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What is conveyancing?

If you’re buying your first home, you may not have heard the term conveyancing before – it’s simply the legal process of transferring ownership of a property. Here’s what you need to know.

What is conveyancing?

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal transfer of property from one owner to another. Simply put, it ensures that when you buy a property, you are getting exactly what you’ve paid for. Conveyancers, or property solicitors, act on behalf of their clients to carry out the whole process, from providing forms of ID to receiving the title deeds to the property.

Conveyancing ensures that you legally own the home you’re purchasing.

Who can do conveyancing?

There are two types of professional who can handle conveyancing:

  • a Conveyancing Solicitor
  • a Licensed Conveyancer

The difference here is simply that a conveyancing solicitor is qualified in all areas of law, but chooses to focus on property. A licensed conveyancer is only qualified in property and so specialises in that. Either can complete your conveyancing with no problem. You can find out more about the differences between a licensed conveyancer and a conveyancing solicitor.

Some people want to do their conveyancing themselves. DIY conveyancing is possible, but we would recommend caution. A legal transaction on the biggest purchase of your life, with potential loans and other people’s property purchases involved (if you’re in a chain) probably isn’t the time to start trying to do it yourself.

Your conveyancers are professionals with lots of experience, and beyond that they know who to talk to when they need to prompt mortgage providers, surveyors or estate agents. Those relationships, as well as the know-how of the process, are worth investing in.

What is the conveyancing process?

There are a huge number of tasks your conveyancer will be responsible for. It’s natural to want to chase them and know the status of your move, but often they’ll be waiting on information from another source, like the Land Registry, or the mortgage provider. Many conveyancers now offer an app where you can track the conveyancing process and see how it’s going without needing to chase for updates.

  1. Your conveyancer will request the appropriate paperwork from you. This will include proof of identification, bank details and information about the property.

  2. They will liase with the seller’s solicitor to receive a contract pack.

  3. They will work with your mortgage advisor or bank to get a copy of your mortgage offer.

  4. They will carry out the necessary Local Authority searches in relation to the property – these are requested from the Local Authority and will tell you things like whether there are any issues with the land the property is built on, whether it’s near to a chemical plant, or there’s upcoming building work in the area. Your conveyancing solicitor will analyse this information to assess whether anything will impact the value of your property. In some cases, you may decide to get extra insurance against certain things discovered in the searches. Your conveyancer will be able to advise on this.

  5. Your solicitor will arrange potential completion dates with both parties, so you’re all working to the same goal.

  6. When your contract is signed, they will swap signed contracts with the seller’s conveyancer. You will send your deposit to your conveyancer, and they will transfer it on to the seller’s conveyancer.

  7. They will prepare a completion statement and transfer deeds for you to complete, and then transfer these to the seller’s conveyancer.

  8. When that’s done, they can request the mortgage payment from your lender, and transfer the balance of the purchase to the seller’s conveyancer.

  9. After the completion of the sale, your conveyancer will submit a tax return, and pay the required Stamp Duty (or LTT/LBTT in Wales and Scotland) to HM Revenue & Customs. They will forward the documents showing transfer of ownership to the Land Registry, so they can update their details, and then will finally forward the title deeds to your mortgage lender.

So much of the conveyancing process is invisible to the buyer or seller. It involves background interactions between the Land Registry, Local Authorities, Mortgage Lenders, and seller’s conveyancing team to make sure everything is above board and accurate.

How do I make sure my conveyancing goes smoothly?

It’s easy to get confused with the conveyancing terminology, but what your conveyancing is working towards is ‘exchange’. This is the exchange of contracts between buyer and seller, where you become legally committed to buying the property. You will sign your documents, your seller will sign theirs, you’ll each give them to your conveyancers, who will swap them. This is when you’ll pay your deposit.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, up until the exchange of contracts, either party can still back out (there is a different conveyancing process in Scotland). This can cause real problems if you’re caught in a property chain of people buying and selling from each other, all waiting for the first property in the chain to be sold.
There’s also an opportunity that either buyer or seller will try to get a better deal last minute, either by the buyer asking to drop the price, or the seller demanding extra money. This is where you might have heard of terms like gazumping, when someone swoops in last minute and offers more money for a property you’re in the process of buying.

Keeping on top of your conveyancing, making sure you have all proof of ID, paperwork, mortgage offers etc available before you hire your conveyancer can help limit the chance of being gazumped.
After exchange, you’re committed to the property. If you change your mind, you’ll have to forfeit your deposit. Once you’ve exchanged, you wait for ‘completion’ which is when the final transfers are made and you can move in.

How much does conveyancing cost?

The cost of conveyancing depends on the value of the property you’re buying, whether it’s freehold or leasehold, if you’re using any special schemes like Help to Buy or Shared Ownership, or accessing a LISA. Some of these things require extra paperwork or work for your conveyancer, so can push the cost up.
The average cost for conveyancing in 2021-2022 was £1500, including disbursements, but not including Stamp Duty.

Be sure to compare prices when looking at conveyancing solicitors, so you can make sure you get the best deal. You can also use our moving cost calculator to get a more detailed approximate cost.

How to find a good conveyancing solicitor 

The best thing you can do when looking for a conveyancing solicitor is to look at reviews, check that they are regulated by the appropriate bodies (the Council for Licensed Conveyancers or Solicitors Regulation Authority) and that you can trust them to do a great job.

The quickest way to do that is to get a conveyancing quote from us! It’s free, instant, and you can compare costs, check reviews and feel confident that we only work with experts.
Conveyancing can feel confusing if you’ve never been through the process before, but it doesn’t have to be. We can make it simple.
Updated by Andi Forsythe - August 2022


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