A complete guide to conveyancing

If you are buying or selling a house you will need a property lawyer. This free guide will explain everything you need to know about conveyancing in the UK.

A complete guide to conveyancing

For homeowners about to move, conveyancing can be one of the most complicated parts of the moving process. reallymoving.com understands the frustration felt by homeowners trying to get their heads round conveyancing and has prepared this in depth guide to explain all you need to know to enjoy smooth and cost-effective conveyancing undertaken by a reputable provider.

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring ownership of a property from one party to another, but when it comes to moving house it has a wider definition. Commonly referring to the whole body of legal-administrative work undertaken to enable a house sale or purchase to be legally valid, it is undertaken by solicitors or specialist Licensed Conveyancers.

Our conveyancing guide answers all the essential questions you may have about conveyancing, from how much it costs to how long it will take. As well as a full breakdown of the conveyancing process it answers more in depth questions that can help put your mind at rest.

We’ll help you find out:

  • How to ensure your conveyancing provider is reputable

  • How much you should expect to pay and how to be sure you aren’t being ripped off

  • When you should arrange for the keys to your new house to be picked up

  • Whether you can conduct DIY conveyancing and save money

Whether you’re a first-time mover or an experienced homeowner you’ll no doubt benefit from the up-to-date information in our guide. Whether you’re buying, selling or remortgaging a house you’ll need to undertake conveyancing, so why not read on and get the lowdown on one of the most misunderstood aspects of the moving process?

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is an umbrella term that refers to the legal and administrative work associated with transferring ownership of a property from one party to another. It is undertaken principally by solicitors who receive instruction once an offer has been made on a property and accepted by a second party. Following the successful offer, solicitors representing the seller and buyer will exchange details and begin the conveyancing process.

Homeowners remortgaging their property will also need to find a provider to complete the associated conveyancing process.

Who undertakes conveyancing?

Traditionally conveyancing is completed by solicitors acting on behalf of the buyer and seller. In recent years ‘conveyancers’ have become more popular – these specialists are licensed and regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. Many conveyancers are solicitors who now choose to specialise in conveyancing only.

Homeowners are legally able to undertake conveyancing themselves but the process can be complicated, as well as time consuming. Specialist legal knowledge may be required in more complex cases, such as on leasehold properties. In addition mortgage lenders are invariably keen to protect their investments and will often insist on professional conveyancing services, as will other parties who may not wish to risk the process falling through.

Incorrect conveyancing can also open you up to legal issues, for example over boundaries or planning permission.

Who needs conveyancing?

If you are buying, selling or remortgaging a house you will need to undertake conveyancing.

How much does conveyancing cost?

Conveyancing fees vary widely depending on the service used (solicitors, DIY conveyancing) and the price of the property you are selling, buying or remortgaging.

Research shows that UK homeowners can expect to pay anything from between £250 to £1300 for conveyancing.

What is included in a conveyancing quote?

Conveyancing quotes are made up of two distinct costs:

1. Basic Fee

This covers the cost of the solicitor or conveyancer’s time and varies depending on the method used to calculate the figure. Some solicitors charge by a fixed-fee, although this is becoming rare. Others charge on a per-hour basis which should be avoided as the costs can mount quickly if there are any irregularities. The most common – and most cost-effective option – is based on a sliding scale depending on the selling or buying price of the property concerned.

If you are selling a leasehold property your basic fee should be higher (between £40 and £250 more) as there is extra paperwork involved. Your solicitor should ask you whether the property is freehold or leasehold – if they don’t, be wary.

2. Disbursements

Disbursements are costs incurred by the solicitor that are passed onto you. These should be similar across all conveyancing quotes as they are fixed charges incurred during the conveyancing process.

Here are the common disbursements and the amount you should expect to pay:

  • For Buying a Property

Bankruptcy search – [£2 - £4 per person taking out the mortgage] – your mortgage lender will need confirmation you have not been declared bankrupt, and this check is a formality of the pre-completion searches (also known as ‘priority searches’).

Local authority searches – [£100 - £200] – the cost of these will vary depending on which Borough your property resides in. Quotes that do not ask for your postcode will only give an approximate figure. These searches are designed to protect you from council plans that may affect your property in the time after you’ve moved in.

Land registry office copies – [£4 - £8] – a pre-completion search to ensure the vendor owns the property you are attempting to purchase.

Environmental search – [£30 - £35 + VAT] – this checks for ground contamination in close proximity to the property. If contamination is found you may be liable even though you did not cause it.

Drainage search – [£30 - £40 + VAT] – this ensures the property is connected to fresh and foul water sewers. The cost will vary between water companies but should not fall too far outside the range given above.

Chancel repair liability search – [£10 + VAT] – depending on where your property is located you may have to pay a contribution to the upkeep of the local parish church.

Local searches – [£40 - £250 + VAT] – these are location-specific and depending where you live you may not have to pay any. They check for the presence of coal mining, limestone mining, tin mining and similar activities. Quotations are unlikely to include them but follow up with your provider as soon as possible. Each individual search should cost around £40 - £70.

Telegraphic transfer fee – [£20 - £30 + VAT] – this fee is charged by your bank and covers the cost of sending the money used to purchase the property to the seller’s conveyancing provider.

Land registration fee – [£40 - £700] – This is a fixed cost disbursement that depends on the cost of the property being purchased. Conveyancing quotes should factor in the real cost of the land registration fee.

Below £50,000                       £40
£50,001 - £80,000                  £60
£80,000 - £100,000                £100
£100,001 - £200,000              £150
£200,001 - £500,000              £220
£500,001 - £1,000,000           £420
£1,000,001 +                        £700

Stamp duty – [percentage of property price] – all buyers will pay stamp duty, otherwise known as ‘land tax,’ based on the cost of the house they are purchasing. The stamp duty rate you pay is based on the part of the property price in each tax band. Conveyancing quotes should automatically calculate the stamp duty payable.

Below £125,000                      0%
£125,001 - £250,000               2%
£250,001 - £925,000               5%
£925,001 - £1,500,000            10%
£1,500,001+                          12%

  • For Selling a Property

Land registry office copies - [£4-£8] – these confirm you are the legal owner of the property you wish to sell.

Telegraphic transfer fee – [£20 - £30 + VAT] – this charge will not apply if you have a mortgage of less than £60,000 to cash in as these can be redeemed using the free BACS bank transfer system.

How do I know if a conveyancing quote is legitimate?

Cash-strapped homeowners will inevitably look for the cheapest conveyancing quotes but in many cases this is a double-edged sword. While it is possible to get a good price, quotes that fall outside the fee spectrum should be regarded with suspicion.

Only professional and reputable solicitors and conveyancers should be approached.

Less than reputable conveyancing firms will try a number of tricks to get you to instruct them. They may invent disbursements by taking tasks that should be covered under the basic fee, hiding them away until you’ve signed and then upping the price considerably. Because of this the initial quote you receive will be very low, but you still end up paying well over the odds.

This is why it’s important to get several quotes before you buy – the above trick fuels many of the ultra-low deals, so if a price seems too good to be true it probably is.

Legitimate quotes will include both an itemised list of disbursements and will provide the small print for you to read before you sign. Carefully check the small print to ensure there are no significant charges that will get tacked on later down the line.

How long should conveyancing take?

The average house conveyancing process should take between eight and 12 weeks. Here is a breakdown of how it takes place: 

Instruction to exchange (3.5 – 10 weeks)

Stage 1

Your conveyancing provider will:

  • Contact the seller’s solicitor to obtain the contract pack

You will:

  • Have the offer on the property accepted

  • Have your mortgage approved

  • Arrange for a survey to be conducted. The Mortgage Lender may insist on their own surveyor-valuer, but you should consider commissioning an independent survey

Stage 2

Your conveyancing provider will:

  • Request and obtain a copy of your mortgage offer

  • Carry out the necessary local authority searches

You will:

  • Arrange building insurance

Stage 3

Your conveyancing provider will:

  • Analyse the contract pack, results of local authority searches and your mortgage offer and report back to you with the important details

  • Discuss with you possible completion dates and negotiate one with your seller’s conveyancing provider

You will:

  • Tell your mortgage provider the most appropriate completion dates

  • Review the information presented to you, asking any questions if necessary

  • Sign the final contract and return it to your solicitor – be sure you want to before you do!

Stage 4

Your conveyancing provider will:

  • Inform the seller’s solicitor you wish to proceed with the contract exchange

You will:

  • Send the deposit to your conveyancing provider

Stage 5

Your conveyancing provider will:

  • Swap signed contracts with the seller’s conveyancing provider

  • Send the deposit payment to the seller’s conveyancer

Exchange to Completion

Stage 1

Your conveyancing provider will:

  • Prepare the completion statement and send this to you

  • Carry out priority searches

Stage 2

Your conveyancing provider will:

  • Prepare the transfer deed

You will:

  • Study, sign and return the transfer deed

Stage 3

Your conveyancing provider will:

  • Send the signed transfer deed to the seller’s conveyancing solicitor

  • Request finances from your mortgage lender

Stage 4

Your conveyancing provider will:

  • Transfer payment for the house (minus the deposit) to the seller’s conveyancer

  • Receive title deeds, transfer deeds and proof of any outstanding mortgages have been redeemed

You will:

  • Collect the keys to your new house

  • Move into your new house

Stage 5

Your conveyancing provider will:

  • Send your transfer deed and any applicable stamp duty to the Stamping Office

  • Send documents to HM Land Registry to register your ownership of the property

Stage 6

Your conveyancing provider will:

  • Receive title deeds from HM Land Registry and send them to your mortgage lender if they have provided finance, or you if you are a cash buyer

Frequently Asked Conveyancing Questions

Conveyancing Solicitors

Where can I find a good conveyancing solicitor?

Finding a decent conveyancing solicitor can be difficult. In reality, it’s less about finding a good provider than finding a provider and taking steps to ensure they are good.

After all, good conveyancing solicitors are worth their weight in gold. Take the extra effort to locate a professional and experienced provider to ensure your conveyancing is conducted as swiftly and agreeably as possible. Unfortunately there are some less-than-reputable providers out there, but with the right knowledge it’s easy to avoid them.

Using online searches to find reliable conveyancers can be a good option; make sure you phone them up after you receive your quote and ask about customer testimonials, as well as requesting a full list of itemised disbursements. Alternatively asking friends and family for a personal recommendation can also be a good choice.

Ensure all conveyancers you deal with are licensed by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, and that all solicitors are regulated by the appropriate authorities. Request information about their experiences with conveyancing, such as how long they have been providing conveyancing services and which partners are most actively involved.

When should I contact a solicitor?

Conveyancing providers should be contacted as soon as possible. From your point of view, this is beneficial for two reasons: it allows you to contact a number of providers until you find one you are happy with based on both cost and experience.

Secondly, it gives you a chance to acclimatise yourself with the conveyancing process and ensure you are not worrying constantly that it won’t be completed on time.

What can I do if I feel my conveyancing solicitor is useless?

Homeowners instructing a solicitor are traditionally given a client care letter at the onset, which details the company’s grievance procedure. If you feel like the matter can be resolved internally – or taken to the appropriate arbiter – then you may wish to follow the instructions on the letter. If the problem is minor, a simple phone call to a senior partner can be sufficient to resolve it entirely.

If things have gotten very out of hand and it’s time to move on, then you are well within your right to sack your conveyancing provider. If you do so you will receive a bill for the time spent on your conveyancing so far. If you feel it is unreasonable then query it and ask for a breakdown of costs. If you cannot reach an agreement on the total, you may have to contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for support. In the case of licensed conveyancers you’ll need to approach the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).

Don’t forget to inform your mortgage provider you have changed conveyancing provider – they can then reissue your offer.

I have been advised that I need a local conveyancing provider. Is this true?

It is not necessary to instruct a conveyancing provider local to your area, but you may do so if you wish. Many reputable and experienced companies do not have client-facing premises (to cut down on overheads) and so all correspondence is handled via phone, post and in some cases e-mail. This helps keep the cost down for you.

Conveyancing providers are located throughout the United Kingdom and most provide services to homeowners spread in all areas of the country. Establishing their credentials is far more important than where they are based.

Conveyancing Costs

How much is the average property conveyancing fee?

The conveyancing fee is made up of the provider’s basic fee in addition to a list of itemised disbursements, which are fixed costs incurred by the provider which are then passed onto you. Research shows that UK homeowners can expect to pay between £250 and £1300 for a full conveyancing service. For more information, please see the above comprehensive section on conveyancing fees.

If I pull out of a sale do I still have to pay for conveyancing?

You can pull out of a sale at any time up to the exchange of contracts. However, you’ll always need to pay your conveyancing provider for any services rendered up until this point. This will include part of the basic fee and the disbursements based on fixed costs that have already been incurred during the process.

What is the ‘interest rate’ in the Contract?

The interest rates provides a degree of compensation to one party if the other delays the transaction beyond the agreed upon completion date. There are, however, legitimate reasons why a completion date can be put back. You should seek advice from your conveyancer as to whether compensation can be sought if you find your moving date altered at the behest of the other party.

Conveyancing Options

Are online conveyancing providers reliable?

Online conveyancing providers can mean two things: real world conveyancing providers that also advertise and promote their services online, and a new wave of specialised services that avoid the costs of a real-world presence by exclusively providing conveyancing services online with communication undertaken by post and telephone.

In both cases there are reliable and unreliable firms, and conveyancing providers should not be judged on the medium over which they sell their service. The truth is, many providers have moved to the online arena as it offers a low-cost way of reaching a large proportion of homeowners who require conveyancing services. For the homeowner, online quotes provide a very easy and quick way to compare a wide range of providers.

There’s nothing wrong with buying from an online provider per se, but it’s important to perform basic checks to ensure the reliability of the provider in question. These checks should be performed whichever provider is chosen: please read above for full information on identifying whether a conveyancing provider is legitimate.

Are there instances where DIY conveyancing is not possible?

Yes, in many cases one or more parties involved will insist on professional representation. Purchasers with a mortgage may find their mortgage provider will not provide finance unless assurances are made of a solicitor handling all aspects of the conveyancing process. In many cases the same solicitor represents both the buyer and the lender, in which case there may be preferential rates to be gained by the buyer. Considering the complicated legal work involved, in addition to the time investment, there is little to be gained from DIY conveyancing in this regard.

Sellers planning on paying off an outstanding mortgage with the proceeds from their house sale will not have the DS1/END1 forms necessary to remove the lender’s charge at HM Land Registry on completion. This is because the lender will not issue this document until the mortgage has been paid in full. The purchaser’s solicitors must accept the word of the seller’s solicitors that the mortgage will be repaid and this form provided in due course. This gentleman’s contract is accepted because there are reputations at stake, and the seller’s solicitor’s risks being struck off should they renege on the promise. In addition they will have adequate insurance to cover the buyer’s potential lawsuit.

With this in mind, it is highly unlikely the seller will be allowed to conduct their own conveyancing. Furthermore, the legal subtleties and potential risks can make the prospect very unattractive. If it is possible to perform your own conveyancing, you may still need to instruct a conveyancer to deal with the redemption aspect of the process.

In reality, any situation where the conveyancing process is or may become complex is not suited to DIY conveyancing. Sales involving leasehold properties should not use DIY conveyancing.


Is there anything I should be doing while waiting for the conveyancing process to complete?

The homeowner has certain tasks during each stage of the conveyancing process. Please see above for a full breakdown of your responsibilities. Outside of these, a lot of patience and optimism is needed as you wait for all tasks to be completed. As stated, this can take between 8 and 12 weeks so it’s important you keep your mind on other important things, such as booking a removals firm or packing your possessions.

When do I pick up my keys?

Picking up the keys to your new property is one of the last tasks in the conveyancing process. The estate agents will only surrender them to you if they have received confirmation from the seller’s conveyancing provider that payment has been made in full. If an estate agent has not been appointed, your seller will hand over the keys after being advised to do so by their conveyancing provider.

I am looking to book my removals company. What time should I book them for on the completion date?

Most contracts state the completion time as no later than 2pm, which means the funds must be transferred to the seller by that time so that the seller is happy to provide vacant possession. Transferring the money to the seller’s solicitor’s bank account can be delayed by bank problems or other issues (most transfers are undertaken by telegraphic transfer). A significant chain can also prevent money getting to the right place at the right time.

Answering this question is therefore difficult, although there is a general agreement that removals firms should be booked for the morning so that both parties can move into their new properties in the afternoon. This provides plenty of time for the moving process.


Does the conveyancing process differ for a remortgage?

The process varies slightly in that there is not another party to deal with; other than the associated contacts involved in the conveyancing process, such as HM Land Registry, your conveyancing provider will only have to deal with your new mortgage lender. They will still have to complete some priority searches, for example Local Searches, even though these will have been completed when the property was initially purchased.

Conveyancing Terms Explained

Our extensive conveyancing glossary can help you find out the important terms and definitions you will encounter during your property sale, purchase or remortgage. Whether you are a first time buyer or upsizing your home, use our conveyancing glossary to understand the legal jargon of conveyancing.

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