What is a Conveyancer and What Do They Do?
A conveyancer is responsible for the legal process of buying and selling property. You should hire a licensed conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor once you’ve made an offer on a property or have had your offer accepted.
A conveyancer's role is to help with the settlement and title transfer process to ensure their client fully understands their legal obligations. They will be vital for the sale or purchase to run smoothly and will ensure your rights are protected throughout the transaction.
Both conveyancers and solicitors can help with the conveyancing process and the service won’t differ. You should only ever hire a conveyancer that’s regulated by the CLC, SRA, LSS, LSNI or CILEx.
What is a Licensed Conveyancer?
A conveyancer specialises in just conveyancing and most of the time they won’t have a broader knowledge of other law sectors. A conveyancer can help with:
- Sale of property
- Purchase of property
- Sale and purchase of property
What is a Conveyancing Solicitor?
A conveyancing solicitor also does conveyancing but is usually qualified in other aspects of property law including:
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What is the Difference Between a Solicitor and a Conveyancer?
Solicitors aren’t allowed to act on behalf of both seller and buyer, as this is classed as a conflict of interest by the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA).
However, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) allow conveyancers to represent both the buyer and seller, which could benefit some situations as well as complicate others.
Some people prefer this for an efficient process and better communication, while others believe that conveyancers who represent both sides can lead to indiscretions and delay the process.
The choice is yours and will be based on personal preference.
Is There a Difference in Cost?
It’s common for both conveyancers and solicitors to pay referral fees to estate agents to help gain clients. The only difference is that the SRA requires by law that solicitors disclose their fees to their clients, while the CLC doesn’t require conveyancers to do this.
Solicitors usually charge more than conveyancers as they are more qualified in a range of property law. Be aware of solicitors or conveyancers who charge an hourly rate as it looks cheap at first, but tends to add up quickly. Most conveyancers and solicitors operate on a fixed price conveyancing service these days.
What Does a Conveyancer Do?
A conveyancer has a vitally important role, from the moment you instruct them right up until completion day.
1. Open a Purchase File
Once you’ve instructed a suitable conveyancer or solicitor, their first job will be to open 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 as part of basic money laundering checks. 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, or 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.
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.
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:
- A Property Information Form - Referred to as the TA6 Form, in this document, the seller legally must disclose everything about the property. This can include anything from neighbour disputes to previous building work.
- A Fittings and Contents Form - Known as the TA10 Form, this should outline what fixtures and fittings the seller is including 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.
- A Leasehold Information Form - Also called a TA7 Form, 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, 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.
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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How Much are Conveyancing Costs?
The average conveyancing fees for buying a house are £2,239 and £1,690 for selling a house. Conveyancing costs will vary, often depending on the cost of your house and the conveyancer you choose.
Below are the average conveyancing buying costs for the average price of a house, costing between £200,001 and £300,000:
Legal fee & VAT
Potential other costs
Find out more: How much are conveyancing costs?
What is Fixed Fee Conveyancing?
Fixed fee conveyancing is when a fixed price is agreed for your conveyancing process beforehand, it won’t change. It's common for a lot of UK conveyancers to operate a fixed fee service, but not all conveyancing solicitors will use it as some still work at an hourly rate.
A fixed-rate service, also known as fixed price or flat rate conveyancing, is often preferred by customers as it allows them to budget for the expected costs rather than to have an estimated amount with possible surprise costs added on.
Find out more: What is fixed fee conveyancing?
What is No Sale No Fee Conveyancing?
“No sale, no fee” conveyancing is a service offered by some conveyancers that means if the property sale or purchase falls through, you don’t have to pay for the conveyancer’s legal fee. It’s important to note, you might still have to pay for other third-party services such as the property searches and your surveyor.
Find out more: What is no sale no fee conveyancing?
How Long Does Conveyancing Take?
The conveyancing process can take anywhere between 8 and 12 weeks from the point the sale is agreed. The conveyancing process will vary for everyone, depending on whether you’re in a property chain or not. If you are a first-time buyer or don't have a property to sell, this means you are chain-free and ultimately should experience a quicker conveyancing process than those who have to sell a house first.
Find out more: How long does conveyancing take?
Where Can You Find a Conveyancer or Conveyancing Solicitor?
Finding the right conveyancer will provide you with peace of mind, ensure a more efficient process and potentially even ensure a quicker transaction.
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.
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Do I Need to Hire a Conveyancer?
It’s not a legal requirement to hire a conveyancer or solicitor when buying or selling a property, but it’s highly recommended as it’s a complicated legal process without their help. If you’re buying with a mortgage or buying a leasehold property, then it requires further legal steps, making it even more vital to use the expert services of a conveyancer.
It's important to note that if you've chosen a conveyancer but are later unhappy with their services, you can change solicitors during a house sale or purchase.
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 the stages of the conveyancing process. To learn more read Stages of the Conveyancing Process - Buying and Selling