Even though you're choosing a conveyancing solicitor to take care of buying your property, you'll still want to be an active part of the process. That way you'll know exactly where you stand, how long things are taking and what tasks are next on the list.
To make sure nothing gets forgotten, read through our 'buying a house checklist' below.
Whether you're concerned about getting a variety of conveyancing quotes or understanding the paperwork to come, we can help.
Check the reviews when choosing a conveyancer
Choosing a solicitor can feel a little overwhelming - especially if you're a first time buyer who has never had to do it before. Make sure you take the time to compare the costs, whether they include things like 'disbursements' and extras, and always look at reviews. You look at them for everything else, so it's especially important to take the time when it comes to something as important as buying a property.
If you're still a bit uncertain, you can look at our guide to choosing a great conveyancing solicitor
for more tips.
Always read the small print
Before entering into an agreement with a property lawyer, always read the contract fully and ask the conveyancer to clarify any terms you don’t understand. They are working on your behalf and should be happy to help explain any complex terminology.
Consider the 'what if's of the situation - what if you change your mind about buying? Are there any extra costs (extra phone calls/discussions can be billed) you might have to pay? When will you pay your bill? What happens if your main contact changes?
As with all legally binding contracts, taking the time to have a thorough read-through and ask questions can cut down on lots of stress and surprises later on.
Make your moving deadline clear
Let your solicitor know when you're aiming to move. They'll keep this in mind and let you know if it looks like complications might make it unlikely. Often the process can take longer than expected - it's good to be on the same page.
Ask for an outline of the conveyancing process
Before your conveyancing solicitor starts work, ask them to provide you with an outline of the process. This will include the areas you will be required to be responsible for at various stages of the purchase. You'll be able to be prepared with the right documents, and you'll keep everything moving quickly.
It's easy for conveyancers to forget not everyone is familiar with the home-buying process, so ask them what to expect in terms of timelines, deadlines and paperwork.
Tell your solicitor about any agreements with the seller
If you've already made agreements with the seller (these could be things like the asking price, or including the fixtures and fittings in the purchase) keep your conveyancer fully informed. This allows them to check the legal implications and make sure the deal is in your best interest. It also means that conditions the seller agreed to won't be forgotten along the way.
Be aware of the property searches
Part of your conveyancing solicitor's job involves organising searches with the Land Registry. These searches assess the local area, history of the property and a variety of other factors. These searches will be itemised on your bill at the end.
Be sure to have a look at the searches yourself, and make sure that the property lines up with the Land Registry plan. If there are any differences (maybe there's a conservatory, or a new extension) let your solicitor know.
Restrictions and contracts that may affect the property
Make sure your conveyancer gives you copies of any restrictions or contracts that affect the property on the land. Buying with the aim to extend the kitchen and then realising you can't may find you stuck with a property that doesn't fit your future needs.
Similarly, if you're buying a leasehold property, be sure that you've been told what the extra charges are, when and how they might increase and what limitations there are to what you can do to the property. Often with leaseholds, signifcant structural work is not allowed.
Be aware of shared upkeep areas
Some properties include agreements between neighbours regarding the upkeep of shared driveways and communal greens. It's important that you know about (and agree to) these responsibilities to avoid any issues down the line.
Avoid the prospect of being gazumped
After months of progress towards owning your dream property, the last thing you want is for the seller to drop out, or worse, take a better offer from someone else at the last minute. This is called gazumping
and can be a real worry for buyers.
A few things you can do to limit the possibility of being gazumped is to push for the seller to remove the listing from property websites (meaning other people won't make offers). Doing everything you can to streamline the process (having paperwork ready, getting a survey immediately etc) means there's less time for a seller to change their mind.
You can also ask to have an agreement signed earlier in the process. This ensures both sides are tied in to a sale, but needs to allow for specific exceptions (e.g the ability to pull out of the purchase if you discover an issue in the survey). These aren't standard, but if you and the seller agree, they can make a purchase more secure.
Check your mortgage deed
If you're getting a mortgage to buy your property, you should have received a completed mortgage deed which gives your lender the interest in the property. As the borrower, you will pledge your new property as security against the mortgage.
Your conveyancing solicitor should take care of this, but it's always worth double checking.
Exchanging contracts and completion
When you've got your mortgage offer and are happy with the report from the surveyor (carried out to make sure the property is in good condition), you'll be presented with the contract.
At the point of exchange (where you sign the contract) you'll agree on the completion date – the date and time when the property legally becomes yours and you can move in. It's important to note that if you decide to pull out of the move after exchanging contracts you will are likely to lose your deposit.
There are a few things to remember to do when you're exchanging on the property:
Once you exchange, you are able to get buildings insurance on your new home. Make sure it is set to start from the day of completion - the moment that property becomes yours, it needs to be insured. Imagine what would happen if you didn't move in for a couple of days, and there was a fire?
Life assurance and will – it's highly recommended that you take out life assurance to protect your dependants from your mortgage in the event of your death. Although it's not a legal requirement to make a will when moving house, it is worth considering. Similarly, if you already have an existing will, it may be worth revising the wording to include your new property.
Moving house timetable
Below are the average figures outlining a typical moving house timetable across England and Wales:
From thinking about moving home to having an offer accepted – 3 months
From offer acceptance to securing a mortgage offer – 1 month
From receiving your mortgage offer to exchanging contracts – 1 month
From exchanging contracts to moving in – 2 weeks
Although these are national averages your own moving house process could be longer or shorter depending on the size of your property chain (if you're buying someone who is buying from someone else). If there are multiple sales and purchases in a property chain, the process can take significantly longer.
Whilst on occasion it can be a frustrating process, working with a conveyancing solicitor you trust and can communicate with is key. Know as much as you can about what to expect with our conveyancing guide and have a look at our 'top questions to ask your conveyancing solicitor' for more advice.
Last reviewed January 2023 by Andi Forsythe.