Conveyancing - Preparing to sell - First time buyer

What is conveyancing?

5 min read

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring property ownership from one party to another. Below we explain what conveyancing is and what happens during the conveyancing process.

  • Ellie-Mae Johnson Deputy Conveyancing Manager
    Ellie Mae Johnson

    Deputy Conveyancing Manager

    Published June 19th 2024

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What does conveyancing mean?

Conveyancing is the branch of law specifically relating to the legal side of moving home. When you buy or sell a house, you will need a conveyancer or solicitor to complete the conveyancing process, so that legal ownership is transferred from one person to another.

What are the steps in the conveyancing process?

The conveyancing process begins once your offer has been accepted and a sale has been agreed. Watch our short video to understand exactly what conveyancing is and the process your conveyancing solicitor will go through to transfer ownership, or find the steps below.

Watch our video what is conveyancing: the conveyancing process webpage thumbnail

Duration: 2 minute 16 seconds

Instruct a conveyancer or solicitor

First, you’ll have to instruct a conveyancer to act on your behalf. When an offer has been accepted the estate agent will send to your conveyancer a copy of the memorandum of sale, which provides the details of the property, the amount offered, the name of the sellers and buyers and details of each of their solicitors.

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Complete ID checks

You will also be asked to complete some details and provide ID, such as a passport or driving licence and proof of residence in the form of a bank statement/utility bill, which your conveyancer will check.

If you are buying, arrange your mortgage

If you have a mortgage offer in principle (a statement to say how much your lender will lend you) you’ll then need to contact them to inform them that you have made an offer as well as the value of the offer and the property’s details. For more information read our guide to the mortgage process.

Provide instructions to go ahead

You’ll be asked by your conveyancer to complete your details and provide your ‘instructions’ (the go ahead for the conveyancing work to start). If selling, you will need to complete a fixtures, fittings and contents form and an information form providing specific details about the property. Your solicitor will also obtain details of any mortgages on the property and will ask lenders how much is outstanding so that this can be paid out of the sale proceeds on completion.

Arrange a surveyor (for buyers)

Once your lender has received all of your details, they will arrange for a surveyor to value the property. Now is a good time to consider whether you'll also want a home buyer's survey. Remember that the valuation report issued by the lender’s surveyor is very basic and not for your benefit, whereas home buyer reports are.

There are different levels of home buyer surveys, starting from a basic survey to a full structural survey, the latter is strongly recommended if you are looking at an old or listed property. If you’re not sure which level of survey to choose, a house surveyor should be able to advise.

Contract pack and property searches

The contract pack, which includes the contract, the seller’s property information forms and the Land Registry documents of title will then be sent from the sellers' solicitors to the buyers.

Once the buyers have the contract pack, their conveyancer will then order any necessary conveyancing searches such as Local Authority, Drainage, Environmental or locality searches. These searches don’t apply if you are selling.

Issue of contract and signing of documents

Any enquiries raised and answered between both conveyancer's will be sent to you in a legal report. This will contain information about the title to the property, a preliminary draft of the contract and the transfer for both seller and buyer to sign. You should read the contract carefully, sign it and return it to your conveyancer. The transfer is the legal document which must be signed in the presence of an independent witness over the age of 18 years.

For buyers, when your mortgage lender makes a firm offer, they’ll ask your conveyancer to check through any special conditions and verify whether the details are correct. Your conveyancer will send you a report and a mortgage deed to sign. The mortgage deed should also be signed in the presence of an independent witness over the age of 18 and then sent back to your conveyancer.

Pay the deposit

Once any outstanding issues with the searches, mortgage and enquiries are resolved, you'll need to pay your deposit. If you are buying and selling simultaneously, your conveyancer would normally use the deposit received from your purchaser to pass on to your seller, and the same will happen all the way along the chain.

Make sure you’re insured

It’s important to have buildings insurance in place from the exchange date. This will be a condition of your mortgage lender and protects your investment in the property.

Exchange of contracts

When the contracts have been exchanged, both seller and buyer are contractually bound to complete on the agreed completion date. The conveyancers usually exchange contracts over the telephone and then send the completed signed contracts by post.

Completion day

On the agreed day of completion, the buyer's conveyancer will send the outstanding balance to the seller’s solicitor by telegraphic transfer. As soon as they have confirmed they have received the monies, the keys can be released. The property will then have legally transferred ownership.

Informing Land Registry

Following completion, if you're the buyer, your conveyancer will pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on your behalf. They will also let the Land Registry know that you are the new owner of the property and that the mortgage lender has an interest in your property.

Deed of title

A few weeks later, you will finally either receive a copy of the title information document showing you as owner, or confirmation that you have sold the property.

How long does conveyancing take?

How long conveyancing takes, is mostly dependent on yours and your property’s circumstances and the current market conditions. As a general estimate, for a sale, you could be looking at around 10 weeks or around 12-24 weeks for a purchase.

The conveyancing process starts to get a bit more complicated, and lengthy when any of the below are applicable:

Find out more about how long the conveyancing process takes.

How much does conveyancing cost?

Conveyancing costs vary depending on many factors, such as if you are selling only, you could expect to pay around £600, whereas if you are buying and selling, you could be looking at a cost of almost £2,000. If you’re buying or selling a leasehold, you should also expect to pay more than if your property is a freehold. The best way to find out an estimated cost for your conveyancing is to get a quote, entering your details as accurately as possible. Alternatively, you can find a comprehensive list of conveyancing fees in our guide.

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