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What is Conveyancing? The Conveyancing Process Explained

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1st Oct 2018 (Last updated on 30th Mar 2020) 9 minute read

Conveyancing is a required service when buying and selling a property. Many people may not be familiar with the process, especially if they're a first-time buyer. But, in short, it concerns the legal aspects of transferring ownership of your home.

There’s a lot to consider when you’re buying or selling a house. From hiring a surveyor to finding an appropriate mortgage lender, there are many services involved. Conveyancing is one of them. The conveyancing process includes conducting property searches, exchanging contracts and finalising the sale. It’s a vital process to the transaction, ensuring it’s completed legally.  

To help you with your research, Compare My Move has compiled the ultimate guide on everything you need to know about conveyancing solicitors and their process. From a step by step guide to how much conveyancing costs, we’ve included everything you need to know to help you through the process.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What is Conveyancing?
  2. What Does a Conveyancer Do?
  3. Who Does Conveyancing?
  4. Conveyancing Solicitor vs Conveyancer
  5. The Conveyancing Process Step by Step
  6. How Much Does a Conveyancer Cost?
  7. What is a Transfer Deed?
  8. How to Find a Reliable Conveyancing Solicitor

What is Conveyancing?

Conveyancing is a term that refers to the legal and administrative work that comes with transferring the ownership of land or buildings. A licensed conveyancer or a conveyancing solicitor will work on behalf of the person buying or selling the property to make sure the necessary contracts and documents are signed and transferred.

You will need to get a licensed conveyancer after you’ve agreed an offer on a house with the buyer or seller. Conveyancing will be a vital service for both the buying and selling of a property. When buying, the process will last until you receive the keys and when selling, it ends when you hand the keys over. Conveyancing is one of the main costs of buying a house.

What Does a Conveyancer Do?

Your conveyancer will help take care of the legal side of buying and selling a house, with the ultimate goal being the transfer of ownership. They will ensure that the necessary documents and administrative duties are carried out.

Main responsibilities include:

  • Council and utility company searches
  • Land registry searches
  • Advisory duties
  • Checking contracts
  • Liaising with mortgage lenders
  • Liaising with the seller/buyer’s solicitor
  • Finalise contracts
  • Pay fees and sale price

The first thing a conveyancer will do once your offer has been accepted, is to work with utility companies and the local authority to search for existing liabilities, such as building plans or financial hangovers from the previous occupant. They'll uncover any building plans in the nearby area too, such as a prison or high-rise flats. The searches will reveal if any sewers run near the house and identify if the house is at risk of flooding. Your conveyancer will let you know if you need to get indemnity insurance, too. Read our guide to find out what is indemnity insurance.

Your conveyancer will give advice and explain the conveyancing costs from your property purchase or sale, like Stamp Duty. They will read through and check all contracts and documentation on your behalf. These documents will contain vital information like property boundaries, sale price, fixtures and fittings included in the property, etc.

Once you’re happy to proceed, the buyer's conveyancer will meet the mortgage lender and make sure they have all the necessary information. Their final task and responsibility is to pay all related fees and the sale price of the property, before registering you as the new owner of the house.

Who Does Conveyancing?

As well as licensed conveyancers, conveyancing solicitors are also legally trained to do conveyancing. Conveyancing solicitors are highly qualified and specialise in a variety of fields in property law. Whereas licensed conveyancers specialise in conveyancing only. 

It's not illegal to do your conveyancing yourself, however it's not advised as there are many risks included. These risks could delay or even stop the transaction altogether. It'll save you valuable time getting a professional to do the job.

What is the Difference Between a Solicitor and a Licensed Conveyancer?

Both licensed conveyancers and solicitors are regulated and qualified to undertake conveyancing. They’re both regulated by professional associations that set standards of practice and offer protection for their clients. Licensed conveyancers are regulated by the CLC (Council of Licensed Conveyancers) and solicitors are regulated by the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) and the Law Society.

Whilst both licensed conveyancers and solicitors are qualified to carry out conveyancing, the main difference is that conveyancing solicitors will be trained in a variety of legal fields in addition to conveyancing. Licensed conveyancers specialise in conveyancing only, arguably having more of an in-depth knowledge of conveyancing.

The Conveyancing Process Step by Step

Whether you’re buying or selling your house, you will need a conveyancer for the process. Here, we have broken down the process for both buying and selling a house. The conveyancing process for both buying and selling will start once an offer has been agreed upon.

Below are the 6 main steps that'll occur during the conveyancing process, followed by a quick breakdown for both buying and selling.

what is conveyancing

Conveyancing Process for Buying 

Here we will highlight the main tasks a conveyancer has to carry out during the conveyancing process for buying a house.

Step 1Instructions to the Conveyancer

After a sale price has been agreed by the seller, you will need to instruct your conveyancer. They'll provide you with a legal contract pack including a ‘fittings and contents’ form and the property information form which will be sent by the seller’s conveyancer. At this point, buyers usually arrange for a property survey for their new house. Remember to compare surveyors to get the best price for your survey.

When? Instructing the conveyancer will be the first thing you'll do.

Step 2 - Receive Draft Contract

Your conveyancer will receive the draft contract from the seller's conveyancer and you will get the essential documents for the purchase.

When? The draft contract will be completed from weeks 0-3.

Step 3 – Conveyancing Searches

The buyer’s conveyancer will then carry out property searches with utility companies and the local authority to check for existing liabilities. For example, building plans or financial hangovers from previous occupants.

When? Searches take place from weeks 2-8.

Step 4 - Agree on the Completion Date

Conveyancers on both sides will agree on a completion date that suits everyone involved. Be realistic with the date you choose, give yourself enough time to sort everything out. 

When? Completion date will be decided on before exchanging contracts.

Step 5 - Exchange of Contracts

The buyer’s conveyancer will gather all the final documents ready to exchange. These will include the transfer and mortgage deed. The seller’s conveyancer will check the transfer deed, final contract and all the essential documents. They will then send everything to the seller for a signature in readiness for completion.

When? Exchanging contracts should happen after 8 weeks.

Step 6 – Completion

A conveyancer’s final task is to pay all related fees and the sale price of the property before registering you as the new owner with the Land Registry. The buyer’s conveyancer will send the required fees to the seller’s conveyancer, or the seller’s conveyancer will request and redeem the fees from the buyer’s side.

When? Completion can take place anywhere from 7-28 days after exchanging contracts.

Conveyancing Process for Selling

These are the main steps for the conveyancing process for selling a house.

Step 1 - Instructions to the Conveyancer 

After a sale price is agreed, the first step will be to instruct your conveyancer. You'll have to fill in the necessary paperwork and legal documents before they can start the process.

When? Instructing your conveyancer will be the first thing you'll do.

Step 2 - Get in Touch with Your Mortgage Lender 

Your conveyancer's first job will be to contact your mortgage lender to retrieve the title deeds for the property. Your mortgage lender will be able to send your conveyancer the remaining balance to pay for your mortgage.

When? This needs to happen before exchanging contracts

Step 3 - Draft Contract

Your conveyancer is responsible for creating the draft contract to send over to the buyer's conveyancer for signing. The contract will include important details such as the price, fittings and fixtures, planning restrictions and any legal restrictions.

When? 0-3 weeks in to the conveyancing process, draft contracts will be created.

Step 4 - Agree on the Completion Date

Both parties will need to agree on a completion date. Make sure you know everything will be sorted before that day when agreeing to it.

When?  You will agree on a completion date after the draft contract has been signed.

Step 5 - Exchange of Contracts

The final step will be to exchange contracts with the buyer's conveyancer. The buyer will then be able to pick up the keys and begin to move in.

When? Exchanging contracts should happen after 8 weeks, then completion will happen 7-28 days after.

How Much Does a Conveyancer Cost?

Conveyancing fees will vary, often depending on the cost of your house. The cost for a conveyancer is typically between £500 and £1,500 plus VAT. Below are the average costs of conveyancing for the average price of a UK house. According to the UK House Price Index summary, the average house price in June 2019 was £230,292. It's important to note that a variety of factors can influence your conveyancing costs. But to help with your research, we've created a broad overview of the costs for an average priced freehold house. 

These are the conveyancing buying costs for the average price of a house, costing between £200,001 and £300,000 (not including stamp duty).

Conveyancing Buying Service 

Cost of Service

Legal Fee & VAT£1,040
Conveyancing Searches
Land Registry Title Deeds
Land Registry Transfer of Ownership£135
Telegraphic Transfer Fee£40

These are the conveyancing selling costs for the average price of a house, costing between £200,001 and £300,000.

Conveyancing Selling Service

Cost of Service

Legal Fee & VAT£1,000
Land Registry Title Deeds£6
Telegraphic Transfer Fee

*We took a sample of fees from 50 licensed conveyancers across the UK to find these averages, but this is just an indication of costs. Fees will greatly vary depending on your situation and conveyancer.

For further details and a deeper analysis of conveyancing prices, you can find Compare My Move's data here in our Conveyancing Costs guide.

What is a Transfer Deed?

The transfer deed is arguably the most important document in the conveyancing process. A transfer deed is the final document that legally transfers ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer. It will be sent to the Land Registry to complete the transfer of ownership.

It comes in four standard forms, either TR1, TR2, TR3 or TP1, with TR1 being more commonly used. The transfer deed form TR1 is used within the majority of sales since this is for a transfer of the whole of a title by the registered owners.

The transfer deed is drafted by the buyer's conveyancer and has to be signed by the seller. It has to be submitted after the draft contract has been approved and before exchanging contracts.

How to Find a Reliable Conveyancing Solicitor

Get connected with Compare My Move to help save you time, money and stress throughout your conveyancing process. Simply fill in our quick form and we’ll provide you with up to 5 licensed conveyancers or conveyancing solicitors in your local area.

Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having written for Huffington Post and Film Criticism Journal, Martha now regularly researches and writes advice articles for everything moving house related.