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  1. Blog
  2. Conveyancing process: timeline and steps
Conveyancing help and guides
12 July 2023

Conveyancing process: timeline and steps

GetAgent Team

Table of contents

  1. 1. What is property conveyancing?
  2. 2. The conveyancing timeline in the UK
  3. 3. The conveyancing process for homesellers
  4. 4. Conveyancing process for buying
  5. 5. What documents are needed for conveyancing?
  6. 6. How long do conveyancing searches take?
  7. 7. How long does the conveyancing process take with no chain?
  8. 8. How long does the conveyancing process take with a leasehold?
  9. 9. What is the next step after property searches?
  10. 10. What can delay the conveyancing process?
  11. 11. Why does conveyancing take so long?
  12. 12. Can I speed up the conveyancing process?

Buying a house is an exciting, if legally complex, undertaking. For first time buyers, the conveyancing process is one of the most obscure elements of buying property. It can seem as though the process is an unnecessarily lengthy obstruction to home ownership.

Although the conveyancing process can be difficult to understand for the uninitiated, it’s a critical piece of securely transferring property ownership. It provides vital legal protections for all parties involved in the sale of a home.

In this guide, we identify each step on a clear and easy to understand conveyancing timeline. We’ll explore every part of the process, how long you can typically expect each stage to take and what soon-to-be homeowners should avoid if they want to keep the process moving.

What is property conveyancing?

Property conveyancing is the name given to the transferral of land ownership from one entity to another. The conveyancing process begins the moment an offer on a property (such as a house) is accepted and ends at a stage known as ‘completion’ (the end of the sale).

We go into more detail about the specifics of what conveyancing is and what conveyancers do in another blog post, which you can find here.

You don’t have to hire a conveyancer or a conveyancing solicitor, but DIY conveyancing invites its own risks, not the least of which is the legalese and documentation involved in the conveyancing process. If you’re thinking of taking care of your own conveyancing, you should check out our detailed guide on DIY conveyancing. Or, you can read our guide on finding and choosing the right conveyancer here.

The conveyancing process is slightly different for sellers and buyers. We’ve listed the process out for both below.

The conveyancing timeline in the UK

The average conveyancing timeline in the UK spans 8-12 weeks. We’ve compiled all of the stages together so that you can easily get an idea of how long the process should take:

Conveyancing StepEstimated TimePossible Delays
Pre-contract work, including local authority searches2 weeksLocal authorities can miss set deadlines
Mortgage offer4 weeksNot having a ‘Mortgage Agreement in Principle’ before accepting an offer
Draft contract2-10 weeksUnexpected results from surveys and searches on the property
Exchange of contracts to completion1-2 weeksSellers might delay so that the specified date can better overlap their onward purchase deadlines

The conveyancing process for homesellers

What does the conveyancing process look like if you're planning on selling your home? Let's take a closer look at the process.

  1. Offer acceptance! It's around this point that solicitors are instructed.
  2. Seller's solicitor sends a letter, confirming instructions, and setting out business terms and costs.
  3. Fittings and contents and property information forms sent for completion. The seller completes the forms and returns them to their solicitor.
  4. Identity checks undertaken by the seller’s solicitor.
  5. Title deeds acquired for Land Registry by the seller’s solicitor. Any information regarding remaining mortgage payments are obtained
  6. Draft and supporting contracts prepared by the seller's solicitor and sent to the buyer's solicitor.
  7. Pre-contract enquiries raised by the buyer’s solicitor and fielded to the seller’s solicitor.
  8. Answers to pre-contract enquiries provided.
  9. Confirmation of results from the buyer's conveyancing searches. If there are no problems, the buyer confirms that they have received a mortgage offer.
  10. Exchange of contracts and a completion date agreed between the seller and buyer.
  11. The settlement figures are obtained by seller’s solicitor (to ensure that any outstanding mortgage payments are covered)
  12. Transfer deed received by seller’s solicitor (from the buyer’s conveyancer)
  13. The seller’s solicitor performs final checks on the deed, then sends to the seller ahead of completion
  14. The homeseller moves out of the property by the agreed date and must sort out the transferral of keys, through an estate agent if one was used.
  15. The buyer's solicitor sends the proceeds of the sale to the seller's solicitor.
  16. Keys are released to buyers on completion of the sale.
  17. The seller's solicitor sends title and transfer deeds to the buyer’s solicitor.
  18. Proceeds of sale must clear outstanding payments due for existing mortgage.
  19. The seller’s solicitor pays the estate agents, outstanding mortgage amount and deducts their fee.
  20. Sale transferred to the seller once all funds are received, typically via bank transfer.

Conveyancing process for buying

Generally, the conveyancing process for buying a house is a little longer than the process for selling one - as a result, the solicitor's fee can be costlier. Let's take a deeper look at the process itself:

  1. Offer acceptance! The property's purchase price is agreed, and solicitors are instructed.
  2. The buyer arranges the property surveys (mortgage applications are submitted if necessary).
  3. The buyer's solicitor sends a letter and sets out business terms and fees.
  4. Both the buyer's and seller’s solicitors make contact, the buyer’s solicitor requests a contract pack, and pre-contract enquiries are submitted.
  5. Property searches undertaken and the buyer’s solicitor obtains a copy of the mortgage offer.
  6. Answers to pre-contract enquiries are submitted by the seller's solicitor.
  7. Contents of contract pack, pre-contract enquiries, result of the searches, and mortgage offer relayed back to buyer.
  8. If the buyer is satisfied, the deposit is set up to be paid to the buyer’s solicitor ahead of the exchange of contracts.
  9. Exchange of contracts, and a completion date is agreed between the buyer and seller.
  10. Draft transfer deed and completion information forms prepared by the buyer’s solicitor, then sent to the seller’s solicitor ahead of completion.
  11. Draft transfer deeds approved by the seller’s solicitor, who produces a final copy of the draft contract.
  12. A completion statement is drafted by the buyer’s solicitor.
  13. Pre-completion searches on the property, and the final application is made by the buyer’s solicitor to the mortgage company for the loan.
  14. The homeseller vacates property by the agreed time and the buyer’s solicitor sends proceeds of sale to the seller's solicitor.
  15. Keys are granted to the estate agent by the seller's solicitor.
  16. Title and transfer deeds, including undertaking to repay any existing mortgage funds, are sent to the buyer's solicitor.
  17. Stamp Duty Land Tax sent to HMRC.
  18. The buyer’s solicitor receives title and transfer deeds, along with proof that the outstanding mortgage money was paid by the seller.
  19. The property is registered in the buyer's name by their solicitor with the Land Registry, and a registered title copy is sent to the buyer from the registry.
  20. The mortgage lender sends required documentation to the homeseller, which is then passed onto the buyer’s solicitor.

What documents are needed for conveyancing?

We’ve compiled a list of the essential documents you’ll need to have if you want to ensure a smooth conveyancing process.

For buyers, your conveyancer or solicitor should provide you with:

  • A copy of the lease
  • Title deeds
  • Report on title
  • Property information forms
  • Management pack
  • Contents and fittings forms
  • Stamp duty receipt
  • Warranty
  • Indemnity insurance
  • Energy performance certificate

Buyers should also organise their own documentation referring to:

  • Insurance policies, including whether you decide to purchase contents insurance
  • Building surveys, so that you have a record of any issues that have been raised ahead of a sale.

For sellers, you're required to supply your conveyancer or solicitor with:

  • Building work guarantees
  • Electrical certificates
  • Records of servicing
  • Building control certificates
  • FENSA certificates
  • Guarantees

How long do conveyancing searches take?

Conveyancing searches take between 48 hours and 10 days depending on the type of search being carried out. Searches are a critical part of the conveyancing process. They can be broken down into five main categories:

  • Local authority searches: Take between 48 hours and several weeks, depending on the local authority in question.
  • Water and property searches: Take between 1-10 days, depending on the solicitor.
  • Environmental searches: Take between 1-10 days, depending on the solicitor.
  • Land registry searches: Take between 4-6 weeks.
  • Chancel repair liability: Take between 5-10 days.

How do searches affect completion?

The goal of conveyancing searches is to discover whether there are any issues that could affect your property before you sign a contract. For example, a water search will assess the flooding risk, while a local authority search will check whether a property is listed or located in a conservation area.

If there are any issues to be found, progress to completion may be put on hold or even suspended. Buyers are free to back out of a transaction as long as contracts have not been exchanged.

How long does the conveyancing process take with no chain?

Conveyancing is generally much quicker if you’re not part of a property chain. A conveyancing process with no chain can take as little as 8 weeks on average.

Unfortunately, even if you’re not part of a property chain, you can still face significant hurdles that can draw out the conveyancing process. For example, you may receive negative survey results that lead you to renegotiate the deal. In extreme cases, the survey results might be so bad that you have to abandon the sale. Although frustrating, it would be far worse to complete on a property only to be stung by nasty surprises once the sale is completed.

How long does the conveyancing process take with a leasehold?

As with a freehold, the conveyancing process for a leasehold property takes 8-12 weeks on average. Unlike a freehold however, a leasehold transaction can be hindered by extra conveyancing steps, including the procurement of ground rent and service charge information, leasehold mortgage requirements, lease extension or enfranchisement information.

What is the next step after property searches?

Once searches are completed, the next step in the conveyancing process is the ‘Mortgage Offer’ stage.

As we’ve mentioned in the conveyancing timeline above, be sure to get your ‘Mortgage Agreement in Principle’ document ready in advance if you have one.

What can delay the conveyancing process?

Watch out for the following and you may avoid some extensive delays to the conveyancing process. These are the primary problems that can delay the conveyancing process:

  • Other parties in the chain have different time scales
  • Your solicitor or conveyancer doesn't have advanced notice of your intention to buy a house
  • Hiring a representative once you have an offer
  • You haven't received all of the relevant documentation from all parties involved
  • Your house deposit is a gift
  • Your target solicitor is busy or overworked
  • Planning permission being granted for any changes made to the property in question and documentation to prove this

There will be elements of the conveyancing process that buyers and sellers can’t influence. However, by preparing accordingly, buyers and sellers can minimise some pain points that traditionally stall the journey to completion.

Why does conveyancing take so long?

There are many reasons why conveyancing solicitors can take a long time to complete the process. Some factors are out of solicitors’ and conveyancers’ direct control, such as

  • Slow responses from council authorities
  • Negative discoveries during the search and surveying process.

However, it’s also worth noting that conveyancers can vary substantially in quality and competence. It’s important to do your homework and compare conveyancers before contracting them.

See how long conveyancing should be taking right now:

Can I speed up the conveyancing process?

Whilst nobody can completely control the conveyancing process, you can make sure everything is in place to speed up the process. For a start:

  • Avoid snail mail whenever you can. Always opt for email and text communication. Most solicitors now operate via apps.
  • It’s possible to do most conveyancing work remotely, although you should check that a solicitor or conveyancer supports remote services before you sign on to work with them.
  • Some solicitors offer fast tracked conveyancing services.

However, due to the reasons listed above, it’s difficult to know exactly how much time these premium services can save you.

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