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.
What are you using a conveyancing solicitor for?
Your conveyancing solicitor will fulfil different roles dependent on whether you’re using them for buying, selling or both. Their main role is to ensure that the transaction goes through legally, and to deal with all the small details. Things like working out what is included in buying the property, carrying out local searches and conferring with the seller/buyer’s solicitors to choose a completion date are all carried out by your conveyancing solicitor.
It makes sense to use the same conveyancing solicitor for both buying and selling, so they can help co-ordinate the timeline of your move.
The initial stages
The ball starts rolling once you have agreed a purchase price and accepted the buyer’s offer. Remember that accepting an offer isn’t in itself legally binding – on either party – until contracts are exchanged, and that overall the conveyancing process often takes between eight and 12 weeks.
As a seller
Once you have found and instructed a conveyancer, they will request the property’s title deeds. If you own your property outright, you may hold these yourself or have them lodged with a solicitor. If you have a mortgage on the property, then the deeds will be held by the lender and your conveyancer will request them from the lender directly.
Your conveyancer will also ask you to check and approve the property information form which outlines everything that will be included in the draft contract. The conveyancer will also liaise between the buyer’s solicitor and yourself with regard to any queries or concerns from the buyer’s end about the property, its utilities, any items to be included in the sale, and so on.
As a buyer
Your conveyancing solicitor will help work with your mortgage lender, work out if you need to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax, and will carry out searches on the property. These will tell you certain things about the area and confirm your purchase is as expected.
From drafting contracts to completion
The exchange of contracts between your conveyancer and the buyer’s/seller’s representative makes the sale legally binding on both parties; however, there are a number of stages to this process. Your conveyancer will first provide a draft contract for you to agree and sign, which will outline the Particulars of Sale, Conditions of Sale and the agreed date of completion. The completed draft contract is then sent to the buyer’s conveyancer. Once this has been approved by all parties the standard contract will be drawn up for you to sign.
Once the final contracts have been approved and signed the conveyancers will exchange contracts. This is also the stage at which the buyer’s deposit will be transferred.
In the final stages before completion the conveyancer will also send the property title deeds to the buyer’s conveyancer, and will liaise with the lender to obtain a redemption figure for paying the seller’s mortgage, valid to the agreed completion date.
On the date of completion – which is when the property is legally transferred to the new owner – the buyer’s conveyancer will arrange to transfer the balance of the purchase price to your solicitor. By this date you must have removed the last of your belongings and passed the house keys to the estate agent for release to the property’s new owners.