A guide to conveyancing: the key to a smooth sale or purchase

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Gateley Legal NI

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Conveyancing is a term used to describe the work that a solicitor undertakes in a sale or purchase of property for a particular client.

For clients, the conveyancing process can at times seem like a bit of a mystery and it is difficult for a client to understand the process.   

Clients often encounter issues when they are buying and selling their properties and this article gives you some tips on making your sale or purchase go smoothly.

Your sale

Instruct your estate agent to value your property, prepare a marketing brochure and place the property on the market for sale.

Instruct your solicitor at the same time (or even before) you instruct your agent – don’t leave it until you are “sale agreed”.

Where are your deeds?

If your property is subject to a mortgage, your solicitor will have to obtain your title deeds from your lender as in Northern Ireland we do not have a full system of electronic registration at present. It can take some weeks for lenders to send your solicitor the title deeds and therefore, the sooner that you instruct your solicitor, the sooner they can get the deeds and check everything is in order for when you are sale agreed. If you have your deeds at home, arrange for those to be sent or delivered to your solicitor.

Work on the property within the last ten years that would have required planning permission or building control approval?

It is important that you have the necessary planning permission and building control completion certificates to hand as your solicitor will require those.

Work carried out without necessary building control approvals?

Don’t panic – it is important that you make an application to your local council for a Building Control Regularisation Certificate. This is a simple application that can be done online and often requires a Building Control Officer to come out and formally inspect your works before issuing the certificate.Work carried out can include extensions; alterations internally to the layout of a property; cavity wall installation; roof space installation; installation of patio doors; or changing your heating system to gas.

  • Guarantees – provide your solicitor with any guarantees that you may have for any works that have been carried out to the property – these would include damp proofing works, woodworm or timber treatment, cavity wall insulation or a flat roof guarantee.
  • Gas – if you have gas heating or any gas appliances at your property, it is important that you have an up-to-date Gas Safety Record to hand – this needs to be no more than one year old at the date of completion and again, you should instruct this at an early stage.
  • Management company – if your property forms part of an estate development where there is a management company, it is important that service charge is paid up to date and that you give your solicitor full details of any managing agents at the earliest opportunity. They will have to contact the managing agents to obtain a full sales pack and you should be aware that managing agents charge an administration fee for issuing the sales pack.
  • Boundaries – these can hold up a sale where there are discrepancies in boundaries at the property. Sometimes this is down to Land Registry positioning and can be easy rectified but unfortunately, sometimes there will be a boundary discrepancy at the property that cannot be immediately rectified at the Land Registry. This is why it is important that your solicitor has sight of your title deeds as soon as your property goes on the market to check whether there are any discrepancies and whether any further action needs to be considered.
  • Fixtures and fittings – you will be asked to complete a list so think about what you are including and are not including in the sale. Are there any items you want to sell exclusive of the price?
  • Replies to enquiries – complete this as soon as you receive them from your solicitor and ask your solicitor if you are unsure of any responses.

Your purchase

Instruct your solicitor at an early opportunity so as they are ready to move matters forward as soon as the sales advice notes are issued.

  • Mortgage offer – make sure that you know you can get a mortgage and speak to your mortgage broker at an early opportunity. This will allow your mortgage application to be processed immediately and a mortgage offer issued.
  • Valuation reports – Lenders have to carry out their own valuation surveys of the property that you will be acquiring and again, this can sometimes take time. Your mortgage offer will not be issued until your lender has had sight of the valuation report and confirms that they are happy to lend on the property.
  • Surveys – you can also consider whether you wish to instruct a Homebuyer’s Survey. This can be done immediately, and it is useful for this to be done at an early stage to highlight any issues that may become the subject of negotiation.
  • New builds – if the property is a newbuild, be mindful that you will have to enter into a contract in a swift period of time and pay a deposit even though the build may not be complete for some months.

How long does the conveyancing process take?

A sale or purchase of a property can usually complete within a six to eight week period, but this very much depends on your solicitor being in receipt of title deeds, all property certificates and searches having been obtained, you completing replies to enquiries and the fixtures and fittings list and providing any other documentation that your solicitor requires.  

A word about chains

It is vital that communication is maintained particularly where there is a chain of two or more sales or purchases as there are a lot of parties for the agents and solicitors to juggle and manage. If you are the bottom of this chain, there is often little you can do until the parties in the chain upwards are ready to agree a completion date and get contracts signed. 

All in all, the key to a smooth conveyancing process is preparation and communication with your solicitor and agent throughout. This will mean that you will have the keys to your new property within your desired time frame.

Got a question? Get in touch.