At what point should I instruct a conveyancing solicitor when buying or selling a property?

It is often important to move quickly when you are buying or selling a property to ensure a successful transaction. We take a look at the role of your conveyancing solicitor for buying a home or selling one and when the best time is to instruct them.

Why do I need a conveyancing solicitor?

Buying a property is a major undertaking and it is important to have the legal title and other issues that could affect your purchase investigated by an expert to ensure that your investment is sound.

There is a wide range of information to be examined in a purchase, particularly where the property is a newbuild or leasehold. If you will be taking out a mortgage, it will be a requirement of your lender that a qualified property lawyer such as a solicitor deals with the transaction as they will want to be sure that their money is secure.

What is conveyancing and what does a conveyancing solicitor do?

Conveyancing is the legal transfer of ownership of property, including freehold and leasehold property such as houses and flats as well as land.

There are legal rules and restrictions governing the sale and purchase of property and it is important to adhere to these.

Your conveyancing solicitor will go through the following process:

Property purchase conveyancing process

Your conveyancing solicitor will start by opening a file for your purchase (as well as for any related sale) and carrying out the identity checks that are required by law. You will need to provide photo identification, such as a new-style driving licence or a current passport, as well as two pieces of evidence of your home address or main residence. This could be your driving licence (unless you have already used this for your photo identification), a utility bill (gas, electricity, or water) that is less than a year old, a bank statement with your address on it or a letter from HM Revenue & Customs.

If you instruct a solicitor as soon as you can, they will be able to take these preparatory steps so that they are ready to go ahead as soon as contract papers are received. This can save one to two weeks in transaction time because it gives the solicitor time to ensure that all of your identification is in order and that you are prepared for the steps that lie ahead.

Additionally, in a competitive market, having a solicitor ready to go is a clear sign to the estate agent and the seller that you are a serious buyer and that you are ready to proceed without delay. This could give you the edge over another potential buyer who is not so well-organised.

When the seller’s solicitor sends the contract package, your solicitor will go through the title and the property information that has been provided and raise enquiries to find out more where necessary. They will also apply for a number of searches, which could include a local authority search, drainage search and environmental search.

Once the search results are available and replies to enquiries have been provided, your solicitor will be able to go through the information with you to ensure that you are happy to proceed.

Your mortgage lender, if you have one, will send your mortgage offer to your solicitor during this preliminary stage, with a copy to you for approval.

The next step is to sign the contract and mortgage deed in readiness for the exchange of contracts. The contract is not legally binding until it has been exchanged with the seller’s solicitor.

Before exchange, your solicitor and estate agent will negotiate a date for completion of the transaction. On exchange of contracts, this date will be legally agreed, and your solicitor will pay your deposit, usually 10%, to the seller’s solicitor.

Your solicitor will carry out some final searches and arrange for the mortgage advance to be sent in readiness. On completion day, the balance of the purchase price will be sent to the seller’s solicitor and once they have received it, they will let the estate agent know that they can release the keys.

Property sale conveyancing process

If you have decided to sell your property, then by speaking to a solicitor when your home goes on the market, you can ensure that they are ready to send out contract papers as soon as you have a buyer.

They will obtain your title deeds and a copy of the legal title to your property and also let you have the property information and fixtures and fittings forms so that you can complete these in readiness. They will also do the work needed to verify your identification.

Once you accept an offer for your property, your solicitor will send out the contract package straightaway so that the buyer’s solicitor can examine the legal title and apply for searches. They may have some questions for you and your solicitor to address before the exchange of contracts.

When they are ready to exchange, a completion date will be discussed, and this will be written into the contract on exchange. Once contracts have been exchanged, the agreement becomes legally binding.

How soon should I instruct a conveyancing solicitor?

It is recommended that you speak to a solicitor as soon as you decide to buy a property or put your own property on the market. If you are selling, then by instructing a solicitor early on, you can save as much as three or four weeks because of the substantial amount of work required in putting together a contract package.

Having a solicitor in place early also sends a clear message to your buyer or seller that you intend to proceed with the transaction. It will also place you in the strongest possible position if time is of the essence and could mean that your offer is chosen above someone else’s who is less prepared.

If you are not sure whether it is too soon to instruct a solicitor, give us a ring and we can talk through your options.

Contact our Gloucester conveyancing solicitors

At Tayntons Solicitors, we have wide experience in all areas of selling and buying property. If you would like to speak to one of our expert conveyancing solicitors, call us on 0800 158 4147 or request a call back and a member of our property team will be in touch promptly.

To contact us please call 0800 158 4147 or 03330 145451 or email

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