A simple Conveyancing guide for First Time Buyers

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Understand the conveyancing process and buying your first home will be much easier!

Moving house is right up there with life’s stressful pinch points!  And, move without knowing is happening and it can be all the more frustrating.  So, here we look at the conveyancing process through the eyes of first time buyers, who does what, when do they do it, and what are the key stages of the conveyancing process that you should familiarise yourself with?

What is Conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal process by which land in England & Wales is ‘conveyed’ from one owner to the next.

Do I need a Conveyancing Solicitor as a first time buyer?

Yes!  In the unlikely event you are buying without a mortgage then technically you could try yourself. But, with a mortgage (and most of us buy with borrowing) your lender will insist on there being a solicitor act for you (and them).

What does the Estate Agent do?

The estate agent is employed by the seller, and they market the property.

What does the Estate Agent do when my offer is accepted?

If your offer (made via the estate agent) is accepted by the seller, then the estate agent issues something called a ‘Memorandum of Sale’.  This confirms the sale price, and the solicitors acting for both sides.  Obviously, you will have had to choose your solicitor at that point.

First time buyer – what are the key stages of Conveyancing?

Stage 1 of the legal process is ‘onboarding’.  This is followed by 7 further steps to the point at which you are holding the keys to your new home.  Let’s take a look at those in their broadest form.

  • Onboarding

This is the point where your solicitor legally identifies you, and engages you formally as a client of the firm (eg you will sign up to their terms of business)

  • Contract Pack

The contract pack is prepared by the seller’s solicitor so this stage just needs you to sit tight!  View our ‘Contract Pack’ section for more information.

  • Searches

This is the job of YOUR solicitor.  They will undertake various searches to establish essential facts about things like planning, flood risk, and water and sewerage mains.  View our ‘Searches’ section for more information.

  • Mortgage

This is a job for YOU!  You must apply for your mortgage and be sure it is in place and ready for exchange of contracts.

  • Survey

Again – something for you NOT your solicitor.  We always advise you get a full survey to fully understand what you are buying.  View our ‘Survey’ section for more information.

  • Pre Contract Enquiries

This is perhaps the most frustrating part of any conveyance (apart from chains).  This is where your solicitor (as a buyer) is raising questions about your purchase.  View our ‘Enquiries’ section for more information.


This is a milestone!  Once contracts are exchanged you are bound to then ‘complete’.  Because ‘buyer beware’ applies, your solicitor will only allow you to exchange contracts once all legal investigations have taken place.  View our ‘Exchange of Contracts’ section for more information.


The day of the big move!

Joint ownership – think about how you will own the property (jointly)

First time buyer – what is Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)?

Stamp Duty Land Tax is the tax paid on the purchase of property in England & Wales.  At the point of writing this article, relief’s are allowed for first time buyer’s giving discounts as against the rates charged to other’s when they move house.

First time buyer – what types of Joint Ownership are there?

If you are buying with a partner or friend or relative you should think carefully about the type of joint ownership you choose.  You can hold jointly either as (1) joint tenants or (2) tenants in common.  Which type you decide upon will impact all sorts of stuff – so decide after careful thought.

> Read more about Joint Ownership

What happens on the day of Completion?

On the day of completion your solicitor will call you once the seller’s solicitor has received your money, and at that point, you can go to the estate agent’s office to collect the keys to your new home!

What happens after completion?

After completion you will be busy unpacking!  Your solicitor will register you as the new owner(s), and they will also register your lender and your mortgage.

First time buyer – what is a property chain?

A property chain is a series of ‘dependent’ transactions where one sale depends upon the other.  As a first time buyer you will be the ‘bottom of the chain’ as you have nothing to sell.

First time buyer – how long does conveyancing take?

You can expect roughly 8-12 weeks for your conveyancing to be finished.  This assumes there is not a complicated chain above you!  This can slow things up.  View our ‘property Chains’ section for more information.

Want to know more about the basics of conveyancing for first time buyers?

If you’d like to know more about conveyancing do check out our other articles.  If you still have questions, our team of expert conveyancing solicitors would love to hear from you!  So – do reach out!

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