There are so many things that can influence the time it takes for a property purchase to go through. The speed of your mortgage application, for example, or being part of a property chain.
However, in many cases it's the length of the conveyancing process that determines how quickly you will be able to take ownership of your new home.
What is conveyancing?
Conveyancing is simply the legal process of transferring the ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer.
Whilst technically you can take care of the legal side of the purchase yourself, it's incredibly complicated and includes various checks into the property’s ownership, status and other factors that could have a bearing on your rights and responsibilities as the new owner. Missing one small piece of information could mean there are limitations on the property, or hidden issues with the land.
When it's the biggest purchase you're ever likely to make, you don't want to take risks.
As such, conveyancing is most often carried out by specialist property lawyers - conveyancing solicitors, or licensed conveyancers. If you do find a solicitor through reallymoving, you can be confident they are registered with either the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).
The conveyancing process
The time frame from instructing a conveyancer to moving into your new home can take around 8-12 weeks.
However, it’s important to remember that this is just an average. If you’ve already got the ball rolling with your mortgage in principle and only straightforward property searches are required, you may be able to move in more quickly.
On the other hand, if either the property survey or the conveyancer’s searches throw up something unexpected, further work may be required and completion of the purchase could be delayed until any queries are resolved. (You can find out more about some of these hurdles in our article on 'What's holding up my move?')
As part of the service they provide, your conveyancer is responsible for reviewing legal documents and providing you with the necessary legal advice.
These will include:
- The contract pack obtained from the seller’s solicitor
- Your mortgage offer (including its terms and conditions)
- The property survey
Any of these might bring up issues that need to be investigated and resolved before the purchase can proceed – for example, most surveyor’s reports include legal notes intended for the conveyancing solicitor, relating to factors such as building control, planning issues and guarantees.
A vital part of the conveyancer’s role is in carrying out searches relating to the property and grounds.
These searches are usually carried out via the local authority and cover matters such as the property boundaries, rights of way, boundary disputes, planning constraints etc.
Depending on the location and the type of property (including things like if it's freehold or leasehold) more searches might be needed. Searches can turn up information that will be vital to you as the future owner of the property – issues like flood risk or future building works nearby– so it's extremely important to .
Our article on how long searches take explains more about local authority searches and what they're for.
Exchanging contracts and completion
In the final stages of the process your conveyancer will agree the completion date with the seller’s solicitor – this is the date when ownership of the property transfers from the seller to the buyer.
Last reviewed January 2020.
The signed contracts will be exchanged by the solicitors, and at this point the sale becomes legally binding to both parties. Your property deposit is also transferred to the seller’s solicitor at this stage.
You will be asked to sign the completion statement and the property transfer deed, which your conveyancer will send to the seller’s solicitor. They will also get in touch with your mortgage lender to arrange for the release of the mortgage funds on the completion date, at which point they will send the money to the seller’s solicitor.
The property is now yours - congratulations!
However, the conveyancing process isn’t yet over.
Your conveyancer will check for receipt of the property’s title deeds, the completed transfer deed and confirmation that any existing mortgages against the property have been repaid, and then formally register the transfer of title with the Land Registry.
For purchases where Stamp Duty Land Tax (or equivalent) is payable, they will also arrange for the payment and corresponding tax return to be submitted to HM Revenue and Customs within 30 days of completion of the property purchase.