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What is conveyancing? A guide to conveyancing

When buying or selling a home you will need a solicitor or conveyancer to help with the legal aspects behind completing a deal.

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What is conveyancing?

Specifically, conveyancing is the legal transfer of ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer. However, there are several steps to this process, which is why home buyers and sellers pay for a solicitor or conveyancer (a specialist in conveyancing) to handle it.

A solicitor or conveyancer will handle all other legal aspects of the process, which includes requesting and handling contracts and giving legal advice.

They will also carry out local council searches and deal with the Land Registry to check if there are any legal implications or issues with the land you are buying. They will also transfer the funds from your bank to the seller’s to pay for your property.

The main difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer is that a solicitor can offer a full range of legal services that may not always be necessary for buying a home. Therefore, a solicitor is likely to be more expensive, although they could be useful if you need legal advice on more complex home buying issues.

On the other hand, conveyancers are specialists, rather than fully qualified lawyers, so they are unlikely to be of much help if there are any complex legal matters to deal with.

You could potentially do the conveyancing yourself, although it is very difficult and time consuming, and you may only be allowed to do so if you are not taking out a mortgage.

When do I need to find a conveyancer?

One of the first steps of the home buying process is to find a conveyancer. Once your offer to buy a home has been accepted you will then need to provide contact details for your conveyancer, who you have instructed to carry out the conveyancing.

If you are selling, you will need to do the same, as the home buyer’s conveyancer’s first task will be to write to the seller’s conveyancer. They will request from the seller’s conveyancer the draft contract and any other necessary forms and information, such as the property’s title.

The conveyancer is required from the moment you make an offer to the moment you get the keys, so it is important to do your research before making an offer so that you find the right person for you.

Where do you find a conveyancing solicitor?

To help with your search, ask friends or family if they can recommend a conveyancing solicitor or conveyancer. There’s a good chance that someone you know will have had a positive experience with their conveyancer.

You can also ask your mortgage provider, but be sure to still do your research elsewhere as there’s a strong possibility that your lender’s conveyancer is on commission and will cost you more. If you used a mortgage broker or independent financial adviser to help you find your lender, then ask them if they can also help you find a suitable conveyancer.

You could also check with an estate agent, but similarly to the mortgage providers, you may find that they are partnered with a conveyancer on a commission basis, which could end up costing you more.

In recent years there has been a rise in online conveyancing services. You will likely do all of the communications via phone and email, and likely it won’t be with the same person each time. These online conveyancing services are often far cheaper but you are unlikely to get a personalised service, so if any complex legal matters come up you could struggle to get them resolved.

What are conveyancing fees and how much will conveyancing cost?

Conveyancing services are usually charged as a fixed fee, but some will charge at an hourly rate or ask for a fee as a percentage of the property price.

Conveyancing, including the searches, usually costs somewhere between £800 and £2,000 but this can vary depending on the cost of the property and the amount of additional legal work required.

Try to get quotes from at least two different conveyancers, and be sure their costs are broken down into each aspect of the job. You will want to know how much they will charge for arranging the following:

  • Searches
  • Bank transfer
  • Stamp duty
  • Land Registry
  • Additional legal work
  • Any other services such as postage and courier

What services should I get from a conveyancing specialist?

The services you should be paying for from a conveyancing specialist include:

  • Searches
  • Land Registry
  • Bank transfer
  • Exchange contracts
  • Stamp duty

You may have to pay for additional services and costs that arise from legal complexities and urgent issues.

The conveyancing searches will include checking with the local authority and other bodies to see if there are any local development plans which could impact your property. They will also check the land registry to ensure that the seller is really the owner of the property you are buying. Conveyancers can also do additional checks on flooding risk and other potential environmental risk.

Once the contract is signed, you will usually transfer the deposit to your solicitor who will then deal with exchanging the contracts. They will ensure both contracts are identical and all parties are happy to proceed. After this point the deal must go ahead and is legally binding.

The conveyancer will then deal with transferring the mortgage money to the seller, and will pay any Stamp Duty Land Tax due on your behalf.

The conveyancer will deal with any loose ends and finalise the completion, which includes sending legal documents to the Land Registry, sending a copy of the title deeds to your mortgage provider (your lender will keep this until the loan is paid off)

You should also expect your conveyancer to provide you with good communication about what stage you’re at and what needs to be done next. It should be easy to get in touch with them and they should be available especially when an issue needs to be resolved urgently.

If you decide to go with an online conveyancing company, then bear in mind that the communication may not always be as good or as prompt as someone you deal with on a personal basis.

You should only put down an offer on a property you want to buy after you’ve found a solicitor or conveyancer that you are happy with, so make sure to do your research early.

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