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  1. Guides
  2. Conveyancing Process: Timeline and Steps
Conveyancing
Conveyancing
Last Updated 22 October 2021

Conveyancing Process: Timeline and Steps

GetAgent Team
  1. 1
    Conveyancing Process: Timeline and Steps
  2. 2
    Choosing the right conveyancer
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
Table of contents
  1. 1. What is property conveyancing?
  2. 2. Conveyancing Process
  3. 3. What’s the conveyancing timeline in the UK?
  4. 4. What is the next step after property searches?
  5. 5. What documents are needed for conveyancing?
  6. 6. Why can conveyancing solicitors seem so slow?

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. Conveyancing 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 conveyance 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’ve gone 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 solicitor or a conveyancer, 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. 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.

Conveyancing Process

Seller’s conveyancing steps

  1. Letter sent by seller’s conveyancer confirming instructions, setting out business terms and costs
  2. Fittings and contents and property information forms sent for completion; seller completes forms and returns them to their conveyancer
  3. Identity checks undertaken by seller’s conveyancer
  4. Title deeds acquired for Land Registry by the seller’s conveyancer; information regarding remaining mortgage payments due are obtained
  5. Draft and supporting contracts prepared and sent to buyer’s conveyancer by seller’s conveyancer
  6. Pre-contract enquiries raised by the buyer’s conveyancer to the seller’s conveyancer
  7. Answers to pre-contract enquiries provided
  8. Confirmation of results from searches, if there are no problems the buyer confirms they have received a mortgage offer
  9. Exchange of contracts; both parties are now legally bound to the transaction
  10. Settlement figures obtained by seller’s conveyancer (to ensure that any outstanding mortgage payments are covered)
  11. Transfer deed received by seller’s conveyancer (from the buyer’s conveyancer)
  12. Seller’s conveyancer performs final checks on the deed, then sends to the seller ahead of completion
  13. Seller 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
  14. Proceeds of sale sent to seller’s conveyancer by buyer’s conveyancer
  15. Keys released to buyer on completion
  16. Seller’s conveyancer sends title and transfer deeds to the buyer’s conveyancer
  17. Proceeds of sale must clear outstanding payments due for existing mortgage
  18. Seller’s conveyancer pays estate agent, outstanding mortgage amount and deducts their fee
  19. Sale transferred to seller once all funds are received, typically via bank transfer.

Buyer’s conveyancing steps

  1. Buyer’s offer accepted by seller
  2. Conveyancer for buyer instructed to begin conveyancing process
  3. Buyer arranges property surveys (mortgage applications submitted if necessary)
  4. A letter, submitted by the buyer’s conveyancer, sets out business terms and fees
  5. Buyer and seller’s conveyancers make contact; buyer’s conveyancer requests contract pack and pre-contract enquiries are submitted
  6. Property searches undertaken and buyer’s conveyancer obtains mortgage offer copy
  7. Answers to pre-contract enquiries are submitted by the seller and their conveyancer
  8. Contents of contract pack, pre-contract enquiries, result of the searches and mortgage offer relayed back to buyer
  9. If the buyer is satisfied, deposit is set up to be paid to the buyer’s conveyancer ahead of exchange of contracts
  10. Exchange of legal contracts; completion date agreed by buyer and seller
  11. Draft transfer deed and completion information forms prepared by buyer’s conveyancer, then sent to seller’s conveyancer ahead of completion
  12. Draft transfer deed approved by seller’s solicitor, who produces a final copy of the draft
  13. Completion statement drafted by buyer’s conveyancers
  14. Pre-completion searches on the property; final application made by the buyer’s conveyancer to their mortgage company for the loan
  15. Seller vacates property by agreed time and buyer’s Conveyancer sends proceeds of sale to seller’s Conveyancer
  16. Keys given to estate agent by seller’s conveyancer
  17. Title and transfer deeds, including undertaking to repay any existing mortgage, sent to buyer’s conveyancer
  18. Stamp duty sent to HMRC
  19. Buyer’s conveyancer receives title and transfer deeds, along with proof outstanding mortgage on property was paid by seller
  20. Property registered in buyer’s name by their conveyancer with Land Registry
  21. Registered title copy is sent to buyer from Land Registry
  22. Mortgage lender’s required documentation retained and sent to buyer’s solicitor.

What’s 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:

StageEstimated 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

How long do solicitors take when buying or selling a house?

Solicitors can take an average of 8-12 weeks to finalise the details for buying or selling a house in the UK. This is because of the legal requirement that all properties undergo a process known as conveyancing.

How long do conveyancing searches take and how do they affect completion?

Searches are a critical part of the conveyancing process. Searches can be broken down into five main categories:

  • Local authority searches: Between 48 hours and several weeks, depending on the local authority in question.
  • Water and property searches: Between 1-10 days, depending on the conveyancer.
  • Environmental searches: Between 1-10 days, depending on the conveyancer.
  • Land registry searches: Between 4-6 weeks; however delays in the Land Registry caused by a backlog in applications due to coronavirus could cause this to be significantly longer. The Land Registry launched a digital registration service in April 2021 to try and deal with the issue.
  • Chancel repair liability: Between 5-10 days.

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

How long does the conveyancing process take with no chain?

Conveyancing is generally much quicker if you’re not part of a property chain, so the lower average of 8 weeks is a good estimate. It’s important to understand that the lower figure is approximate though, rather than an exact figure.

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. In the extreme cases, survey results might be so bad that you might 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.

What is the next step after property searches?

Once searches are completed, the next step in the conveyance process is the ‘Mortgage Offer’ stage. An average length of time for the Mortgage Offer stage is around 4 weeks.

As we’ve mentioned in the conveyance timeline above, be sure to get your ‘Mortgage Agreement in Principle’ document ready in advance if you have one. The ‘Mortgage Agreement in Principle’ is quicker to get hold of than a full Mortgage Offer and is valid for 30 to 90 days.

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 as smooth a conveyancing process as possible.

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’ll be required to supply your conveyancer or solicitor with:

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

Why can conveyancing solicitors seem so slow?

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 and 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.

Can I speed up the conveyancing process?

Whilst nobody can completely control the conveyancing process, you can make sure everything is in place to hopefully speed things up a bit. For a start, avoid snail mail whenever you can. It’s also 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 do 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.

What can delay the conveyancing process?

Watch out for the following and you could avoid some extensive delays to the conveyancing process:

  • Do other parties in the chain have different time scales?
  • Does your solicitor or conveyancer have advanced notice of your intention to buy a house, or are you hiring a representative once you have an offer?
  • Have you received all of the relevant documentation from all parties involved?
  • Is your house deposit a gift, and if so, has this been declared to your mortgage provider?
  • How busy is your target solicitor? If they are overworked, could you try and find an alternative firm that’s less busy?
  • Was planning permission granted for any changes made to the property in question, and is there 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.

More conveyancing guides
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