Conveyancing: Learn about the process for buying and selling property

Discover what conveyancers do and how to choose the best conveyancing service for your needs

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal transfer of a property from seller to buyer. In almost all cases, this will be taken care of by a trained professional. Some people choose to do this themselves in what is informally known as DIY conveyancing.

If you’re buying a property with a mortgage, your lender will require you to have arranged professional conveyancing services. You’ll therefore need to have chosen a conveyancer before you apply for a mortgage. If you’re selling a property at the same time, your conveyancer will take care of this too.

Cash buyers can choose to do the conveyancing themselves, but it’s an incredibly complex and risky process.

What does a conveyancer do?

A conveyancer’s work begins once an offer is accepted on a property. Here are some of the key tasks that will take place between this moment and moving into your property.

  • Property searches. Your conveyancer will carry out a series of checks on the property. These will include a local authority search to reveal potential environmental issues and/or proximity to future development plans. They’ll complete a Land Registry search to confirm the identity of the current owners and a drainage search to ensure the property is connected to sewage and water. They’ll report back any issues that may affect your desire to buy the property.
  • Review seller questionnaires. The seller’s conveyancer will be asked to complete questionnaires to reveal important data about the property. This will cover the boundaries, parking details, fixtures and fittings included in the sale as well as details of the lease (if applicable). The buyer’s conveyancer will review these questionnaires and highlight the key information.
  • Negotiate with the seller on your behalf. If you’re worried about any of the information that crops up during this process, your conveyancer can communicate with the seller’s legal team to ask further questions or negotiate a fairer selling price.
  • Draw up and review contracts. The legal forms required to transfer the property will be written and reviewed by your conveyancer. Once these contracts are signed and exchanged, the sale is legally binding. Your conveyancer will also review contracts associated with your mortgage, leasehold and home insurance.
  • Collecting and transferring funds. Your conveyancer will receive funds from your mortgage lender and transfer it to the seller. It will also collect funds from the government as part of schemes such as Help to Buy as well as reviewing any paperwork associated with these schemes. Your stamp duty bill and/or estate agent’s bill will also be transferred by your conveyancer.
  • Communicates with the Land Registry. The transfer of the property will be reported to the Land Registry by your conveyancer.

What is the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer?

Conveyancers have a detailed knowledge of property law and typically only work with clients who are buying and selling property.

Solicitors have a broader knowledge of law. They may choose to offer conveyancing among a wider range of services.

Conveyancers tend to be cheaper and are likely to have a more in-depth knowledge of any legal issues you may encounter.

However, it is sometimes beneficial to use a solicitor with good knowledge of property law in particularly complex legal situations (e.g. if a property is being sold as part of a divorce or the death of a seller).

How much does a conveyancer cost?

Conveyancers charge in different ways. They may offer a fixed fee, an hourly rate or ask for a percentage of the property price.

A fixed fee will help you avoid nasty surprises and ensure your conveyancer’s decisions aren’t incentivised by extra money.

Search for a “no sale, no fee” service as this will inspire your conveyancer to have your sale completed as quickly as possible.

The fees will vary depending on your choice of conveyancer. Experienced individuals may charge more for their services. You may also be charged more for a particularly complex sale. For example, it’s common for conveyancers to charge more when working with leasehold properties or those being bought via government schemes such as Help to Buy. If you’re buying and selling a property simultaneously, you can expect to pay more due to the extra workload.

You can typically expect to pay anywhere between £500 and £2,000 depending on the project.

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What do conveyancing fees include?

These will vary depending on your situation. Your conveyancer or solicitor should be able to confirm which apply to you:

  • Legal fees
  • Electronic transfer fee
  • Help-to-Buy ISA fee
  • Leasehold-related fees
  • Local searches
  • ID check
  • Land registry fee

How much are conveyancing fees?

The exact amount you pay for conveyancing will depend on who you hire for the job and the size of your property, with some of the fees set by the conveyancer and others set by third parties.

Understanding these fees can give you a better idea of whether you are being offered value for money.

The legal portion of the conveyancing fees bill covers the work done by the conveyancing solicitor themselves.

Typically, the fees tend to fall somewhere between £850 and £1,500 plus the cost of disbursements.

The solicitor or licensed conveyancer will also complete local searches, which will cost you £250-£300, to check whether there are any local plans or problems.

When do I pay?

You might have to pay an upfront deposit when you hire your conveyancer or solicitor, which could be around 10% of their fee.

You’ll then pay them the final amount once the sale of the house is completed, although you may have to pay for local searches before that.

If the sale falls through or the seller backs out, you might have to pay some or all of the conveyancing fees for legal work already completed.

Who do I pay?

You will be paying your solicitor for their services.

Will I always have to pay this fee?

No, in some cases, some lenders will pay it for you.

Do I need to pay upfront or can I add it to my mortgage?

You will need to pay these fees upfront.

What is fixed fee conveyancing?

This is when a solicitor or conveyancer offers a pre-agreed amount of money for their legal services. Unfortunately, many do not offer a fixed fee service, which can make it hard to budget for the costs involved with buying or selling your property.

It’s important to ask your solicitor or conveyancer for a quote before anything else to ensure you are clear on what you can expect in exchange for the agreed fee.

Are there any additional conveyancing costs?

There are some additional costs that you may need to pay if you are buying a property. These are unlikely to be included in the price quoted by your conveyancing solicitor so it’s worth keeping in mind the following:

Valuation or building survey fees

If you are buying a property with a mortgage, your mortgage lender will insist that a valuation survey is carried out before they officially agree to lend to you. This is to ensure that the amount they are lending is reflective of the property’s true value.

Many buyers opt to get a more in-depth survey instead, which takes a closer look at the structure and flags any potential issues with the building.

As you might expect, this will cost more than a straight-forward valuation, but it could save you money in the long run. If you discover that a property needs expensive repairs, then you may be able to renegotiate the price with the seller or pull out of the purchase.

Stamp Duty

If you’re buying a home in the UK, you may be liable to pay Stamp Duty. This is a government tax that is calculated based on your circumstances and the value of the home that you are buying.

Those purchasing a second home may also be required to pay a higher Stamp Duty. This will depend on the buyer’s circumstances and whether they are replacing their main residence (which would include selling their previous residence).

If you are liable, this is a considerable amount of money and will need to be paid within 30 days of completion. As such, these costs should be taken into account when you are budgeting for a house move.

How to choose the best conveyancer?

The cost of your conveyancer shouldn’t be the only consideration you make.

This is complex work, which could have a big impact on your life. If something goes wrong during the conveyancing process, it could collapse the whole property chain, causing you to miss out on your dream home. It could therefore be argued that it’s worth an extra few hundred pounds to invest in an experienced conveyancer.

It’s often recommended to choose a conveyancer that isn’t too busy, as it will often take them longer to complete your tasks. This problem is regularly associated with solicitors, who are prone to having more pressing tasks with more immediate deadlines drop on their table. By all means, ask them how much work they currently have on their hands. If you do choose a solicitor, enquire about their experience with conveyancing. Many people choose to go with conveyancers who have been recommended by friends or family.

Moving house is generally regarded as one of life’s most stressful experiences. A quality conveyancer can make the entire process far smoother.

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