The Conveyancing Process
Conveyancing refers to the legal work necessary to transfer the property from seller to buyer. The buyer's conveyancers has to make sure that everything is in order; they will examine the title, carry out searches and raise enquiries with the seller's conveyancers. There is a great deal of work necessary with leasehold properties as the buyer's conveyancers will need to check the lease, find out what the level of service charges are and if there is any major work planned which would mean considerable expenditure.
This can take several weeks as the seller's conveyancers will need to ask the freeholder or managing agents to supply the service charge information and they tend to be very slow (and often expensive).
The lease may need to be amended if the buyer's conveyancer is not satisfied that it complies with all the current criteria, mainly that of the lenders who continually move the goalposts (see short leases). A lease which was satisfactory when you purchased may need updating now you are selling it. This can be expensive and time consuming.
Conveyancing for a flat can be painfully slow. It is not because your conveyancer is sitting on his or her backside for most of the time (and it is no longer possible to blame the postal system - most correspondence now takes place by email). The process is antiquated and conveyancers do not have a great deal of control.
They are reliant on many others involved in the transaction:
1. The buyer or seller, and their conveyancer.
Buyers and sellers often say they are in a hurry but forget to return forms to their conveyancer (or hesitate because of uncertainty or even a change of mind).
2. The lenders
The lenders have to provide a mortgage offer (you MUST receive a formal offer in writing before exchange takes place). An offer in principal is of no use to your conveyancers - they must have specific instructions for the lender, who may, for example, specify a lease with at least 80 or even 90 years left to run. A formal offer often takes longer that the lenders say.
The conveyancer has no involvement with the lender until the mortgage offer is issued and has no control over the time taken to issue the mortgage (unless the lender raises any queries about the lease).
Searches can take a long time; the conveyancer has no influence on this, it depends entirely upon the Local Authority. Not only this but the results often require further investigations. If it reveals that an extension has been erected without planning permission the buyer may need to instruct a surveyor to confirm that it was not necessary.
4. Managing Agents
If information needs to be obtained from the managing agent or the freeholder's solicitors they can be very slow in dealing with any enquiries, often asking for payment of their costs, which causes a further delay whilst the seller provides the money.
5. Further Enquiries
Information supplied from the seller, the freeholder or managing agent is often inadequate and further enquiries are necessary. These can be complicated, e.g. major work is needed in the near future but there is no idea when it will be done or how much it will cost.
You should choose a conveyancer carefully. Do not choose the cheapest as the transaction will probably take longer and you will often find that the cost escalates as the transaction takes place. Beware of estate agents recommendations as they are often being paid commission by the conveyancer and this fee will be added to their charges. If possible use a firm recommended by a friend.
You can use a solicitor or licensed conveyancer, it makes no difference but bear in mind some solicitors carry out a range of legal work and if they do not specialise in conveyancing they will not be up-to-date. It is fast moving environment with many changes taking place in searches and necessary enquiries, e.g. environmental searches, fire risks, asbestos contamination etc.
Licensed Conveyancers can be found here.