As 2020 gets its feet well under the table, many of us are starting to think about moving home or buying a new place. Buying and selling is exciting but often stressful, and that’s why you need Homeward Legal’s step-by-step guide to conveyancing.
Knowing exactly what’s involved in the conveyancing process will help demystify it, helping you understand your own role and the essential work your conveyancing solicitor is undertaking.
Our comprehensive guide to conveyancing will explain the whole process from start to finish, taking the legal jargon apart to ensure everything is explained simply and effectively.
You can click on each heading to take you directly to the section you want to read.
What is conveyancing?
The first question most people embarking on a home sale or purchase ask is: what is conveyancing? And the answer is very simple.
What conveyancing means is the legal work involved in buying and selling property and land.
Conveyancing is just the name given to the legal and administrative work carried out by a solicitor or licensed conveyancer whenever property or land is bought or sold in the UK.
The end goal of conveyancing is transferring legal ownership of the land or property – known as the title – into the buyer’s name. The new ownership will then be registered with the Land Registry.
The conveyancing process explained, step by step
The conveyancing process starts when an offer has been made and accepted on a property or land.
There are key moments in all property transactions. Our step-by-step guide will explain conveyancing in simple terms:
- The first step for buyers is making an offer; for sellers, it’s accepting an offer. Buyers should ideally instruct a conveyancing solicitor to act on their behalf as soon as they have seen a property they want to buy. He or she will then negotiate on the sale price with the solicitor working for the seller. As soon as the offer has been accepted, the solicitors on both sides will begin the legal conveyancing.
- If you are buying with a mortgage and already have an agreement in principle, pass that information on to your solicitor. They must also act on behalf of the lender. All the conveyancing solicitors on Homeward Legal’s nationwide panel are also on the lenders’ approved panel.
- The buyer’s solicitor will start to instruct property searches. These searches allow the solicitor to build a complete picture of the property and the area around it. The searches are carried out by specialist firms who request the information from the local council, water and sewerage companies. Some searches are optional, some are essential.
- One essential step early in the conveyancing process is confirming via the Land Registry that the seller has the legal title – meaning he or she is the rightful owner and entitled to sell the land or property.
- The seller’s solicitor will provide an inventory of what is included in the sale and draw up a draft contract of sale. Both can be the subject of some negotiation; for example, the seller may want to remove all carpets from the property, but the buyer wants them to stay.
- Once all searches have been returned and the draft contract and sale price agreed, the two solicitors will negotiate a completion date. This is the date on which the seller must move out and the buyer receives the keys to their new home. The completion date is often set for a Friday but must be agreed by both sides.
- The buyer must transfer their deposit to their solicitor who confirms to the seller that finance is in place.
- The next step is the exchange of contracts. This is usually done by telephone, each solicitor confirming their client is signing an identical document. Once contracts are exchanged, neither party can back out without suffering a financial penalty.
- The buyer’s solicitor will now carry out final searches on the property, checking with the Land Registry that there have been no changes to the legal title since their first enquiry.
- The buyer’s solicitor will request that the lender releases the mortgage funds, and the money (including your deposit) will be transferred to the seller’s solicitor on completion day. The selling solicitor will pay off any outstanding mortgage and confirm that the sale is complete. The seller must hand over the keys to the property and move out. The buyer receives the keys.
- Post-completion, there are still a couple of legal steps to complete. The buyer’s solicitor will pay any outstanding Stamp Duty Land Tax to HMRC on the buyer’s behalf. This must be done within 14 days of completion. The new owner will be registered with the Land Registry and new title deeds reflecting the new title issued.
What forms and documents do I need to be aware of?
The forms and documents you need to complete and product during the conveyancing process will depend on whether you are a buyer or seller.
What both buyer and seller must do as soon as the process is underway is provide proof of their ID to their solicitor. This is always photo ID, usually a passport or driver’s licence, and confirmation of your address through a bank statement or utility bill from the last three months.
Solicitors are obliged to confirm your ID to meet money laundering regulations.
What other documents will buyers and sellers need to provide? Let’s break it down for each side.
Title deeds – you are unlikely to hold your title deeds as these are now a digital record at the Land Registry. However, you may have a copy of the registered title from when you purchased the property originally, and you should hand this over to your solicitor for their convenience.
Copy of the lease – where you are selling a leasehold property, give your solicitor a copy of the lease that details the terms of your legal relationship with the freeholder (landowner). Your solicitor will request a management information pack from the freeholder or management company that will detail all service and maintenance charges associated with the lease.
Property information form – your solicitor will ask you to complete this form, which details practical information such as the location of gas and electricity meters, water stop cock and the property boundaries.
Fittings and contents form – this form details everything that is included in the sale (for example, white goods) and everything that is not included. Complete this form and return it to your legal team as quickly as possible as any delay could derail your sale.
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) – every home that goes on the market in England and Wales must have an up-to-date Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This form details a building’s energy efficiency and highlights where cost-effective energy savings can be made. Check if your property has a valid EPC here.
Warranties – where you are selling a home built within the last decade, you may have an up-to-date new home warranty. This is an insurance policy against any issues arising with the construction and can be passed on to the buyer. For example, the NHBC Buildmark warranty lasts 10 years. You should also provide copies of any warranties relating to renovation or electrical work, plus guarantees on the likes of windows or roof repairs.
Mortgage offer – where you need a mortgage to buy a property, you must have a valid offer from a lender. Your solicitor will need a copy of the mortgage offer before beginning the conveyancing process.
Proof of deposit – you must show your solicitor you have the deposit funds by producing an up-to-date bank statement.
Insurance – once contracts have been exchanged on the property, your lender will insist that you get buildings insurance on your new home that begins on completion day. Send your solicitor a copy of the insurance cover.
Title report – once your sale is complete, your solicitor should provide you with a copy of the title report. This will show you as the owner and will also include details from the property information form.
Warranties – if you have bought a new-build property or one built within the last decade, you should receive a copy of any new home warranty, such as the NHBC Buildmark. Your solicitor should also send you any warranties relating to renovation or electrical work and guarantees on the likes of replacement windows and roof repairs.
What does a solicitor/conveyancer do?
What does a solicitor or licensed conveyancer do during conveyancing? Let’s start by explaining the precise role of each.
A conveyancing solicitor is a legally qualified solicitor who deals with property transactions. He or she will be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under the auspices of the Law Society.
A licensed conveyancer is a legal professional who is specially trained in property law and is regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). The licensed conveyancers we work with at Homeward Legal are all accredited by the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.
Regardless of whether you choose a conveyancing solicitor or a licensed conveyancer, each will perform the conveyancing required to complete your property sale or purchase.
Again, depending on whether you are buying or selling, the legal professional’s role will be slightly different. Let’s dig into what your legal representative does during the conveyancing process.
The seller’s solicitor will draw up the sale contract and provide the buying side with details of what’s included in the sale through the property information form and the fixtures and fittings form.
He or she will liaise with the buyer’s solicitor to confirm the sale funds are in place and negotiate on the price and on the completion date.
The two solicitors will agree on the exchange of contracts, confirming each client is signing an identical document.
When the sale is complete and their office has received the sale proceeds, he or she will pay off any outstanding mortgage, deduct their legal fees from what’s left and send the remainder to the seller. All of this is done electronically and within a matter of days.
Before kickstarting the conveyancing process, your solicitor will confirm your identification through photo ID and proof of address.
He or she will ask to see a mortgage offer from the lender if you are buying with a mortgage. You must also produce evidence you have the deposit funds in place.
Once those details have been confirmed, your solicitor will instruct a series of searches that will provide a raft of information about the property and the surrounding area. These searches are carried out by specialist companies and are often the subject of some delay depending on the local authority involved. It’s the job of the solicitor to chase up the searches to ensure they get the information as quickly as possible.
Depending on the age and condition of the property, your solicitor may advise you to have a building survey carried out.
Then he or she will negotiate on the sale price and what’s to be included in the sale with the selling solicitor before agreeing on a completion date that suits both sides.
The two solicitors will agree on the exchange of contracts, confirming each client is signing an identical document.
On completion day, your solicitor will transfer the sale funds to the selling solicitor and arrange for collection of the keys. Post-completion, their job involves registering you as the new property owner with the Land Registry and paying any Stamp Duty Land Tax to HMRC on your behalf.
They will bill you for their services and for any outstanding fees and charges, a bill that is usually paid within 30 days.
How to find a licensed conveyancer
Finding a licensed conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor is an easy task. At Homeward Legal, we work with a nationwide panel of top-quality law firms across England and Wales.
One call to our team on 0800 038 6699 can put you in touch with a conveyancing solicitor in a matter of minutes.
Both the Law Society and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers also offer a service to find a legal professional on their websites.
Online conveyancing offers instant convenience with no requirement to go into a solicitor office or deal with one nearby.
How much are conveyancing fees?
How much are conveyancing fees going to be is one of the first questions buyers and sellers will ask.
Conveyancing fees will vary depending on the value of the property involved. Therefore, it’s not possible to predict a set fee as all circumstances are different.
However, we can estimate how much your conveyancing will cost by identifying what you will be expected to pay for. You can also check out our guide to the average costs of conveyancing.
What’s included in your conveyancing bill:
- Solicitors’ fees
- Surveyor fees
- Stamp Duty Land Tax (Land Transaction Tax in Wales)
- Land Registry fees
- Local authority searches
- Other disbursements
- Electronic bank transfer fee
- Management pack for leasehold properties
Disbursements are fees and charges that your solicitor must pay as part of the conveyancing process. Some of these fees must be paid up front and your solicitor will request payment from you before going ahead. Others are added to the final bill.
At Homeward Legal, we are always upfront about disbursements so there are no hidden fees or extra charges coming as a nasty surprise once the final bill arrives.
Our fixed-fee guarantee also means your costs won’t change during the conveyancing process.
What other costs are there?
There are always other, additional costs in buying and selling property. Sellers using an estate agent will pay either a set fee or a fee as a percentage of the final sale cost.
Buyers may have to fork out for a building survey, while both buyers and sellers are likely to have removal costs.
Where there’s a gap between the date you must move out of your old home before getting the keys to your new place, you may have to put your furniture and other possessions into storage.
In such a situation, both buyers and sellers may have to find temporary rental accommodation.
All of these are extra costs to factor in when you are budgeting for your home move.
How do I get a conveyancing quote?
You can get a conveyancing quote on the high street from any law firm that deals in property transactions.
However, it’s much quicker and often more cost-effective to look for conveyancing quotes online. And an instant quote from Homeward Legal can kickstart your conveyancing in a matter of minutes.
Our team are available seven days a week on 0800 038 6699. Or you can get a conveyancing quote instantly online with our quote builder.
We work with a team of more than 200 specialist conveyancing solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and licensed conveyancers accredited with the Conveyancing Quality Scheme awarded by the Law Society.
Our panel covers all of England and Wales. Meanwhile, all the law firms we work with must meet our rigorous standards in conveyancing, service and value for money.
We know you won’t get the cheapest quote from Homeward Legal. However, we guarantee that our quotes are completely transparent on pricing with no hidden extras while our fixed-fee guarantee means your costs won’t change during the conveyancing process.
How long does the process take?
As with conveyancing costs, pinning down exactly how long the conveyancing process takes is a difficult task.
A straightforward transaction, with no delays or broken chains on either side, can be completed in as little as six weeks.
However, more commonly, a conveyancing transaction will take around 12 weeks to complete from offer accepted to contracts being exchanged.
What can cause a delay? Here are some of the common instances that can slow up or delay a sale or purchase:
- One side does not have a conveyancing solicitor in place at the start;
- Forms or documents are not returned in good time;
- Missing warranties or building control certificates;
- Hold up in property searches information, often caused by lack of staff at the local authority;
- No mortgage offer in place or hold-up in securing deposit;
- Slow return on building survey or mortgage valuation;
- Missing title deeds;
- One part of the chain pulling out.
How do I speed up the conveyancing process?
How do you speed up the conveyancing process? While there is little a buyer or seller can do if a chain collapses, you can keep on top of other elements to speed up conveyancing.
For example, make sure you return all forms and other information as soon as possible. Respond quickly to any requests from your solicitor.
Get your mortgage and other finance in place early. Chase up the lender regularly to ensure there are no delays in releasing the funds.
Keep in touch with the estate agent to iron out any kinks that might be appearing in a smooth chain.
What pitfalls are there?
The road to buying or selling a property can be a rocky one with some unexpected blocks and detours along the way. Among the potential pitfalls are the unloved (for most) practices of gazumping, gazundering and gazanging.
In short, gazumping is when a seller pulls out of a sale at the last minute because they’ve accepted a higher offer from another bidder. It’s legal, perhaps ethically unsound, because the deal is not secure until contracts are exchanged.
Conversely, gazundering is the practice of a buyer LOWERING their offer at the last minute, again before contracts are exchanged. This puts the seller in the invidious position of either accepting a lower offer or pulling out of the deal and starting to find a buyer all over again.
Finally, gazanging is a practice that’s become more common in the last decade. This is where a seller decides at the last minute not to sell their property at all and to stay put.
Without contracts being exchanged, the buyer is left high and dry, probably out of pocket and without a home to move into.
One of the biggest pitfalls in property buying is the collapse of a chain.
Essentially a chain is where each sale depends on another being completed to go ahead. Where one sale falls through or a buyer or seller has a change of heart, the chain will collapse, leaving everyone frustrated and probably broke.
Possibly the scariest pitfall in home buying is a scam known as Friday afternoon fraud.
This involves hackers accessing a solicitor’s email account to intercept communications with a client and divert their purchase funds to a fraudulent account.
It’s called Friday afternoon fraud because so many property transactions are completed on that day.
Avoid falling victim to this scam by always checking in person or by telephone with your solicitor that all bank details are correct. Never transfer money to a different bank account. Always confirm directly that emails regarding a deposit or mortgage funds are genuine.
Industry and trade bodies
When it comes to conveyancing, it’s crucial to know the legal professionals you are trusting to work on your behalf are regulated.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the body that monitors solicitors’ work and deals with complaints from the public in England and Wales. The SRA is the independent and regulatory arm of the Law Society, making and enforcing the rules that solicitors must follow.
A solicitor must act in your best interests and protect you in case something goes wrong during the conveyancing process.
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers regulates licensed conveyancers in England and Wales, dealing with any issues raised by clients.
Ensure any legal professional you instruct is regulated by either of these authorities.