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What Does a Conveyancer Do?

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Gareth Brooks

18th Jan 2021 (Last updated on 30th Jul 2021) 12 minute read

A verified conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor's job is to help you through the legal process of buying or selling a house. You must hire a conveyancer once you’ve made an offer on a property or have had your offer accepted. Both sellers and buyers will require the assistance of a professional conveyancer to complete the transaction.

Despite being able to complete the conveyancing process yourself, it’s highly advised you hire a trusted, qualified and experienced conveyancer as it’s often a difficult and complicated process to get through. It is essential that the transaction is completed accurately as any error could result in the contract not being legally binding.

Our team at Compare My Move work alongside a number of property and finance experts to provide you with the most up-to-date and insightful articles that will help you through the process. In this article, we will explain exactly what a conveyancer does, why they’re important and how you can find a reliable and licensed conveyancer to help you with your transaction.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What is Conveyancing?
  2. 1. Open a Purchase File
  3. 2. Establish if the Property is Freehold or Leasehold
  4. 3. Organise Local Searches
  5. 4. Fill Out the Necessary Legal Forms and Gather Documents
  6. 5. Monitor the Progress of the Sale
  7. 6. Raise Queries and Carrying Out Checks
  8. 7. Request the Deposit
  9. 8. Agree on the Exchange and Completion Dates
  10. 9. After Completion
  11. Why is Hiring a Trusted Conveyancer Important?
  12. Where Can You Find a Conveyancer or Conveyancing Solicitor?
  13. Learn More About Conveyancing

What is Conveyancing?

Conveyancing refers to the legal process of buying and selling property. This includes the vital conveyancing searches that will provide you with more information about the home you are considering purchasing. It also includes the drafting and signing of contracts, which is just one of the many reasons why it's so important to work with a professional and verified conveyancer. To learn more, read What is Conveyancing.

A conveyancer's role is to help with the settlement and title transfer process and to ensure their client fully understands their legal obligations. They will be vital for the continuation of the sale and will ensure you're rights are protected throughout the transaction.

As a quick overview, some of the main jobs a conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor will have include:

  • Understanding your personal requirements and timescale.
  • Reviewing the house
  • Liaising with mortgage lenders and the seller/buyer’s conveyancer.
  • Applying for Land Registry searches.
  • Reviewing all documents obtained.
  • Preparing the contract for signature.
  • Ensuring the contract is legally binding.
  • Arrange the final details of the settlement.

To provide a more in-depth description of what a conveyancer does, we've listed a few of the most vital steps included in the conveyancing process.

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1. Open a Purchase File

Once you’ve instructed a suitable conveyancer, their first job will be toopen a purchase file and provide you with their terms of engagement. This will explain their conveyancing fees and the deposits you will need to pay, whilst the file will contain a form asking for your basic details.

The purchase file will also require the details of your estate agent and mortgage lender. If you’re a buyer, your conveyancer will enquire about the deposit and how you intend to pay. You will also be expected to provide some form of photo ID, such as a passport or driving license. By this stage, you should then be given a quotation that is based on all the information you’ve provided. However, it’s important to note that this estimate may change if the legal work becomes complex.

Your conveyancer will then contact the other party’s solicitor and obtain a draft of the contract as well as any other vital forms and documents, such as the property’s title deeds.

However, if you’re selling, your conveyancer will also ask the estate agent for a memorandum of sale which will contain the details of everyone within the property chain. You will also be asked to complete a number of legal questionnaires concerning the property and what you’re willing to include in the sale.

2. Establish if the Property is Freehold or Leasehold

Whilst drafting the contract, your conveyancer will establish whether the property is freehold or leasehold.

Freehold means you will have absolute ownership of the property and its land. It is when the owner is “free from hold” from any third party and is responsible for the property, land and its maintenance. Most houses are freehold but it’s vital your conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor checks.

When a property is Leasehold it means that you will own the property subject to the provisions of a Lease and for a fixed term of years, but you will not own the land on which it stands.

The land upon which the property stands is known as the ‘Freehold’ and will be owned by the Landlord/Lessor referred to in the Lease or the person/company registered at the Land Registry as the owner of the Freehold.

3. Organise Local Searches

A buyer can’t tell everything about a property just from the viewings. There could be hidden defects, problems with planning permissions, things affecting its overall value. As part of their role, your conveyancer will arrange a number of essential local searches to provide further information about the land and building. Some of these searches will be demanded by your mortgage provider whilst others will be a legal requirement.

The results will highlight any factors you need to be aware of as a buyer. This includes developments being planned in the area, local radon gas emissions, plans for new roads and the risk of ground instability. You may also receive a Flood Risk Report and information concerning contaminated land. All of these are issues that will affect you as an occupant, should you purchase and live at the property.

Your conveyancer will also discuss the need for a property survey. Whilst the conveyancing searches will uncover legal factors that affect the property and local area, they do not assess the physical condition of the building. Property surveys are inspections of the property and its internal structure - they highlight defects that will affect the valuation of the home and will uncover any problems that may need extensive repair work.

A conveyancer's job will be to inspect the results of both the local searches and property survey to aid you in the negotiation process. The information that emerges may provide evidence that will ensure you’re in a stronger position to negotiate the price, both as a buyer and seller. It may even convince you to walk away from the sale altogether.

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4. Fill Out the Necessary Legal Forms and Gather Documents

Once the seller’s solicitor has drafted the contract, it needs to be sent to the buyer’s conveyancer, along with the Title, or Deeds, for the property. The Deeds for homes sold at least once since 1990 will be available online with the Land Registry.

The buyer’s conveyancer will also have to retrieve the property's 'protocol documents’. This includes a number of forms, including:

  1. A Property Information Form - In this document, the seller must disclose everything about the property. This can include anything from neighbour disputes to previous building work.
  2. A Fittings and Contents Form - This should outline what the seller is willing to include in the sale. For example, a seller may be willing to leave behind the fridge or furniture. The seller must leave everything stated in this form and cannot take or leave behind any belongings not already cleared in this document.
  3. A Leasehold Information Form (if applicable) - If you’re buying a leasehold home such as a flat or apartment, you will require this form to explain all the factors and responsibilities that come with purchasing the property. It will explain the amount of ground rent and maintenance fees the occupant is expected to pay and will contain the contact details of the freeholder or management company.

5. Monitor the Progress of the Sale

One of the main roles a conveyancer will have is keeping their client up-to-date on how the process is progressing. They should keep a clear line of communication and answer any questions or queries they may have. Transactions with long property chains will often be delayed, meaning communication will be even more essential.

According to data from Quick Move Now, over 43% of house sales fell through in 2020, with the top reason being that the buyer pulled out of the sale. In 2019, 24.42% of property sales fell through, with the number one reason being, again, the buyer changing their mind. During that same year, 9.09% of sales failed due to a break in the property chain. It is problems such as these that you must be made immediately aware of by your conveyancer.

6. Raise Queries and Carrying Out Checks

To ensure progress continues, your conveyancing solicitor will thoroughly go through all the paperwork involved in the sale. They will also raise any questions or queries they have with the conveyancer acting on behalf of the other party involved. From questionable Flood Risk Report results to discrepancies in the Deeds, they will handle everything.

If they uncover any problems, the process might be slightly delayed until a solution is found. However, it’s essential that the process is done correctly. Once the queries brought up have been rectified, your conveyancer's next job will be will send you the documents to sign and return.

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7. Request the Deposit

For the next stage in the process, the buyer’s conveyancer will request the deposit for the property purchase. This will typically be around 5-10% of the purchase price, depending on their mortgage agreement.

The payment will likely be made online through a bank transfer, but multiple payments over a number of days may also be accepted depending on the bank’s daily limit. There is also the option of transferring the money via CHAPS, but this often comes with an added cost of £10-£35. If the payment is made before 3 pm, it will clear the same day.

Many buyers opt for a single transfer as the exchange date can often be arranged close to the date of completion as a result.

8. Agree on the Exchange and Completion Dates

Next, your conveyancer will have to negotiate the date of exchange with the other party’s solicitor. The date of exchange will be the day you exchange contracts and the sale becomes legally binding.

Once the contracts have been signed and exchanged, your conveyancer will then have to arrange the date of completion. The completion day is when the buyer obtains the keys to their new home and they can begin to move in. You shouldn’t book a removal company until you have the definitive completion date, however. The sellers will need time to move out before the buyer can arrange plans.

It’s important to note that this stage of the process will also be when your conveyancer collects any outstanding payments. These funds will need to be cleared before completion. This stage may require some compromise until a date for both days can be agreed upon, but they will then signify the end of the sale and the successful transfer of ownership with the Land Registry.

9. After Completion

The buyer will now officially own the property and hopefully be settled in. However, the conveyancer’s job won’t be complete just yet.

If you’re buying the property, they will have to pay Stamp Duty on your behalf, using your funds and check the documents were successfully sent to the Land Registry. Your mortgage lender should also receive a copy of the Deeds from them. After approximately 3 weeks, you should be sent your legal documents back from the Land Registry as confirmation that you are the new owner.

If you’re the seller, you will have to pay your estate agent and receive any remaining legal documents that confirm the sale was successful. You should also receive any outstanding payments before the conveyancing process is complete.

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Why is Hiring a Trusted Conveyancer Important?

Properties are costly, and so it’s vital that the legal process is completed without mistakes and that the right searches are carried out so that you’re aware of exactly what you’re buying. Any mistake could lead to a dispute or mean that ownership has not been transferred in the eyes of the law.Whilst it’s possible to do your own conveyancing, it’s highly advised that you hire a trusted and experienced conveyancer to ensure the transaction is legal and that ownership has indeed been accurately transferred.

The benefits of hiring a conveyancer include:

  • Having the vital knowledge and experience to complete the conveyancing process and the paperwork involved.
  • Being prepared for each stage of the transaction.
  • A more efficient conveyancing process with potentially fewer complications.
  • A clear line of communication throughout the property chain.
  • More accurate results from any and all conveyancing searches organised.
  • Having an extra set of experienced eyes to go through the contract.

Where Can You Find a Conveyancer or Conveyancing Solicitor?

Now that you understand the role of a conveyancer, it’s time to find one appropriate for your circumstances. There are a number of ways to find a reliable conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor - but no matter where you search, research is key in choosing the right professional for the job.

Finding the right conveyancer will provide you with peace of mind, ensure a more efficient process and potentially even ensure a quicker transaction. There is the option of choosing an online conveyancer, but this won’t be as personal as they will be working with more than one client, ensuring their time is split between multiple transactions.

You can find a conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor by:

  • Visiting a comparison website like Compare My Move
  • Going through a mortgage provider’s panel
  • Reviewing recommendations
  • Searching a specific location

No matter how you find them, it’s vital you research the conveyancing solicitor thoroughly before you begin working with them. Look at their reviews and research properties they have previously worked on. Ask trusted family and friends for recommendations and carefully review the company’s website, ensuring you’ve read every small print. You will also have to enquire if they are working on a “No Sale No Fee” basis.

If you’re using a conveyancer recommended by a mortgage lender, estate agent or housing developer, you may end up paying more. You should be wary of any recommendations you receive and do your own research to ensure they are reliable and qualified experts. As part of your research, you should ask who they are regulated by. To provide added protection and ensure you receive quality services, your chosen solicitor must be regulated by either the SRA, CLC, LSS or LSNI.

By comparing conveyancing quotes with Compare My Move, you will be connected with the best conveyancers in the business. All our partners must go through our strict verification process and be fully-regulated before entering our network. They are then constantly monitored by our business team, ensuring they continue to work to our high standards.

Learn More About Conveyancing

This is part of our conveyancing guide. In the next part of this series, we explore everything you need to know about conveyancing searches. To learn more read what are conveyancing searches.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

Gareth Brooks

Reviewed by Gareth Brooks

Solicitor and Partner at RMNJ Solicitors, RMNJ Solicitors

With 19 years of experience in the residential conveyancing industry, Gareth Brooks is a partner and head of management for the conveyancing department at RMNJ Solicitors.