Conveyancers don’t just draw up the legal contracts and arrange for the transfer of title to be registered with the Land Registry; they also provide homebuyers with legal advice relating to the contract, the mortgage offer and property issues that may have been identified by your surveyor. They will also conduct a variety of “searches” through the local authority, and these can reveal crucial information relating to the property you intend to buy, including factors such as boundary disputes, local planning permissions or constraints, and potential environmental factors such as flood risk.
You might be surprised to learn that anyone can act as a conveyancer, and legally there is nothing to prevent homebuyers carrying out the conveyancing process themselves. Frankly, the DIY conveyancing route isn’t one we would recommend – the process is complicated and the risk of getting something wrong, or failing to carry out an important search that could have a bearing on your rights or responsibilities as the property owner, is just too high. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most conveyancing is carried out by specialist property lawyers.
A conveyancing solicitor is a fully qualified practising solicitor who can undertake the conveyancing process on your behalf, and generally will also have wider training and experience in other aspects of the law. This additional expertise may be useful if you are dealing with other financial and legal matters at the same time as buying your new home, such as drawing up or amending your will. In England and Wales all practising solicitors are registered with the Law Society and the profession is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Note that solicitors in Scotland are overseen by the Law Society of Scotland, and that the conveyancing process there differs from the rest of the UK.
With the sharp rise in home ownership in the 1980s, a change in the law meant that conveyancing could also be carried out by specialist lawyers known as “licensed conveyancers”. While licensed conveyancers do not have the same training or experience in other aspects of law as solicitors, they are qualified lawyers who exclusively deal with property law and conveyancing. They operate under a similar but separate regulatory framework from conveyancing solicitors, and are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, which is responsible for setting and maintaining professional standards in the industry. As of 1st November 2017, licensed conveyancers must place a badge on their website showing they are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers and that they have a secure website.
Finding a conveyancer
Both conveyancing solicitors and licensed conveyancers are capable of dealing with the conveyancing process when you purchase a new property, and for many homebuyers there is little distinction between the service each provides. If you do expect to be seeking legal advice on any matters not directly related to the property purchase, however, then you may be best opting for a conveyancing solicitor. Our website allows you to instantly compare quotes from registered conveyancing solicitors or licensed conveyancers to find the service that’s right for you.
Last reviewed March 2016.