When it comes to selling a property, there are many potentially stressful things that need to be done.
One such thing is the legal transaction that transfers ownership of the property from you to your buyer. But, what is the conveyancing process when selling a house?
In this article we’ll look at everything you need to know to ensure selling your home goes as smoothly as possible.
Note that if you’re also buying a property, the process is a little different. We’ve covered the conveyancing process when buying a house in a previous article.
So, What Is The Conveyancing Process?
In short, the conveyancing process is when all of the legal paperwork is taken care of to transfer the ownership of the property from one person to another.
From the sellers’ point of view, it ensures the buyer has enough funds to complete the purchase and that they do not become the legal owner without having paid the agreed amounts.
Typically, the conveyancing process is more straightforward when selling, than it is when buying.
That’s because the buyer will need to conduct several searches to ensure the property does not have any hidden surprises.
The seller, on the other hand, simply needs to ensure the legal paperwork is in order and so avoids many of the typical complexities with a property purchase.
Do You Need A Conveyancer To Sell Your House?
Technically no, you do not need a conveyancer to sell your house. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not advisable to use one.
When a property is changing hands, there’s usually a lot of money involved. In addition, there’s a process that must be followed to ensure everything is legal and above board.
This can be a particularly complex process if there’s anything non-standard about the property or the agreed transaction.
However, even fairly standard transactions involve a level of complexity in terms of the forms and procedures that must be followed.
A poorly performed conveyancing can lead to loss of money, legal proceedings, or even doubt as to the rightful owner of a property.
For that reason, we always recommend using a qualified conveyancing solicitor when selling your home. You can use our handy tool to find solicitors in your area.
When To Instruct A Solicitor When Selling A House
The short answer is, as soon as possible. Ideally, as soon as your house goes up for sale you’ll already have an idea over which solicitor you’ll use to handle the eventual transaction.
That then puts you in a great position of being able to start progressing the sale as soon as you’ve accepted an offer.
Remember, the quicker you move, the less chance you have of your buyer pulling out before completion. If you can appoint a solicitor quickly, you’ll also show your buyer you’re serious about selling.
So, start comparing conveyancing solicitors as soon as you can and find the one that’s best for you.
The Step-By-Step Conveyancing Process When Selling:
Step 1 – Instruct Your Solicitor
Before anything can happen, you’ll need to instruct the solicitor you’ve chosen to handle your sale.
Often this will just be a quick phone call to provide them with some basic details about the transaction and authorise them to act on your behalf. However, it can sometimes involve a face-to-face meeting, especially if your transaction is complicated.
Step 2 – Solicitor Requests A Mortgage Statement
If the property you are selling has a mortgage on it, your solicitor will contact the mortgage provider to request a settlement statement.
This is basically the amount that is left to repay on the mortgage and helps the solicitor ensure you will have enough funds to settle your debt. It also allows the solicitor to get access to the current title deeds of the property.
If the property you are selling is not mortgaged, you will skip this step.
Step 3 – Solicitor Obtains Legal Documents
Your solicitor will then contact the Land Registry to request the up to date deeds (also known as ‘official copies’) for the property.
This will confirm you are the legal owner of the property and land upon which it resides (unless your property is leasehold).
Step 4 – You Complete The Required Forms
As part of the selling process, you’ll be required to complete a number of forms detailing the property you’ve agreed to sell.
One such form is the TA10 ‘Fixtures and Fittings’ form. This allows you to outline exactly what is, and what isn’t included in the sale. This includes things such as light fittings, carpets, and garden buildings.
The aim of the form is to provide perfect clarity to both buyer and seller to avoid any potential legal issues later down the line.
Step 5 – Solicitor Prepares Draft Contract
It’s usual to reach this step within a few days. The draft contract outlines the basic details of the transaction that’s been agreed. This includes the sale price and any associated matters.
The draft contract will then be sent to your buyers’ solicitor along with any other information you have provided such as the fixtures and fittings form.
Step 6 – The Buyers’ Solicitor Makes Enquiries
‘Enquiries’ are simply questions that the buyers’ solicitor would like answering.
This can often include clarifications over things mentioned in the provided paperwork. they can also be requests for more information about potential issues that searches have highlighted.
Your solicitor may need to refer some of these enquiries to you as they will not always know the answers to the enquiries raised.
Step 7 – Agree On A Completion Date
Once your buyers’ solicitor has finished performing searches and you’ve answered all of their enquiries to their satisfaction, you’ll be ready to agree on a completion date.
The completion date is the exact day that you’ll transfer ownership of the property and move the agreed funds from the buyer to the seller. In essence, it’s your moving day if you still live in the property.
Keep in mind that there are still a couple of steps to go and so, while it’s technically possible to exchange and complete on the same day, it’s not usually advised.
Step 8 – Sign The Contracts
Sometimes this will happen before a completion date has been set, but either way, the contracts must be signed by both the buyer and seller before the transaction can go ahead.
This usually means you’ll need to arrange to visit your solicitor so they can talk you through what has been agreed. Some solicitors may allow you to sign the contract without visiting them in person, though it is a legally binding document so you’ll need witnesses.
Step 9 – Exchange Contracts
Up until contracts are exchanged, there are no legal consequences to either party pulling out of the transaction (unless a legal agreement was put in place at the start of the process).
That means it’s usually a race to exchange contracts as soon as possible, though this can sometimes be held up by other parties in the chain.
Exchanging contracts simply means your solicitor sending your signed contract to the buyers’ solicitor and vice versa. Once this happens, you are legally committed to selling the property and cannot back out without potentially significant legal consequences.
Step 10 – Moving Day
The final step is to vacate the property and hand over the keys to the new owner. This is also called the completion day.
It will typically happen a day or so after you have exchanged contacts. On the day itself, you’ll be waiting for a call from your solicitor (usually around midday) to confirm that the agreed amount from the buyer has been received and that you can go ahead and release the keys.
Your solicitor will then use the money to pay off any outstanding mortgage debt on the property and deduct their fees. Any remaining amounts will be forward to you.
How Long Does It Take From Exchange Of Contracts To Completion?
As you can see, the conveyancing process when selling a house is actually not that complex. Yes, there are 10 steps but each one is usually quite straightforward.
That causes many people to ask the question ‘why do solicitors take so long to exchange contracts?‘.
It’s a fair question to ask as the process often feels like it’s grinding to a halt the closer you get to being able to exchange contracts.
Such issues are rarely caused by the sellers’ solicitor. Therefore, it’s more likely that it’s your buyers’ solicitor, or more precisely, the buyer themselves, who are slowing down the process.
There can often be genuine reasons for the delay and so your best bet is to try and speak to the buyer (either directly or via your estate agent) to find out what the problem is and how it can be resolved.
What Are The Conveyancing Fees When Selling?
The good news is that as you do not need to conduct searches when selling a property, the conveyancing fees are usually less than when you’re buying a home.
That means you’ll usually be looking at somewhere in the region of £500 – £1,500 for sales conveyancing.
If you’re buying a property too, your solicitor will be able to conduct the conveyancing for both transactions for you which may save you a small amount.
Either way, be sure to compare conveyancing solicitors to find the best deal available.
What Can Go Wrong During The Conveyancing Process?
Just as when you buy a property, there are a number of things that can go wrong when selling one too.
By far the biggest and most likely is your buyer deciding to pull out of the purchase.
This can happen at any point up until contracts have been exchanged. Even after the exchange, you are not immune from losing your buyer though there are legal consequences so it’s much less likely.
There are a number of reasons why your buyer may pull out of the transaction including:
- Lack of funds
- Buyers remorse
- Finding another property
- The chain collapsing further down the line
Another practice to look out for is gazundering. This is when your buyer doesn’t pull out of the transaction but does lower their offer.
Again, until contracts are exchanged, there’s nothing that legally commits your buyer to proceed with the transaction at the agreed price.
Hopefully, that helps to answer the question ‘what is the conveyancing process when selling a home?’. Keep in mind that though it can sometimes be a complicated process, for the most part it’s much less stressful than buying a property!