Transferring ownership (conveyancing)
Conveyancing is the transfer of legal title of property from one person to another, or the granting of an encumbrance such as a mortgage or a lien.
Once the offer on a property is accepted, the seller is responsible for drawing up a legal contract to transfer ownership.
The contract contains details about:
• the sale price
• the property boundaries
• which fixtures and fittings (like carpets and kitchen units) are included
• any legal restrictions or rights, like public footpaths or rules about using the property
• any planning restrictions
• services to the property, like drainage and gas
• when the sale will complete
• If the seller has hired a solicitor or conveyancer, they will:
• draft the initial contract
• answer questions from the buyer’s solicitor or conveyancer (with the seller’s help)
• negotiate the details of the contract if necessary
Once the contract has been agreed by both parties, this is then signed and forms the agreement to sell and buy. It is legally binding once this happens. Usually neither party can pull out without paying compensation.
Once you exchange contracts and deal with any remaining checks the buyer has asked for:
• The money is transferred from the buyer to the seller.
• The legal documents needed to transfer ownership are handed over to the buyer.
• The seller moves out and leaves the property in the state agreed in the contract.
• The seller hands over the keys to the buyer.
• The property now belongs to the buyer.
The domestic conveyancing market is highly price competitive, with a lot of solicitors and conveyancing companies offering a similar service. It is possible for someone to carry out their own conveyancing.
An average of 10–12 weeks is needed to complete a conveyancing transaction, but while some transactions are quicker, many take longer. The timescale is determined by a host of factors – legal, personal, social and financial.
It is slightly different in Scotland (scots law) as it is generally concluded at a much earlier stage, and the initial offer, once accepted by the seller, is legally binding.
This means that surveys, checks etc are done prior to the offer stage. Time limits are generally set to put in the offers. This does mean that buyers may have to bear the cost of several surveys if offers are not accepted. However, there is a significantly reduced risk of gazumping in Scotland as the sale is agreed much earlier.