A guide to conveyancing – the legal process of buying a property

5 min Read Published: 14 Feb 2023

A guide to conveyancing - the legal process of buying a propertyOften, the most daunting part of buying or selling a property is the legal process involved and this is called conveyancing. Conveyancing will ensure that the transfer of ownership of a property takes place smoothly and that all parties are legally protected in the process. In this article, we explain the stages of conveyancing, how much conveyancing costs and how to speed up the process as a buyer or seller.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring the ownership of a property from one person to another. The process includes a series of steps towards the completion of the purchase of a home or the transfer of the ownership of a home after someone dies.

Your solicitor and the seller's solicitor exchange details, and your solicitor receives a copy of the draft contract pack which outlines the following:

  • Details of both parties
  • Property sale price
  • Which fixtures and fittings are included with the property sale
  • Details of the seller's title deeds

What is the conveyancing process?

Conveyancing includes a number of tasks that are required to be completed at different stages of the conveyancing process when buying or selling a property. Below we have explained the main conveyancing process but there may be additional requirements depending on the complexity of the transaction.

  1. Instruction of the conveyancing solicitor - solicitors who specialise in conveyancing are normally referred to as conveyancers and you will typically be required to instruct one to carry out the legal parts of your home sale or purchase.
  2. Property survey property surveys vary between a basic Condition Report which gives an overview of the property's condition; the HomeBuyer Report which can be basic or in-depth depending on what you choose and a Full Structural Survey which is one of the most detailed options when it comes to a property survey. If you're buying a new build property you can arrange a New-Build Survey which is specific to properties that haven't been previously owned.
  3. Property searches - the searches will include water, drainage and flood risk assessments as well as local authority checks for environmental planning and chancel repairs.
  4. Exchange of contracts - both parties sign and exchange contracts. The deposit is paid at this stage as this is the point that ties parties into the purchase.
  5. Completion of transfer deeds - transfer deeds allow for the property ownership to be passed over legally.
  6. Title deed assignment with Land Registry - property deeds have to be assigned through the land registry to update the ownership that is detailed on records.
  7. Stamp duty payment - your conveyancer will arrange the correct payment of stamp duty if this applies to the purchase of your home.

When does the exchange of contracts happen?

A number of requirements will need to be fulfilled and satisfied before you are able to exchange contracts on the sale or purchase of a property. Much of the work that happens ahead of the exchange of contracts is made up of standard searches which check if there are any issues that may arise now, or in the future, regarding the property.

Your solicitor or conveyancer will provide a property information form and address a number of standard enquiries to the seller's conveyancer which includes:

  • Any ongoing disputes over the property
  • Exact boundaries
  • Footpaths and right of way across the property
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Any planning restrictions
  • Access to utilities shared by neighbours

Additionally, your solicitor will communicate with the other party's solicitor to confirm the following:

  • You have the deposit ready
  • Your mortgage offer is in place
  • The survey is satisfactory
  • Buildings insurance is ready
  • A completion date has been set

What happens after the exchange of contracts?

After contracts are exchanged, you are legally bound to purchase the property. A number of conveyancing tasks will be carried out to conclude the purchase which includes:

  • The non-refundable deposit is paid to the seller
  • A transfer document is prepared and signed by both parties
  • Arrangements are made to have the mortgage monies available to transfer on the completion date
  • Any fees such as Land Registry and Stamp Duty are paid
  • On the date of completion, the balance of the purchase price is sent by your solicitor to the seller's solicitors
  • You can then collect the keys and move in, the buyer must have vacated the premises at a pre-arranged time

How long does conveyancing take?

Conveyancing can be lengthy, taking anything between a few weeks and a few months. The speed of the conveyancing process depends on a number of factors including how quickly searches are returned by your local authority (these can take anywhere between 2-8 weeks on average), how efficient your conveyancer is in raising enquiries and how quickly you respond where necessary.

How to speed up conveyancing

If you want to ensure that the conveyancing process is as efficient as possible you can try the following:

  • Instruct the conveyancer as soon as possible
  • Get your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) in advance
  • Collate all documentation to support any building works
  • Ask your conveyancer for a list of tasks you will need to complete
  • Scan and email signed documents instead of posting for speed
  • Regularly check in with the estate agent and mortgage broker for updates on the progress
  • Agree on the best means of communication with your conveyancer
  • Make the conveyancer aware of your work days and your availability around these

How much does conveyancing cost?

Conveyancing costs range between £500 and £2,000 depending on whether you are buying or selling a property as well as how complicated the transaction will be. More complicated property sales and purchases can raise conveyancing fees even further.

Like most services, you should shop around to find a conveyancing service that provides a good service at a reasonable price. You can search for conveyancing solicitors in your area using the VouchedFor* or Unbiased* websites where you will find a number of customer reviews that will help you to choose a conveyancer.

How much does a solicitor charge to register a property?

You can be charged anything between £20 and £1,000 and upwards depending on the value of the property. Other factors such as probate requirements, transfer of leasehold, electronic money transfers and stamp duty payments can add to this basic charge.

Can you do your own conveyancing?

In theory, you can do your own conveyancing if you choose to, saving you the cost of paying a solicitor to do the same. However, you should really weigh up the expertise needed to complete all transfer forms correctly and raise searches as well as respond to issues that arise from these. DIY conveyancers' identities will usually have to be verified before they are able to carry out the conveyancing tasks. Furthermore, if the house purchase will entail borrowing then the mortgage lender may insist that you use a solicitor for conveyancing.

There are a number of anomalies and unique events that may occur during the process of conveyancing when you are buying a house and oversight of any could leave you liable if you have taken it upon yourself to do the conveyancing. Solicitors are protected by professional indemnity insurance that will safeguard against such situations.



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