Buying a home is one of the most stressful experiences you will go through. While the process is straightforward, there are so many potential complications that even the most simple of purchases can have some challenges.

Once an offer has been accepted, there are a number of conveyancing process milestones to be aware of. If you have a basic understanding of these milestones it can make the legal process less stressful. We have created this helpful summary, just scroll down for an overview of each of the stages.

1. Find out how much you can spend

Many people start looking for a property (sometimes they find one too) without really knowing their budget. Having a rough idea is fine, but it’s important to work out exactly how much you can afford. There are a number of ways to get a mortgage. The simplest is to speak to your high street bank. They will know your financial history, your current outgoings, and will be able to offer you their exclusive products. However, there are some real advantages to speaking with a mortgage broker. They are independent and not tied to any particular lender or product. This may be to your advantage, as having ‘whole of market’ choice will give you access to all the products from every lender. Although most financial advisors and brokers charge a fee, quite often this additional cost will be tiny in comparison to the savings that can be made over the term of the mortgage product. Our preferred mortgage broker is Heron Financial. They offer a personal approach to mortgage and insurance advice.

2. Find your next home

Searching for a property is always a process of compromise. You will never find that 10/10 property, because it simply doesn’t exist. Our process encourages people to work out what search criteria are ‘musts’ and which are ‘wants’ and to use this in their search.

You will only know the difference between the two when you have seen some homes and made a value judgement on which criteria is essential and which would be nice to have. Make sure you remember to be open minded about the properties which come to the market; quite often your criteria will change over time and you may end up offering on a completely different property to the one which you imagined when you first started your search!

If you are a couple or a family, make sure you communicate with each other and be honest about the homes you see. Without this, the search process can take much longer and you may miss out on the right home. We’ve handled hundreds of sales over the years and are well placed to offer honest, open advice.

3. Make an offer

When you have chosen the right property for you, it’s time to make an offer. It’s important for us to know your financial position, whether you’re selling a property or not, and if there are any other specific conditions that go along with the offer. Call or email us with as much information as possible. This helps put the offer forward in the best possible light to our client.

If your offer is rejected, don’t be too disappointed and think about what your next offer will be. It is completely normal for there to be two or three rounds of offer and counter offer before a price can be agreed. We will make sure that we always represent you professionally and honestly and put your offers forward in a timely manner. When your offer has been accepted, you’re ready to start the conveyancing process!

4. Choose a Solicitor

Your choice of solicitor can be just as important as your choice of mortgage. There are many solicitors, both conventional and online. Be aware that like with any service, you get what you pay for. The cheapest solicitor may not be the best one if you are working to a deadline or your purchase is in a related chain.

As with any legal fees you are paying for a solicitors’ time and expertise. Most firms charging lower fees will require their staff to run more cases which means your purchase may take more time and be at more risk of falling through. You can see a summary of likely costs in our buying costs section.

We recommend, a proactive and highly efficient legal team employing specialist conveyancing solicitors who understand the importance of open and frequent communication.

5. Protocol forms

Before the conveyancing process can start, you must complete the protocol forms which your solicitor will send you. These can sometimes get lost in the excitement of securing your home and if they are not filled out as soon as you get them it can set the process back by weeks. The documents include a formal instruction letter and a request for proof of identification (passports and utility bills are best). There will also be a client care letter to confirm the solicitors duty of care to their client. In addition, the solicitor will need to know the source of the funds if the deposit or portion of the purchase is being funded by a gift from parents.

Your lender will ask you to complete a formal mortgage application (if you are hoping to secure mortgage finance on the property). Once this has been completed and approved the mortgage valuation can be booked.

6. Survey and mortgage offer

After you have filled out your mortgage application, the lender will get in touch with you to discuss arranging and paying for a survey. There are a number of options available, from a basic mortgage valuation, to a home buyers report, and in some cases a full structural survey.

The mortgage valuation is simply a basic inspection by the surveyor to ascertain the property’s value and to make sure that the price that is being offered is in line with the expectations of the lender. The home buyers report combines a formal valuation with a basic survey of the main structure of the property, such as lighting, heating, brickwork and guttering. The surveyor may provide their opinion on the condition of these parts of the property.

The full structural survey is a complete survey of all aspects of the home externally and internally. Once the survey has been booked the lender will make contact to arrange the survey. Once the lender has reviewed the details of the report, they will issue a mortgage offer based on the findings.

7. Property searches

Your solicitor will apply for a number of ‘searches’, which are documents that check a number of aspects of the home. These include the ownership such as the title or lease, planning permissions granted and any building controls, water and drainage records and any environmental issues around the property. Having received all the searches, which sometimes takes a few weeks, your solicitor will review these and report back to you. These searches are grouped together and are usually referred to as a) Local authority search b) Drainage and water search and c) Environmental search.

8. Enquiries

The solicitors will raise enquiries to the sellers solicitors in response to the outcome of the property searches, the title or leasehold documents and other details from the draft contract. This is also your opportunity to raise any questions, which might include concerns about the structures, issues with the lease or items to be included in the purchase. You can also raise additional questions based on the ‘report on title’.

9. Exchange

Once both parties are happy with the contract and all outstanding enquiries have been answered, there are a number of documents which need to be reviewed, signed and sent to your solicitor. This is always a very tense time. Please remember that if you are in a related chain of properties you may not be able to exchange until the other links in the chain are ready.

In addition, your solicitor may raise final ‘additional enquiries’ before exchange should they spot something on the title or searches which was not covered in the initial round of enquiries. This can sometimes prolong the process by several days.

Once the final documents are ready, you will need to agree a completion date, which is the date when the move will actually take place. Once this is agreed, the following conditions must be met:

– Both sides have a copy of the mortgage offer (if applicable)
– You have returned your signed copy of the contract and the transfer form TR1 which must be witnessed by a non family member.
– Your deposit has been transferred to the solicitors holding account.

If everything is in order, exchange can take place. This is actioned via a telephone call from the solicitors.

10. Completion

After exchange of contracts, the solicitor will send you a ‘completion statement’ which shows a breakdown of all the costs that will need to be paid to the seller upon completion.

Once the final balance has been transferred to the solicitors holding account from you and your lender, this is transferred electronically to the seller. Congratulations, you have now completed!

You will have already agreed a rough time for moving in, but you may need to be flexible as sometimes the balance of monies takes some time to transfer to the sellers solicitor. Once this has been confirmed, the solicitors will contact the estate agent to confirm that completion has occurred. The property is now legally yours. Congratulations !