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. Watch our video to learn more about conveyancing and what happens during the conveyancing process.

  • Ellie-Mae Johnson Deputy Conveyancing Manager
    Ellie Mae Johnson

    Deputy Conveyancing Manager

    Published November 22nd 2023

young family unpacking after a successful move into their new home

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.

Like most people, you’re probably wondering what conveyancing means, how the conveyancing process works, how long it will take and how much it will cost. Read our article for more information on what is involved in conveyancing, or watch our short video below.

What are the steps in the conveyancing process?

1. Complete your details

First, your estate agents will send your conveyancer a copy of the Memorandum of sale, which provides the details of the property, the amount offered and the name of the sellers and buyers and their solicitors. 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.

2. 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, the amount and to pass on the property details.

3. Complete and return forms

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.

4. Arrange a surveyor and review property searches (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 homebuyer'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. 

You will also need review the results of the conveyancing searches which your conveyancer will have arranged.

5. Issue of contract

Any enquiries raised between the conveyancer's will then be sent to you a legal report. This will contain information about the title to the property and a preliminary draft of the contract and 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.

6. Deposit payment required

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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. Deed of Title

You will receive a copy of the title information document showing you as owner a few weeks later.

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Who does the conveyancing?

When you’re buying a property, you will need several advisors to help you.

  • Your conveyancer will complete the legal work and organise transferring ownership to you.

  • A financial or mortgage advisor will explain the differences between mortgage types and help to find the best mortgage deal for you.

  • A surveyor will advise you on the structure of the property.

When selling, you will only need to appoint a conveyancer. Your conveyancer will create a contract pack which includes the contract, title, an official plan, and information about what is included with the sale and will liaise with your buyers’ solicitor.

What exactly does a conveyancer do?

A conveyancer will do slightly different things depending on whether you are buying, selling, or both.

Your conveyancer when buying a house will:

  • Check the title deeds

  • Decide which property searches that you need

  • Organise the transfer of ownership to you

  • Send enquiries to the seller’s solicitor, usually via email

  • Check through your mortgage offer

  • Agree a completion date with all parties involved

  • Organise the transfer of monies

Your conveyancer when selling a house will:

  • Create a contract pack

  • Answer enquiries from the buyer’s solicitor, such as providing copies of planning agreements

  • Request a redemption statement if you have a mortgage

  • Send you the contract to sign

  • Agree a completion date with all parties involved

  • Organise the transfer of monies

These lists of tasks aren’t exhaustive, find out more about what a conveyancer does during the conveyancing process in our short video.

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 16-24 weeks for a purchase.

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

  • You are buying and selling and there is a chain involved

  • Your property is a leasehold

  • You are using other funds to help you buy, such as a gifted deposit, or Lifetime ISA

  • You are buying a probate property

  • There are delays from your buyer or seller

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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