Here's a little secret - anyone can do their own conveyancing. Yes, DIY conveyancing is possible and you do not have to have a solicitor, despite what some people tell you. However, it's always better to have a legal professional on your side.
Brief guide to Do it Yourself conveyancing
Here's a very brief guide to what you would have to do if you want to have a go - but before going any further, you might just like to consider the potential cost savings. Bear in mind that the only money you save will be the solicitor's own costs and the VAT on them.
You will still have to pay for any searches you want (more on that below) as well as stamp duty if you are buying a home for more than £125,000 (first-time buyers are exempt from stamp duty up to £300,000).
You will also have to pay a fee to the Land Registry for the property's title to be transferred into your name. And, of course, you should still consider having a professional building survey done.
If you are buying with a mortgage, then your lender will appoint their own conveyancing solicitor to act for them. This is to ensure their mortgage is properly registered against your title after completion. Of course, the lender will expect you to pay their solicitor's costs, so you will still end up paying some legal fees - so you might find you save little or nothing at the end of the day.
Another thing to bear in mind is that if anything goes wrong on the legal side, you won't have anyone else to blame. If you have a propery lawyer, they will have professional indemnity insurance against errors on their part.
Sounding a little too much at this stage? You may be surprised at the low cost for a conveyancing solicitor. Why not get a quick quote today? You can view your quote instantly, online.
Conveyancing on your own house purchase.
Still want to have a go? Read on....
If you still want to give it a go, this is an outline of the work involved in buying a property.
This assumes that (a) you are a cash buyer and do not need a mortgage, and (b) you are buying a freehold property with a registered title:
- Make sure that the sellers' agents pass your contact details on to the conveyancing solicitor acting for the sellers.
- The sellers' solicitor should send you a draft contract for approval, together with a copy of his clients' registered title and property plan. They may also send a property information form completed by the sellers, together with a list of fixtures, fittings and other items being included in the sale.
- Some law firms are reluctant to deal with buyers acting for themselves. However, there is no reason for them not to; you can refer them to the Law Society's advice on this issue. They are not there to give you any advice, but on the other hand, they should not take unfair advantage of your lack of legal knowledge.
- You will need to check the details of the contract to make sure that it is satisfactory and does not include any unreasonable conditions. Residential property contracts usually incorporate the Law Society's Standard Conditions of Sale, but these are not always set out in full. You will need to read these through as they regulate the legal obligations of the buyer and seller.
- Also check the land registry title - such titles can be very simple or cover several pages. Obviously you will need to check that the title is for the correct property and that the plan shows the property you are expecting to purchase. You will also need to check whether the people named as the registered proprietors are the same as the sellers named in the contract - if not, you would have to find out why.
- If there is anything on the title or in the contract that you don't understand, you will need to consult appropriate legal textbooks. Don't expect the sellers' solicitor or the land registry to help you. You might find something suitable in your local library (if it's still open!), but be careful, library books are often years old and out of date. The same can also apply to some websites.
- Having checked the information you have received, you will probably have some further questions, either about the property itself or the contents of the documents. If you have already received information forms completed by the sellers, any further questions can be raised in a letter or email. If you haven't had these forms, you could ask the sellers' lawyer to complete the standard forms; otherwise you would have to try and obtain copies to send to them. You can see the standard forms (usually TA6 and TA10) on the Law Society's website, but you can't print or download them.
- Decide if you want any searches - for more information about them see our separate page. If you are a cash buyer you can decide not to bother with searches, but then you will be stuck with anything that might have shown up if you did them.
- For a local search, information about search fees and how to make an application can usually be found on the local council's websites - sometimes under the heading ‘Local Land Charges.' You can also go to the council offices to make a personal search. There are also several companies that carry out local searches and any other searches that you might need. If you do have searches carried out, you will need to check the replies carefully. You should also enquire with the council as to how long searches take.
- Sometimes you might need to ask the seller for more information or to supply copies of documents such as a planning consent.
- When you have got replies to all your enquiries and are satisfied that the seller's title is in order, you can agree a completion date with the sellers - that is the date on which the property will actually change hands.
- You can then sign one copy of the contract, and arrange to exchange contracts. You will be expected to provide a deposit on exchange, normally 10 percent of the price, which will be held by the sellers' lawyers until completion.
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At this point you will be ready to exchange contracts. This is when the contract becomes binding, and you will be committed to complete the purchase. Solicitors exchange contracts on the phone, in accordance with a protocol laid down by the Law Society.
It is unlikely that you will be allowed to do this, as the protocol requires undertakings to be given by legal professionals. So you might have to go to the sellers' solicitors' office to do the exchange in person. Alternatively you could send them your copy of the contract and cheque for the deposit, and ask them to hold these to your order until you agree an exchange with them over the phone.
After exchange, the following steps need to be carried out
- You should receive the copy of the contract signed by the sellers - make sure that this is identical to the one you signed, and has the correct completion date.
- You will need to send a completion information form (TA13 from the Law Society's website) although probably you can just ask the sellers' law firm to let you have replies to the standard form.
- It is also customary for the buyer's conveyancing solicitor to prepare a draft land registry transfer, so you may need to do this. The form can be downloaded from the Land Registry's website for free. The form usually required is TR1, but other forms may be required in some cases. Complete the form as necessary and send it to the sellers' lawyers for checking and signing.
- If the sellers have a mortgage on the property, or any other financial charges, you will want to make sure that necessary undertakings are given to discharge them immediately on completion.
- Before completion, you will need to make a Land Registry search on form OS1 to check that there have not been any changes to the sellers' registered title. This also "freezes" the register so no further changes will be made until you submit the application for the transfer (which has to be done within the specified priority period.) See the Land Registry's website for more information on how to do this.
- You could arrange to complete in person, but normally this is done through the post. On the day of completion, you will have to arrange with your bank to send the balance of the purchase money by CHAPS transfer (often called telegraphic transfer.) When the money has been received, the keys should be released to you so you can move in.
After completion, there is still much legal work to do
- You should receive the transfer signed by the sellers (and any other title deeds) within a day or so. If not, chase it up.
- You will also need confirmation that any existing mortgage has been discharged - you may just get a letter confirming this has been done electronically or you may be sent a form signed by the lender.
- You will have to complete a return form for Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) and pay any duty. For full details on this, see the HMRC website.
- When you have obtained confirmation of payment of the SDLT, you can send your application for registration of transfer to the Land Registry, together with the signed transfer, the correct fee and any mortgage discharge form. The form to use for this is AP1. You will be required to provide evidence of your identity as mentioned on the form.
- If all is well, you should receive back a copy of the revised register showing you name as the new owner. If not, the registry may send you "requisitions" requiring further information or for documents to be amended.
So can you really do your own conveyancing?
Well, the answer is still yes, you can do your own conveyancing.
This outline is only intended to give a brief guide to the steps involved in an ordinary house purchase, there may be much more involved in complex cases or leasehold properties. You would be advised to learn something of basic land law and contract law to have a better understanding of what is involved.
If you are buying jointly with someone else there are other issues in connection with joint ownership that you would need to consider. The Land Registry has published some useful general guides for the public, as well as much more detailed practice guides aimed at legal professionals. All these can be accessed from their website, and all the registry forms can be freely downloaded.
Before you decide to give it a go, why not try Homeward Legal for a quote for conveyancing costs? You may be pleasantly surprised at how little it costs to get the services of a fully qualified Solicitor, who will save you the hassle of handling all the legal work.