Conveyancing & Conveyancers: A Complete Guide
Imagine you find your dream home. The excitement is real, but so are the uncertainties - especially if it’s your first time.
How does the process work? How much is going to cost? Who on earth handles it all?
That’s where conveyancing and conveyancers come in.
At Lawhive, we have a team of the UK’s most trusted conveyancers ready to help you start the process of buying or selling a property within 48 hours. To get started, simply get in touch for an instant fixed-fee quote from top solicitors who can help you sell, buy or mortgage a property.
Whether you're a first time buyer in need of conveyancing support, or are selling your home for something new, in this article we’ll look at conveyancing , the role of conveyancers, the processes involved in buying or selling a property, and the costs involved:
What is a conveyancer?
A conveyancer is a property professional that helps you to go through the legal process of buying or selling a property, transferring ownership, or getting a mortgage.
In a nutshell conveyancers handle all the paperwork and processes involved when a property changes hands, including dealing with the Land Registry.
Conveyancers can be (and usually are) property solicitors, but they can also be Licensed Conveyancers. The only difference is that a property solicitor that offers conveyancing can usually offer legal services beyond that, like land disputes and joint property ownership.
What is conveyancing?
Conveyancing is the legal process of moving ownership of property or land from one person to another.
Most people’s first taste of conveyancing when they buy or sell a house. But conveyancing can also mean transferring ownership of a property from one person to another (i.e. from a parent to a child). Getting a mortgage or re-mortgaging also falls under the umbrella of conveyancing.
Conveyancing basically makes sure that a property rightfully changes hands from the current owner to the new owner in a secure and legitimate way.
What does a conveyancer do?
Conveyancing checks if the person selling the property is the rightful owner. This is crucial to avoid any surprises down the road.
Investigate the property
Conveyancers act like detectives, looking into the property's history. They want to ensure there are no hidden problems like unpaid debts or disputes that could cause trouble later on.
Create a legal agreement
They help create a contract of sale. This document lays out all the important details of the deal, like the price, what's included with the property, and the timeline for the transaction. It's like a rule book that both the buyer and seller agree to follow.
Handle the money
Conveyancers ensure that the money is transferred safely and securely. They make sure the seller gets paid, and the buyer doesn't lose their money without getting the property.
After the deal is done, they make sure your ownership is officially recorded with the Land Registry. This is like getting your name on the list of official property owners, and it protects your rights.
Do I need to use a conveyancer?
If you are taking a mortgage out on a property, the mortgage lender will most definitely say that you have to use a conveyancer. This is because they want to protect their interests in the property and the best way to do that is by having a conveyancer oversee the process and make sure it’s correct.
If you’re buying a property without a mortgage, you technically don’t have to use a conveyancer. But, if we’re honest, conveyancing is a super-complex legal area, and if you miss something it can lead to a world of headaches and potential risks.
As a property is likely to be one of the biggest, most expensive things you'll ever buy, it is wise to have a conveyancer on your side dotting all the i’s and crossing the t’s as they can help speed up the buying process which on the whole can be quite lengthy.
How to choose a conveyancer
Now that you understand the importance of professional help, here are some tips on choosing the right conveyancer or solicitor:
Experience Matters: Look for professionals with a solid track record in property transactions. Experience is a valuable asset in this field
Recommendations: Ask friends, family, or your estate agent for recommendations. Word of mouth can be a reliable way to find a trustworthy professional.
Check for Credentials: Ensure that your chosen conveyancer or solicitor is registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).
Transparent Fees: Inquire about a solicitors fees for buying a house upfront, and make sure you understand the full cost. Hidden fees can lead to unpleasant surprises.
Communication: Choose someone who is responsive and communicates clearly. You'll want to be able to reach them when you have questions or concerns.
There's a common misconception that it's better to work with a conveyancer who knows your local area. The truth of it is that, providing the right searches and checks are done, a conveyancer will unearth information whether they know the area or not.
There are many benefits to working with an online conveyancer, including speed, efficiency and lower costs.
Conveyancing process for buying a property
If you’re new to buying a property, then you’re probably only vaguely familiar with the steps involved. Let’s break it down:
1. Make an offer on a property
First up, you actually need to find a house you want to buy and make an offer that’s accepted by the seller.
Usually, you don’t need to instruct a solicitor or conveyancer until your offer has been accepted, however they could also be your secret weapon at this point in the dance.
That’s because a conveyancing solicitor can register a ‘note of interest’ on your behalf, which basically lets the seller know that you have a strong interest in buying the property and you want to be kept in the loop when it comes to the next steps, like closing dates.
2. Instruct a conveyancer on acceptance
When your offer on a property is accepted, that’s when your conveyancer steps in.
To avoid delays, it’s probably worth doing your research and lining up a conveyancer in advance so you can get the ball rolling straight away. This will give you a head start on getting all the important documents and information checked.
Then, when you get the phone call to say your offer has been accepted your conveyancer will be on hand to receive all the contracts and start negotiations.
3. Arrange a property survey and apply for a mortgage (if you need one)
It is up to you, the buyer, to organise a home survey, which is basically a thorough check of the property carried out by a (you guessed it) surveyor. It’s their job to inspect a property and let you know if there are any issues, be they major or minor.
There are lots of different types of home surveys to choose from depending on how much you want or need to know about a property, its age, and the state it's in.
The findings of a survey might then inform your negotiations with the seller. For example, you might use the information from a home survey to lower the asking price or ask for certain repairs to be carried out before completion.
It’s also at this point you, following acceptance of an offer, that you apply for a mortgage (if you need one).
4. Carry out searches
Your conveyancer will carry out property searches through the local authority to find out everything you need to know about the property and the surrounding area. Checks usually cover things like:
Local development plans and road schemes;
Nearby planning applications;
Environmental risks (like flooding and subsidence);
Water supply, drainage and sewage;
Who currently owns the property and if they’re legit.
Property searches are useful because they can flag potential issues early on. If you’re getting a mortgage for the property you’re buying, your mortgage lender will expect you to carry these out before they give the nod on the loan.
5. Negotiations and amendments
A conveyancer will review all of the information and raise any pre-contract enquiries about things like planning consents, building regulations, gas and electric certificates, if any white goods are to be included in the sale, the leasehold, and anything else you might want to know before you sign on the dotted line.
Sometimes, there might be disagreements or changes needed in the contract. Your conveyancer will help you negotiate with the other party and make any necessary amendments to the contract.
6. Drafting and agreeing to the contract
Once all the initial checks are done, your conveyancer will draft the contract of sale. This document includes all the important details, like the price, what's included with the property, vacant possession, and when the transaction will take place.
7. Paying the deposit
When everyone is happy with the contract, you pay the deposit for the property directly to your conveyancer, who will keep hold of it until the contracts are exchanged.
8. Exchange of contracts
This stage is the moment when both you (the buyer) and the seller make a firm commitment to the property transaction. In essence, the exchange of contracts is the moment of commitment and transition.
It marks the point when both parties are legally obligated to proceed with the property transaction.
Finally, the conveyancer works with both sides to set a completion date. This is when the final payment is made, and the keys to the property are handed over.
It is at this point that the seller’s conveyancer sends the title deeds and transfer of deed to your conveyancer and your conveyancer will send the stamp duty payable to HMRC.
8. Land Registry registration
After the completion, your conveyancer ensures your ownership is officially registered with the Land Registry. This is like the last stamp on your journey, making you the official owner of the property.
9. Post-completion checks
Even after the deal is done, there are some final checks to make sure everything is in order. Your conveyancer will handle these tasks to wrap up the process. These might include activating indemnity policies, serving post-completion notice (if the property is leasehold) and taking receipt of the registered title.
Do I need a conveyancer to sell my house?
You don’t need a conveyancer or solicitor to sell your house. It is possible to do ‘DIY conveyancing’ but it’s a big job to take on with lots of legal potholes to fall down.
Conveyancing process when selling a property
Here’s everything you can expect from a conveyancer when selling a property:
Carrying out proof of identity checks;
Sending out a fittings and contents form and property information forms;
Getting title deeds from deeds holder or from The Land Registry;
Preparing the draft contract;
Answering pre-contract enquiries;
Getting a settlement figure for the outstanding mortgage (if there is one);
Checking and sending the transfer deeds;
Arrange for keys to be released;
Paying the estate agent and repaying the existing mortgage lender.
How much do conveyancing fees cost?
Conveyancing fees can be broadly divided into two buckets:
Legal fees (what your solicitor or conveyancer charges);
Disbursements (third party charges for searches, surveys, etc)
On average, a conveyancer’s fee can land anywhere between £479-£1,000 before disbursements.
When budgeting for conveyancing fees, it’s important to take into account the disbursements as they are additional to the legal fees you’ll pay to a solicitor (although your solicitor can pay for them on your behalf). Disbursements can add on another £500-£800 depending on the kind of surveys and searches you carry out as part of the contract negotiations.
Common conveyancing issues
It's not uncommon for problems to crop up during the conveyancing process.
Some common issues include:
Property chains occur when multiple buyers and sellers are linked in a sequence. Delays in any part of the chain can affect your transaction.
Issues with the property's legal title, such as unresolved disputes or unregistered land, can slow down the process.
Survey and valuation problems
Surveys or valuations may reveal unexpected issues, which can lead to negotiations or even deal cancellations.
Mortgage approval or funding issues can disrupt the transaction timeline.
Essential documents, like title deeds or planning permissions, may be missing or incomplete.
Find a conveyancer for fixed fees
Embarking on a property journey, whether buying or selling, is undoubtedly exciting. Every property transaction is unique, and professional guidance is worth its weight in gold for a successful and stress-free journey.
Seeking expert advice, and ensuring that you are well-informed and prepared for each stage of your property venture, can keep you confident and happy every step of the way.
Always remember, when faced with specific conveyancing questions or issues, seeking professional advice is the key to a smooth and secure property transaction.
At Lawhive, we understand time is of the essence when you are considering buying or selling property. If you get in touch with us today, we promise to give you a fixed fee quote and find you a well suited expert solicitor in less than 5 minutes. What’s more, we can usually get started on your case right away.