When you buy or sell a property in England what do your solicitors actually do?

Thankfully Tony Lewis at Green Wright Chalton Annis Solicitors in Rustington has given us a great breakdown of how the conveyancing process works:-

When selling…

  • The solicitor will receive a sales memorandum from the selling agents and open a file.
  • He will then write to the agent acknowledging the instructions, to the buyer's solicitor confirming his instructions and requesting that they confirm they are instructed and will also write to the Client. The letter to the Client will contain a Client care letter in duplicate, one copy of which is to be signed by the Client and returned, appropriate protocol forms (ie Property Information form, Leasehold Information Form (if applicable) and Fitting and Contents form) and a Client sale questionnaire. In that letter we will request that the Client visits our office with appropriate I.D. documentation to satisfy money laundering requirements and we will also send two copies of the firms terms of business, one of which is to be signed and returned.  We would also ask our Clients to let us have the sum of £100.00 on account of costs and disbursements.
  • Once we have received all the paperwork back from our Clients and carried out our I.D. due diligence checks we will obtain up to date Land Registry Entries on the property from the Government Land Registry. Once these have been downloaded we will write to the buyer's solicitors (assuming they have confirmed they are instructed) with the Contract in duplicate along with copies of relevant title deeds, the completed Property Information and Fitting and Contents forms and any other relevant documents such as copy planning consent etc.
  • We would next expect to hear back from the buyer's solicitor with one part of our Contract approved and any additional enquiries they might wish to raise. We would answer as many of these enquiries ourselves using the information we already hold on file and would refer all others to our Clients.  Once the Clients respond to those enquiries we would then write to the buyer's solicitor with a full set of replies.
  • Approximately one week after replying to enquiries we would politely chase the buyer's solicitor to ascertain how close they might be to a point where contracts can be exchanged. Assuming they are fairly close we would either invite our Client to come into the office to sign their sale contract or would send it to them in the post for signing and return.  Once we are holding the signed Contract we would write to the buyer's solicitors confirming this to them and also put forward any proposed completion dates that our Clients might have.
  • When the buyer's solicitor is in a position to exchange contracts they will contact us to let us know and also put forward their clients preferred completion date. We would then telephone our Client to check that the completion date was agreeable and if it was we would look to affect an exchange of contracts over the telephone with the buyer's solicitor.  The moment contracts have been exchanged we would telephone the Client and the estate agents so that they were both aware of exchange and the fixed completion date. This would then be confirmed to all parties in writing.
  • Following exchange, we would (if applicable) write to the Clients mortgage lender to retain a redemption figure calculated to the date of completion and the estate agents would send us their commission account. Once we are holding commission account and redemption figure we would prepare a completion statement and send this to the Client.  The would normally show a surplus of funds to go to the Client on completion and we would ask them to confirm how they would wish us to send the monies to them on completion (by cheque or T.T.)
  • On the day of completion the buyer's solicitors bank would send the money to our bank and our bank will inform us as soon as the monies have been received. We would then telephone the client to let them know that the matter had been completed and we would telephone the estate agent and authorise them to release the keys to the buyers.
  • We would then send to the buyer's solicitors by post a Transfer deed which we would have had signed by our Client prior to completion being the buyers proof of ownership and all other original title deeds. We would also if applicable send appropriate monies to the mortgage lender to redeem the mortgage and ask them to send us notification that the charge had been removed from the title at the Government Land Registry.  This is done electronically.
  • We would write to the Client confirming that completion has taken place and confirm that we had sent the balance of monies to them and let them have a copy of our invoice duly receipted.
  • Once the buyers solicitors had acknowledged safe receipt of all the title deeds and we have sent them confirmation from the lender that the mortgage had been redeemed the matter would be at an end and we would close our file.

When buying…

  • The solicitor will receive a sales memorandum from the Selling Agents and open a file. They will write to the agent acknowledging the instructions, to the Sellers solicitor confirming their instructions and requesting the Contract papers and will also write to the client.  The letter to the client will contain a duplicate client care letter for clients to return, a Purchaser Questionnaire requesting various basic information from the client, a request for ID documentation to satisfy money laundering requirements and two copies of the firms Terms of Business one to be signed and returned.  We will also ask the client to put us in funds to carry out local authority search, drainage and water search, environment report and chancel check report.
  • Once we have received confirmation of the clients instructions and carried out our ID Due Diligence Checks we will then put in hand the various searches assuming we have received the Contract pack from the Sellers solicitor.
  • When the search results are returned (in the Arun District Council area this normally takes under a week) we will return one part of the Contract approved to the Sellers solicitors and raise relevant enquiries. At that time we will also write to the client with a reporting letter.  This includes copies of the Contract and all accompanying documentation and an explanation of those documents.  We will also enclose a copy of our letter to the Sellers solicitors raising enquiries and ask the client if there are any other enquiries they wish us to raise.  We will also enclose proforma's regarding joint ownership (if applicable) and Stamp Duty Returns.  We will also send the client copies of the search results and again explain any entries that are of interest.
  • We would receive replies to our enquiries from the Sellers solicitors and would send copies to our clients and report to them on said replies. If necessary we would go back to the Sellers solicitors requesting further information or commenting on some of their replies as applicable.
  • Assuming we have received satisfactory replies to all our enquiries and the clients mortgage offer has been issued (if applicable) we would then be in a position to discuss with our clients proceeding towards an exchange of Contracts. If they did require a mortgage then upon receipt of our copy of the offer we would have reported to them on the contents. If applicable we would ask them to make an appointment to come in the office to go through the paperwork and sign the Contract and Mortgage Deed and at that time would pass over our bank details so that they can arrange to transfer the deposit monies to our account.
  • Once we are holding signed Contracts, signed Mortgage Deed and deposit monies we would contact the Sellers solicitor to put forward the completion date required by our clients. If this was agreed by the Sellers solicitors and they confirmed they were ready to exchange we would telephone the client to get their final instructions to proceed to an exchange of Contracts.
  • We would exchange Contracts and the completion date would be fixed. We would immediately confirm this to the client and advise them to put their buildings insurance on risk. If applicable we would apply to the Mortgage Lender for the Mortgage Advance.
  • The file would then pass to our Completions Department. They will prepare a completion statement and send this to the client.  This will set out the final monies required no later than the day prior to completion. They would also deal with paperwork to be signed by the Sellers prior to completion and any outstanding Land Charges Searches.
  • On the day of completion we would transfer the monies by telegraphic transfer from our account to the Sellers solicitors account. We would hopefully have received any monies due from a mortgage lender the day before and indeed from the client the day before. The Sellers solicitor would telephone us upon receipt of the monies to acknowledge safe receipt and confirm that they will telephoning the Selling Agent to release the keys.  We would then telephone the client and inform them that they can collect the keys.
  • We would then send the client a copy of our receipted bill and confirmation of completion.
  • My Completions Department would then submit paperwork to the Government Land Registry to have the Deeds drawn up to show our clients as the new owners.
  • When the Land Registry application is completed we would write to the client with a copy of the updated Deeds and confirm to them that as far as we were concerned the transaction is over. Obviously if we were acting on a sale then hopefully the points above point out what we would need to do as the Sellers solicitors.

For any property advice please give us a call at Cooper Adams – we would love to help!