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A transfer of equity occurs when a property owner wishes to change the legal ownership of the property. Reasons include marriage, divorce and tax planning.

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The Conveyancing
Process Explained

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Conveyancing in your area Q & A's

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By Lorraine Imhoff

Ask Lorraine a question

Updated: 23/10/16

Successful conveyancing is as much about having a rounded understanding of the practicalities involved in buying and selling a property as it is about a thorough command of the legal process.

Below we feature some recent common questions asked by home movers.


We need a discount conveyancing quote. How do I get a quote?


The lack of clarity surrounding this point catches out many buyers, and can leave them paying far more in conveyancing fees than they budgeted. Many firms promote 'the cheapest conveyancing quotes'. Unfortunately additional costs are often hiding in small print. Any costs needs to be fair and only come into force where your lawyer must perform additional tasks for you, which could not be anticipated at the start of the process. Get a quote using the Homeward Legal quote calculator for the property you are buying.


Will the report on title compiled by the UK conveyancing solicitor investigate the cost of council tax on a Band C house prior to contracts are exchanged?


Your property lawyer will contact the governing council to discover the latest council tax charges which will then be added to the report on title. Up-to-date rates for UK are set out in detail online at the local authority website.


What is SDLT and how is it calculated


Editor note: Stamp duty information in this answer correct at time of writing (29/05/13). SDLT is subject to annual review, typically at the government's annual budget.

'SDLT' stands for 'Stamp Duty Land Tax' which is a tax payable to HMRC by a property buyer on all properties sold for £125,000 or above

SDLT is calculated as a percentage of the final purchase price according to the following brackets

  • £0 - £125,000 - 0%
  • £125,001 - £250,000 - 1%
  • £250,001 - £500,000 - 3%
  • £500,001 - £1 million - 4%
  • > £1m - £2m - 5%
  • > £2 m - 7%

Your conveyancing solicitor will submit the SDLT Return to HMRC on your behalf upon completion of your home purchase.


How early do we need to instruct a conveyancing solicitor in the UK?


Whether you are buying or selling in the UK, earlier is preferable, as the legal work can start very early in the process. Promptly instructing a solicitor for your UK transaction can reduce any chance of the other side pulling out.


Why does conveyancing take so long


Understandably, the first thing you want to know is a moving date. Even if you are not in a hurry, you ideally want a firm date to help you plan the move.

So this is a very common question and unfortunately a difficult one to answer at the outset of a transaction.

On average conveyancing takes around 2 months. However working closely with the right solicitor can dramatically speed things up. Although you are often at the mercy of the slowest link in the moving chain, a proactive solicitor will identify where these slow moving parties are and push them along.

The key thing you can do, as a buyer or seller, is to complete all of the necessary protocol forms as quickly as possible, make sure finance and survey formalities occur as early on as possible (lenders can really slow the process down) and help your solicitor respond to any questions raised by your buyer as quickly as you can.

Many solicitors would address this question by listing elements of the conveyancing process such as search and lender delays, as well as the sheer amount of work involved as reasons that protract the process.

In reality, many of these delays issues are foreseeable in as much as they occur all the time and a forward thinking lawyer will attack these issues early on.

If we were asked to give one tip that can save the process dragging on interminably it would be for leaseholders. If you are selling a leasehold property, apply to the Managing Agent for the Management Information Pack as soon as you start to market the property as some agents take weeks or even months to produce this.


If you are buying next to a church, is it important that I get a chancel search?


Chancel repair liability can require home owners to contribute towards the cost of upkeep of an old church building. Chancel repair liability goes back hundreds of years to when the local local parish typically started owning large amounts of land. When properties situated on church land were subsequently sold, the church would only allow the sale to occur if the buyer accepted an obligation to contributed to some or, in some cases, all of the cost of future chancel repairs.

The liability passes from owner to owner and as has on occasion left unsuspecting buyers with a large bill. As a result a Chancel Liability search has formed a standard part of the conveyancing protocol.


What do we need to know about fixtures and fittings?


New owners will often be frustrated with the lack of formality around what fixtures and fittings should be included in a sale. Sometimes this list isn't 'firmed up' until the transaction nears completion. Fixtures and fittings can also form post offer negotiations.

Usually however, and to avoid confusion, an approximate list will be agreed by the buyer and seller prior to offer, and the seller will note these in the formal conveyancing form known as the 'FFF' or 'Fixtures and Fittings Form'. This form confirms in detail what will be sold with the property and forms part of the contract of sale.


Is it imprudent to take care of the legal conveyancing process without help.


There is no reason why a seller shouldn't carry out the conveyancing on your own. In reality however, a solicitor takes care of a huge number of exercises such as chasing missing documents or interpreting management accounts some of which require a skilled professional.

In addition legal practices will take out insurance cover that protects you in the event of any failures on the part of the solicitor.


Which environmental factors will affect land in the UK. Are they an issue?


Many of contaminants can impact residential property in the UK. Contaminants including proposed erection of mobile masts will be considered as part of the environmental searches.


Does the conveyancing solicitor look into the risk of flooding?


When acting for a purchaser, a property lawyer will carry out an environmental search which should identify if the property is on a known floodplain. If it is it doesn't not necessarily mean that the home has ever or ever will be flooded as the search only assesses general risk only.

Furthermore, the information in the search cannot factor in things like the existence and effectiveness of flood defenses such as the Thames Barrier for example.

If a potential risk is identified, your lawyer may recommend a further more detailed search known as a Homecheck Flood Report. Please speak to your solicitor if you have any concerns about flood risk.

See a sample Homecheck Flood Report.


What length of time may should I allow for the legal work when selling a residential property in England?


For most residential property, the number of weeks required to sell or purchase a residence can vary. This is according to a number of issues affecting the property which may include cases where a property has a mortgage. Our conveyancers ensure your sale, purchase or remortgage receives communicative and proactive service, resulting in the fastest possible outcome.


How does the solicitor discover whether a property is located in a conservation area?


Conservation areas delineate areas designated by 'English Heritage' as being of historical or architectural value.

The objective is to maintain and preserve the original character of the area and this is achieved by empowering local councils to police what is and isn't allowed in terms of development and modifications to existing property. It can also mean other measures such as the prohibiting of estate agent's boards.

These restrictions can result in the buyer inheriting liability of unauthorised changes. An example might be where a previous owner has installed PVC windows which are not in keeping with the area. The new owner would then be forced to replace the windows for acceptable ones and the cost will be borne by the new owner.

However, it is living in a conservation area is seen as a positive as there are significant benefits. For example buyers have the added certainty that a property (and the area in which it is situated) protected by conservation area status is more likely to be preserved and retain its value.

Your conveyancing solicitor will ask for proof of consent for any modifications made to the property and report to you before exchange of contracts.