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Conveyancing Explained: What Happens and What to Expect

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If you’re buying a home, conveyancing is an inevitable part of the process. It seems complicated on the surface but is easier to understand than you might think.

You’ll need the guidance and advice of a professional to help you along the way. Why is this? What’s actually involved?

We’re here to answer all the questions you might have.

What is conveyancing?

Many people ask what occurs during this essential process of buying a house.

Conveyancing is the legal transfer of property between buyer and seller. It occurs after your offer has been accepted, where the legal title of a property is transferred from one person to another. Here, you become the owner of your home.

The process is carried out by an experienced legal conveyancer or a solicitor. A conveyancer is a legal professional with specific experience and expertise in property transactions.

Having the right legal advice is a vital step when it comes to a smooth transaction, as it’s a complicated process where many things can go wrong e.g. delays with the property chain.

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Can you carry out your own conveyancing?

Some buyers may choose to do it themselves, although this isn’t something we would advise as this is a legal process and not without its complications. There’s a lot to understand and interpret, and the risk of something going wrong is high.

DIY conveyancing is sometimes only possible if you aren’t taking out a mortgage, which isn’t the case for most buyers. Mortgage lenders will want to ensure their interests are protected, so usually insist you get a legal adviser.

How important is the process?

This is arguably the more complicated part of buying a property, as there’s a lot going on!

Finding a good solicitor is key here, as you’ll need someone to guide you through it every step of the way. Never underestimate the importance of a professional who understands your individual situation and who communicates openly with you.

What does a conveyancer do?

Here’s a breakdown of some of the different jobs they will take on:

  • Getting a copy of your mortgage offer
  • Being the point of contact for your mortgage lender
  • Running property searches (the cost of these is sometimes extra)
    • Local authority searches
    • Title deeds
    • Risk assessments e.g. flood risk
    • Location specific searches relating to certain requests, e.g. Common Land
  • Liaising with the seller’s solicitor
  • Dealing with all legal documents
  • Calculating and paying your Stamp Duty Land Tax
  • Agreeing a completion date with the seller’s conveyancer
  • Preparing transfer deeds
  • Organising the deposit transfer
  • Examining the draft contract
  • Exchanging signed contracts between you and the seller
  • Forwarding legal ownership documents to the Land Registry

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it gives an indication of just how much goes on during this process. Between exchange and completion is when they’ll become particularly vital.

Where can you find a conveyancer?

The sales agent could recommend a solicitor for you, but this might be more expensive.

Some may choose to go through word-of-mouth, using the same solicitor a friend or family member have used.

Online conveyancing is another option, usually a cheaper method but more difficult to build a personal rapport with your solicitor.

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How much will it cost?

Conveyancing fees vary, depending on the size of your property and your individual situation. Some property sales require more legal work and time from the conveyancer, and can therefore cost you more.

Some operate on a fixed fee basis, adding extra charges for certain services. However, some conveyancers work on a ‘no sale no fee’ basis!

For those that don’t, you could pay a little more to protect yourself should the sale fall through. The choice is entirely yours – you just need to work out what’s right for you.

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What to expect first

Once you’ve found a licensed conveyancer, their first step is usually to examine the draft contract and raise any issues with the seller’s solicitor.

If you’re inexperienced in buying property, having a professional assist you in this process is highly useful. They’ll be able to spot things that may have otherwise been missed.

Bear in mind that before the exchange of contracts, the sale can still fall through. For example, you could be gazumped or the seller could change their mind.

The pre-exchange conveyancing steps

There are many different steps involved with the property conveyancing process before contracts are exchanged.

Things can vary, but here’s a rough breakdown of each one and what happens.

Mortgage

Here, your conveyancer will go through a copy of your mortgage offer, ensuring all terms are correct and that you have sufficient finances.

This step also involves receiving a mortgage valuation. Here, your lender will check that their interests are looked after and their investment is safe. Remember – this isn’t the same as a property survey, so you’ll need one of these also. Contact a surveyor for a quote.

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Most of the time, it will be a requirement of your mortgage lender that you get buildings insurance when buying a house.

Always speak to a mortgage adviser to fully evaluate your options.

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Checking the Contract

Before anything is signed, your solicitor will need to ensure everything is sound. This includes:

Legal Matters

Are you buying a freehold or leasehold property? If the latter, ensure you know how long the lease is.

You’ll also be expected to check the paperwork yourself and raise any concerns you may have.

What will your conveyancer do during exchange?

Your solicitor will exchange contracts for you, taking care of all the necessary paperwork.

Bear in mind that after this, the sale becomes legally binding.

How conveyancing works between exchange and completion

Between exchange and completion, your solicitor will transfer all Land Registry deeds and ensure the property is in your name.

Does anything happen after completion day?

Your solicitor’s work isn’t done after completion day!

There are a few jobs that will still need doing, such as sending off title deeds to your mortgage lender.

When do you pay your solicitor for conveyancing?

When everything is complete and all loose ends have been tied up, your solicitor will send you a bill. Alternatively, if you’re buying and selling, the charge is usually deducted from the sale price.

Ensure you keep a paper trail of all important documents and communications with other parties.

Get in touch with a good solicitor

The house buying process can be fraught with difficulty. Over a third of house sales fall through before completion. But, the right legal guidance should minimise the risk of this.

You should look for a solicitor who is dedicated, professional and communicative. You’ll want them to be open and honest during this process, paying close attention to your individual needs.

Unsure how to find the right person? We can connect you with an experienced property expert. All our solicitors work on a no purchase/no sale fee which means they will not charge for their time if the purchase falls through. Get a conveyancing quote below.

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Last Updated: January 21st, 2022