Buy to let conveyancing

Last updated: April 2024 | 5 min read

Are you considering purchasing a property for rental purposes or selling your existing buy to let investment? If so, you need to know about the buy to let conveyancing process. Learn how to select the ideal conveyancer, evaluate associated costs, ensure that you receive optimal value for your investment, and what the capital gains tax is, on a buy to let property.

Conveyancing is the transfer of the legal title of a property from the seller to the buyer.

Buy to let conveyancing is the legal process of transferring the ownership of a property that was purchased for renting, or which the new owner intends to rent out.

If you are the investor, this property will most likely be a low-risk investment, which can steadily provide you with a good return.

Why is buy to let conveyancing different from standard conveyancing?

Distinct tax implications, mortgage terms, and potential tenancy agreements differentiate buy to let conveyancing from its standard counterpart.

The unique challenges and requirements of purchasing a property for investment purposes necessitate an altered approach.

The buy to let conveyancing process

When you are buying:

After deciding on a property to invest in, your first step should be to select a conveyancing solicitor. Specialising in property transactions, they'll oversee the legal intricacies to ensure a smooth transition of ownership.

For a buy to let property or a buy to let mortgage, your conveyancer will do the following:

  • Conduct searches with the local authority to uncover any local plans or issues that might affect the value or enjoyment of your buy to let property. The search report reveals details like planning permissions, nearby road schemes, and environmental concerns.

  • Scrutinize the seller's title to the property to identify any potential concerns.

  • Examine all legal documentation, including the title deeds and any existing tenancy agreement, and detect any inconsistencies that could hinder your property purchase.

  • Review the contract of sale, raise inquiries, and request necessary amendments.

  • Examine the Commercial Property Standard Enquiries (CPSE) forms supplied by the seller and address any concerns.

  • Advise you on supplementary matters, such as financing and tax obligations.

  • Transfer the outstanding balance of the purchase price to the seller’s solicitor.

  • Ensure that any applicable Land Transaction Tax (LTT) or Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) related to the property is settled. This ensures its legal ownership.

  • Facilitate the registration of the change in ownership with the Land Registry.

When you are selling:

The solicitor representing you will undertake the following tasks:

  • Draft the contract of sale.

  • Complete the requisite CPSE forms.

  • Furnish any additional information requested by the buyer and their solicitors.

  • Offer guidance to you regarding tax implications, including Capital Gains Tax (CGT), and oversee its settlement.

  • Manage the transfer of the remaining balance of payments and confirm this transaction.

  • Administer the repayment of any existing mortgage held on the property.

  • Transfer the remaining funds balance to you.

At the exchange of contracts, both the buyer and the seller become legally committed to the transaction. A deposit is usually paid by the buyer, and the completion date is set.

The completion date marks the official transfer of property ownership. After the funds are transferred, and keys are exchanged, the property is legally ready for tenants to occupy.

With a buy to let property, costs extend beyond the purchase price. Legal fees often top the list of additional outgoings.

Conveyancing solicitors offer varied pricing structures. Fees may be fixed or variable:

Fixed fee services provide a predetermined sum, encompassing all tasks tied to the conveyancing process. Opting for this model delivers clarity on the amount you'll shell out.

Variable charges fluctuate depending on the time and effort required, presenting the risk of unexpected bills. Disbursements include payments made by property solicitors to third parties such as local authority searches and land registry fees. If you want to opt for this model, it's wise to request an itemised list upfront to pinpoint each charge and prevent surprise costs.

How to ensure you get value for your money

Price isn't the sole factor when choosing a conveyancing service.

By comparing several quotes, you'll gain a snapshot of the current market rate. For an accurate comparison, ensure that each quote includes both the solicitor's fees and disbursements.

Transparency helps avoid issues later on. Enquire about all potential fees, including VAT.

A Little probing can ensure you're aware of the entire financial layout.

While you might tackle buy to let conveyancing by yourself, letting an experienced conveyancing solicitor take the reins could save money in the long run, averting potential costly missteps.

Stamp duty land tax on buy to let properties

Stamp duty is a tax paid on property purchases, and you must determine your liability by understanding its different rate bands.

Buy to let purchases usually attract a higher stamp duty rate than standard residential property acquisitions. An extra 3% surcharge applies to properties costing over £40,000, with exact percentages varying by property value.

Some buyers could be exempt from the surcharge, like those swapping their main residence or certain first-time investors. Properties under £40,000 are exempt.

Exploring the full range of exemptions and reliefs can influence your investment strategy and protect your income.

Capital gains tax

Capital gains tax (CGT) becomes applicable when selling a property that's not your main residence. CGT is applied solely to the profits from the sale of an asset, rather than the entire sale amount of the property.

To calculate your gain, subtract the initial purchase price of the property from the selling price. You can subtract any valid expenses associated with the purchase and sale of the property. These may encompass broker fees, stamp duty, and certain property improvements carried out during your ownership.

Residential property investors must be aware of the rate applied to their income tax band: either 18% for basic rate taxpayers or 28% for higher and additional rate taxpayers.

Exemptions and reliefs for property investors

Every individual receives an annual tax-free allowance, termed the Annual Exempt Amount. For the tax year 2023/2024, this stands at £6,000. Profits up to this amount from sales of assets, including properties, won't be subject to capital gains tax.

There are also unique reliefs available for property investors. Lettings Relief, once a popular method to reduce capital gains tax, has undergone significant changes. From April 2020, it's only applicable if the property owner shares occupancy with the tenant.

Private Residence Relief is another option for property owners who once lived in their investment property. This relief can considerably decrease the capital gains tax if the property was the owner's main residence for a portion of its ownership.

Reporting and paying capital gains tax

After the sale of a buy to let property, investors need to report and remit any capital gains tax due within 30 days. Delayed reporting might incur penalties.

The UK government's online service facilitates the process, allowing property investors to submit and pay their capital gains tax liability.

Financing your buy to let property

What mortgage lenders look for in buying to let investors

Mortgage lenders usually expect a minimum deposit of 25% for buy to let mortgages. Yet, some might demand up to 40% based on the perceived risk.

Beyond the deposit, lenders assess rental income, often preferring it to cover 125% of the mortgage payments.

A mortgage lender also evaluates the property type. Leasehold properties, for instance, might be seen as riskier due to their diminishing ownership period.

Assessing your financial health: interest rates and mortgage repayments

The right mortgage deal often hinges on an investor's financial health. Mortgage providers scrutinise credit scores, outstanding debts, and general financial behaviours. A robust credit score might translate to better interest rates, impacting the amount paid over the mortgage's lifespan.

Buy to let investors should also consider other costs, like building insurance and conveyancing fees, as they assess the feasibility of a property portfolio.

Factors influencing mortgage deals: age, salary, property value, and more

Age plays a role in mortgage deals. Younger investors might access longer mortgage terms than those closer to retirement. Income levels too weigh in, with higher earners potentially unlocking better deals.

The property's value can influence the mortgage amount. Higher-valued properties might require larger deposits, but this varies among mortgage providers. Having local knowledge can be beneficial in gauging the potential rental income of a property, which in turn affects the mortgage deal.

The fine print: terms and conditions of buy to let mortgages

Mortgage interest fluctuations can alter monthly mortgage payments for those not on fixed-rate deals. It's advisable to comprehend the implications of interest rate shifts.

You must also try to understand the specifics of variable-rate mortgages. While potentially offering lower initial rates, they carry the risk of rate hikes, impacting repayments.

Considering the above, buy to let investors might opt to let conveyancing solicitors review mortgage contracts, ensuring they're aware of all conditions and implications.

Choosing the right conveyancing solicitors

For residential property investments, it's the legal details that often stump many and investors lean heavily on conveyancing solicitors.

Qualities to seek in conveyancing solicitors

  • Specialisation in buy to let: A solicitor with a keen focus on buy to let properties can better understand the nuances, ensuring smooth sailing.

  • Transparent fee structure: Property lawyers should provide clarity on conveyancing costs. This includes offering a breakdown of their services, ensuring investors aren't in for any unpleasant surprises.

  • Effective communication: There should be quick responses to queries and clear explanations of the conveyancing process. A good solicitor is prompt and ensures their clients are always in the loop.

  • Strong references: Recommendations from fellow investors or estate agents can go a long way. Solid testimonials offer a window into a solicitor's expertise and reliability.

  • Updated knowledge: Laws change, and so does the property market. A seasoned solicitor remains updated with the latest in UK law and property trends.

Red flags to watch out for

Just as there are signs of a stellar solicitor, there are also warning signals of those best avoided:

  • Hidden fees: The last thing an investor needs is unexpected conveyancing costs cropping up. Solicitors must be upfront about the costs involved, from the outset.

  • Delayed responses: Time is money in the property world. A solicitor who doesn't prioritise communication can be a potential pitfall.

  • Lack of familiarity with buy to let: While many solicitors can help buy your own home, not all are well-versed with the intricacies of a buy to let purchase.

FAQs about buy to let conveyancing

Do you need a solicitor for every property transaction?

Technically, no. However, solicitors bring to the table an intricate understanding of the entire process and provide in depth advice.

While you might opt to handle some aspects yourself, property lawyers provide peace of mind by ensuring all legal responsibilities are met. Additionally, their expertise can expedite the process, potentially saving both time and unforeseen costs.

What is the estimated duration of the buy to let conveyancing process?

On average, the conveyancing process for a buy to let property spans 8 to 12 weeks.

However, this timeline can vary. Factors influencing the duration include the property's leasehold status, the efficiency of your mortgage provider, and any potential challenges uncovered during pre-completion searches.

As a property investor, how will conveyancing checks benefit you?

Conveyancing checks, often perceived as time-consuming, are in fact a blessing in disguise. They unveil hidden property flaws, ensuring investors don't land in hot water post-purchase. These checks:

  • Identify if the property is a leasehold, and if so, the duration of the lease left.

  • Highlight any land transaction tax due, so investors can budget effectively.

  • Unearth potential property disputes or boundary issues, allowing investors to make informed decisions.

These checks ensure that when you buy property, you're making a safe and sound investment.

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