us any question you have about the transaction and the property. Once we exchange contracts you are committed to the transaction and if you pull out you will lose your deposit, so make sure you ask about anything and everything you need to know about.
If everything is in order and you are happy to proceed, we will get you to sign the contract and then we will arrange a date with the vendor’s solicitor to exchange contracts and when the parties want to complete. This is now the penultimate stage of the conveyancing timeline. The time between exchange and completion can be anything that the parties agree, but normally its a few weeks to a few months. We always agree to a completion date at the point of exchange, so it’s important you consider how much time you need to get ready to move. The vendor’s timing also needs to be taking into account. You may be ready to move immediately, but they may be waiting on their next property to be ready so they may need more time. On the other hand, you may be in rented accommodation and you need to give notice, but your vendor may be in a rush. We will obviously do everything we can to agree a timetable that everyone is happy with.
Stage 5: Exchange of contracts
Once everything is ready, we will speak to the vendor’s solicitor over the phone and agree that exchange is taking place during the course of that call. During this call we also agree the completion date. Straight after the call, we send them your signed contract, and they send us their signed contract. We will also send them the deposit. We will also prepare a completion statement for you, clarifying exactly how much we need to complete, and we will let your mortgage company know of the completion date, and when we need the mortgage money by.
As soon as all of this is done (which usually takes an hour or two) we will call you to let you know that we have exchanged contracts, and then this is where the flurry of activity begins again. You may need to get a removal company organised, there will be final paperwork to sign, you need to start letting people know (credit card companies, utilities, council tax) as well as both building and contents insurance.
Stage 6: Completion day
As a first time buyer, you don’t have the added worry of completing on your sale before your purchase can go through. Nevertheless, it can still be a nerve-wracking time awaiting that call to say you can pick up the keys. This is the final milestone of our conveyancing timeline.
On our side, we will have drawn down on your mortgage, which is often done the day before completion to reduce the chances of money being stuck in the system. Friday is the most popular completion day and things can get clogged up in the bank CHAPS system. If your solicitor has your mortgage funds, they will transfer them telegraphically to your vendor’s solicitor. Once the vendor’s solicitor has them, you will get a call from us to confirm that completion has taken place. Shortly after that you should get a call from the estate agents, who can officially release the keys to you so you can move in to your new home.
At Express Conveyancing, we help hundreds of First Time Buyers each month. If you would like further advice on our conveyancing timeline or require assiatance of our conveyancing solicitors on your property mover, call 0800 799 9892.
Disclaimer – our articles are designed to give you guidance and information. There is no substitute for proper direct advice, particularly as everyone’s circumstances are different. If anything in this article may affect you, please contact us for advice that is specific to your circumstances.