If it’s your first time buying property, “conveyancing” is one of those jargon terms whose meaning may not be immediately obvious when you first come across it. Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring a property from one owner to another. In practical terms this procedure is carried out by a solicitor or licensed conveyancer – a property lawyer who, alongside the estate agent, the mortgage lender and the seller’s own solicitor, forms a vital part of the home-buying process.
What does a conveyancer do?
The conveyancer will arrange for the exchange of contracts which make the transfer of ownership of the property legally binding, and will also deal with registering the transfer of title with the Land Registry. However, these important actions form only part of the conveyancer’s role in your property purchase. It is actually your conveyancer who deals with the transfer of money (deposit and mortgage advance) to secure the purchase, and as your legal representative they will review binding documents such as the lender’s mortgage offer and advise you accordingly.
They will also carry out a variety of “searches” on your behalf. Essentially, these involve making a number of enquiries to the local authority and other bodies to obtain information about the property that may have an impact upon you as the new homeowner. Typical searches include details of boundaries and disputes, rights of way and any planning constraints on the property. Depending on the nature of the property and the location, your conveyancer may also recommend other, non-routine searches such as environmental searches which might reveal subsidence or flooding risks.
Searching for a conveyancer online
It’s not unusual for the estate agent to recommend or refer you to a conveyancer – but you should be aware that the estate agent is almost certainly receiving a referral fee for passing on the business, and that more often than not you will be able to save money by shopping around. An Internet search for conveyancing services is often a good starting point, as these days most property lawyers will have an online presence.
Be sure to scrutinise quotes from online conveyancers very carefully before signing up. It’s not unusual for firms to attract customers with a very cheap headline rate, such as “£99 conveyancing”. This is a misleading base rate and will not include the other fees and “disbursements” that form an inevitable part of the conveyancing process. Disbursements are third-party charges that the conveyancer will collect from you and pay on your behalf – for example land registry charges and fees for searches.
Full online conveyancing
While many conveyancers with an online presence still operate a fairly traditional business model, many now offer a full online case management system. This has the advantage of considerable transparency compared to more traditional conveyancing practice. Typically you will be able to log into the conveyancer’s online system and view the case progress at any time, seeing which searches have been requested or received and tracking the status of the mortgage application. Some online conveyancers also send automated text alerts when particular milestones in the conveyancing process are reached.
Whichever type of conveyancer you eventually choose to use, it’s important to compare service testimonials alongside comparing prices – look out for online reviews that will give you an insight into either great customer service or any issues people have encountered in the past. You can also use our online comparison tool to save money by comparing instant quotes from four conveyancing solicitors or licensed conveyancers.
Last reviewed February 2018.