Conveyancing

There are both ‘registered’ and ‘unregistered’ systems of conveyancing In England and Wales. Under the unregistered system, to prove his ownership of the land, the seller has to show the buyer documentary evidence.  While under the registered system, the Government maintains a register of land and land transfers take place by notifying the Land Registry of the change of ownership.

There are three stages to a typical conveyancing transaction:

- The pre-contract stage, which is the longest and involves much of the legal work;
- The post-contract stage (or pre-completion) stage; and
- The post-completion stage.

The pre-contract stage involves the following steps:

- Instructing a solicitor: in a conveyancing transaction it is vital to instruct a solicitor to act for you as either the seller or the buyer.
- The seller’s solicitor must prepare the pre-contract package for the buyer, which will include the draft contract, evidence of the seller’s legal title to the property and sometimes the results of pre-contract searches and other information relating to the property.
- The buyer’s solicitor must peruse the documents supplied by the seller and raise any queries by means or questions or requests (known as ‘requisitions’), often asking the seller to resolve any problems.
- The buyer’s solicitor needs to carry out relevant pre-contract searches. Many of these will be with public bodies like the local authority and will enable the buyer to obtain information about the property.
- The buyer needs to confirm that he is able to proceed with the transaction in financial terms (usually this involves securing an offer of finance).
- The buyer’s solicitor can return the draft contract to the seller, once relevant checks have been completed and amendments to the contract have been negotiated. Two identical copies of the contract will be printed and the seller will be required to sign one copy and the buyer signs the other.
- ‘Exchange of contracts’ signifies entry into a binding contract. The buyer will usually pay a deposit on exchange.

The post-contract stage is usually less difficult and involves the following steps:

- Further requests will be raised by the buyer to the seller, usually to resolve procedural enquiries;
- The buyer’s solicitor sends the draft purchase deed to the seller’s solicitor at the same time. This activates the terms of the contract. Once the seller’s solicitor has approved the deed it can be ‘engrossed’ (a copy is prepared and usually both parties will sign).
- The buyer’s solicitor needs to obtain the mortgage loan from the buyer’s lender and the money that the buyer has to make up the balance due on completion.
- The seller’s solicitor must confirm with the seller’s lender the exact amount of money required to discharge his mortgage (if there is one on the property).
- Completion can be done in person or by post, whereby the money is transferred to the seller’s solicitor and the deeds are sent to the buyer’s solicitor.

The post-completion stage involves the following steps:

- The seller’s solicitor discharging the seller’s mortgage and sending a receipt to the buyer’s solicitor.
- Any stamp duty land tax due on the property must be paid by the buyers solicitors
- The title must be registered by the Land Registry, which will be done by the buyer’s solicitor.