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  1. Guides
  2. What is conveyancing?
Conveyancing
Conveyancing
Last Updated 28 October 2021

What is conveyancing?

Daniel Strieff
Writer
  1. Conveyancing Process: Timeline and Steps
  2. 6

Buying and selling a property can be stressful and filled with many unknowns. This guide helps explain what goes into the conveyancing process and what you can expect out of it.

What does conveyancing mean?

Conveyancing merely refers to the legal transfer of property from one owner to another - in short, the legal process of buying a home. It begins when an offer on a house is accepted and ends when the buyer receives the keys and the house purchase is complete.

A conveyancing transaction is typically a two-phase process. It consists of:

  • Exchange of contracts

This makes the transaction legally binding, as buyer and seller trade signed contracts, and the buyer pays the deposit.

  • Completion or settlement

This is when the transaction is legally finalised, and the new owner gets the keys and takes full ownership of the property.

What does a conveyancer do?

Conveyancers handle the legal bits once your offer on a property has been accepted.

These consist of an array of administrative and legal tasks, including:

  • Opening a ‘purchase file’ and drawing up a draft contract. This lays out their charges and fees.
  • Checking the house title and organising searches for the property.
  • If you’re selling, then the conveyancer will ask the estate agents for a memorandum, or notification, of sale. This will include the details for the solicitors of everyone in the property chain (if applicable).
  • Working with the seller’s solicitors to move the transaction forward.
  • Making and following up on any enquiries on the buyer’s behalf.
  • Reviewing the mortgage offer and addressing any special conditions.
  • Acting as a conduit back to the buyer with important information and paperwork.
  • Scheduling the exchange of contracts and completion with the seller’s solicitors. The completion date will need to be agreed to by the seller’s solicitor and other parties on the chain.
  • Facilitating the exchange of contracts. After exchanging contracts, this is when the purchase becomes legally binding.
  • Sending the purchase money from the buyer to the seller’s solicitor on the day of completion and agreeing which papers need to be exchanged. Completion occurs once the seller has received the money.
  • Writing up a final completion statement that informs you how much outstanding balance you need to pay to the conveyancer.
  • Paying the Stamp Duty Land Tax on the buyer’s behalf and sending a copy of the title deeds to the mortgage lender.
  • Registering the new ownership with the Land Registry.
  • Notifying the freeholder IF a leasehold property has been purchased.

See our full breakdown of what conveyancers do here.

Searches constitute a significant part of the conveyancing process.

Conveyancing searches are intended to reveal any potential issues that are not immediately apparent in a public viewing or even through a property survey.

Some conveyancing searches are legally required, while others may be recommended, depending on your situation.

Legally required conveyancing searches include:

  • Local authority searches

This especially looks for things like planned motorways in your area.

  • Water and drainage

These searches determine the extent to which the property is connected to public sewers and mains drainage.

  • Environmental

The results of these searches reveal information on whether the land is contaminated or prone to a risk of flooding.

What's the difference between a conveyancer and a solicitor?

Both conveyancers and conveyancing solicitors are qualified to assist your property transaction, though each offers slightly different services, namely:

  • Solicitors (Conveyancing solicitors) are qualified lawyers who are experienced with conveyancing. They can also offer a full range of legal services. They are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and must be accredited by the Conveyancing Quality Scheme.

  • Licenced conveyancers are property specialists who can’t offer legal advice but may have deeper, though narrower, knowledge on the specifics of home-buying and selling compared to solicitors. Conveyancers must be members of the Council for Licensed Conveyancer

Regardless, ensure that you protect yourself against potential legal problems after the completion of sale by choosing a regulated and insured licensed conveyancer or firm.

If you’re using a conveyancing solicitor, also make sure they belong to the Law Society of England and Wales, or the Law Society of Scotland.

What does conveyancing include?

Conveyancing involves all the legal components of transferring property ownership between parties - from a seller to a buyer. It includes:

  • Handling contracts
  • Giving legal advice
  • Carrying out local council searches
  • Conducting property searches
  • Dealing with the Land Registry
  • Transferring the money to pay for the property
  • Optional and location-specific searches

How long does conveyancing take?

Conveyancing takes between 8 and 12 weeks in most cases, though the timing and process could vary considerably depending on your circumstances. We have broken down the full conveyancing process and timeline in this guide.

Do you need a conveyancer or solicitor to buy a house?

No you do not need a conveyancer or solicitor to buy a house. Homebuyers are not legally obligated to obtain a solicitor or a conveyancer to conduct their conveyancing when buying a house, but it is highly recommended to do so.

After all, conveyancing is required for property transactions and if you don’t hire a professional, you’ll need to handle the tricky legal bits by yourself. DIY conveyancing, as noted below, comes with quite a few risks.

Moreover, most mortgage lenders insist on using a solicitor or licenced conveyancer for property transactions to protect their investment.

As a result, most people favour finding their own solicitor or licenced conveyancer to oversee the conveyancing process.

Do you need a conveyancer or solicitor to sell a house?

No you do not need a conveyancer or solicitor in order to sell a house. As in the case of buyers, sellers are not technically required to hire a conveyancer or solicitor to conduct their conveyancing.

The DIY conveyancing option is also available to sellers but it will mean quite a bit of complicated legal work and is generally not recommended.

Can you do conveyancing yourself?

Yes, you technically can do your own conveyancing, though it’s not generally recommended.

As HM Land Registry details here, DIY conveyancing poses a number of major challenges. We also have a full breakdown on DIY conveyancing which you can read here.

For instance, using a conveyancer or solicitor can be especially helpful when handling title deeds, which consist of a trail of documents that prove a property’s ownership. Most title deeds are registered with the Land Registry. The seller will need to provide them to the buyer (or their legal representative), who must review and accept the documents.

In short, the legal and financial aspects of conveyancing usually prove too onerous for non-experts to conduct on their own.

Plus, if something goes wrong with the conveyancing, a DIY conveyancer will be unlikely to have cover. Homebuyers who hire a professional, on the other hand, will be covered by their insurance.

Can conveyancing be done online?

Yes, conveyancing can be done online. It’s perfectly possible to conduct your conveyancing online, which will follow the same process as offline conveyancing.

The principal difference is that most of the communication and information exchange occurs over the phone, email or through a portal on a website.

Online conveyancing is often cheaper than standard conveyancing. It also usually offers convenient online case management and verification.

How much should conveyancing cost?

The standard legal fee for conveyancing costs usually falls between £500 and £2000, plus the costs of disbursements.

However conveyancing fees vary considerably by property price, area, conveyancer or solicitor, and complexity of service.

The cost of conveyancing can be divided into two parts:

  • Legal fee

This is what the conveyancer or solicitor charges for completing their work.

  • Conveyancing Disbursements

These are used to pay for third-party services during the conveyancing process.

The fees for conveyancing leasehold properties tend to be a bit higher than freeholds because of the more complex legal work involved.

Common conveyancing disbursements when buying a property include:

  • Anti-money laundering checks
  • Searches
  • Title deeds
  • Transferring ownership with Land Registry
  • Telegraphic or money transfer fees
  • Property fraud checks
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax

For more information on fees, see our guide to 'Conveyancing fees'. It includes full breakdowns of conveyancing costs for both buying and selling property.

More conveyancing guides
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