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Conveyancing is the legal term for transferring ownership of a property from one person to another. The process is handled by a conveyancer or solicitor who will take care of all the legal tasks associated with selling or buying a property.

What does a conveyancer do for the seller?

When you sell a property, your conveyancer will look after drafting and revising the sale contract. They’ll spend time negotiating which fixtures and fittings will come with the property, and resolving any issues raised by the buyer’s surveys.

Your conveyancer will also manage the collection and transfer of funds. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to selling a home - mortgages, loans and outstanding bills are all part of the process. They’ll handle money matters from start to finish, including: requesting a settlement figure for your mortgage, receiving the house deposit, paying off any remaining mortgage, and sending the outstanding balance from the sale to you.

What does a conveyancer do for the buyer?

If you’re buying, your conveyancer will undertake a series of enquiries into the prospective property. These include searches and fraud checks. They’ll also review the contract as drafted by the seller’s solicitor, and once the sale is complete, register your ownership with the Land Registry.

If you need a mortgage, your legal representative will receive a copy of the offer and go through its terms. Your mortgage valuation can also be part of the conveyancing process. This valuation is carried out on behalf of your lender, so that they know that your property provides sufficient security for a loan.

Before you sign the final contract, your conveyancer will ensure that the enquiries have been returned with satisfactory results, and all fixtures and fittings are as expected. They will then make arrangements to transfer the deposit so that it clears in time for the exchange.

Should I use a conveyancer or solicitor?

You can use either a conveyancer or a solicitor to help with your property transaction. All solicitors are qualified as conveyancers, but not all have a great deal of practical experience. They often work in a multi-disciplinary practice and have knowledge of other areas of the law, such as family law or tax regulations. In contrast, conveyancers are property specialists. They usually work in firms that just focus on property transactions.

Most of the time, the conveyancing process is pretty straightforward, and won’t need any extra legal knowledge. However, if your sale is more complex, a solicitor’s expertise could be beneficial. A broader legal understanding could help if, for example, you’re splitting the equity during a divorce, or there are boundary disputes.

There are a few other differences to consider when making your decision:

  • Solicitors have to disclose any referral fees they receive from estate agents. A conveyancer is not obliged to do so.
  • Licensed conveyancers are able to work with both the buyer and the seller. A solicitor may only work for one party.
  • Conveyancers are often office based, whereas solicitors will also spend some of their time in court.

Are conveyancers cheaper than solicitors?

The main benefit of choosing a solicitor is their ability to deal with any complex legal issues. Because of this, solicitors are generally more expensive than conveyancers. However, if you have a more difficult case, the legal expertise offered is probably worth the small difference in price.

For a more detailed look at the costs of conveyancing read: ‘How Much Should Conveyancing Fees Be?’

Can you do your own conveyancing?

It is possible to be your own conveyancer. Doing so could save you money - though, in most cases it’s worth the cost to have professional legal help. Using a licensed conveyancer or solicitor will provide protection if there are any unexpected complications. If you undertake the conveyancing yourself, you aren’t insured if you make any errors. And, if mistakes are made, you would be liable and could be sued.

The biggest obstacle to undertaking your own conveyancing is arranging a mortgage. Many mortgage providers expect you to use a legal representative, and some will even specify that you use one of their recognised solicitors, in order to protect their interests.

On the other side, if you’ve not fully paid off the mortgage on the home you’re selling, you’ll also find it difficult to do your own conveyancing. A buyer’s solicitor is unlikely to accept any ‘undertaking’ (the promise that any remaining mortgage will be paid off using the proceeds from the property’s sale) unless it’s supported by a licensed lawyer.

For more information on the conveyancing process, check out our handy guide here..