Buying or selling a house can be confusing. Our Complete Guide to Conveyancing will help you understand the process that is at the heart of any move – conveyancing. We’re going to break it down and keep it simple so you can get to grips with what conveyancing is all about and stay in control throughout the process.
What is conveyancing?
Strictly speaking, conveyancing is the legal transfer of property ownership from one person to another. In practice, conveyancing includes all the processes and paperwork that ensure a sale or purchase is conducted properly.
Who needs conveyancing?
If you’re buying or selling a property, then you’ll need to go through the conveyancing process. A sale or purchase cannot take place without it.
Who can do the conveyancing?
There are a few options when it comes to who carries out the conveyancing:
• Licensed Conveyancer: a lawyer who specialises in property sales. A conveyancer needs to pass a series of exams and gain 1,200 hours of experience, before becoming licensed and qualified.
• Conveyancing solicitor: qualified solicitors are also able to act as conveyancers. Some specialise in the area while others are generalists. Using a conveyancing solicitor can work out to be more expensive than hiring a specialist conveyancer.
JARGON BUSTER Conveyancing solicitor
A conveyancer is a lawyer but not necessarily a solicitor – while a solicitor can be a conveyancing lawyer – confusing eh? The important thing is that both conveyancers and conveyancing solicitors (or conveyance solicitors) are trained, qualified and insured. All conveyancers are specialists in residential property while only some solicitors are.
The stages of conveyancing
• Choose a conveyancer:
There are lots of options when it comes to choosing a conveyancer. Gone are the days when you needed to find a local solicitor for conveyancing so that you could sign paperwork or inspect documents. You may want to stick with your family solicitor (if you have one) or might prefer to use a specialist conveyancer with the expertise and technology to keep you in the loop throughout the sale or purchase.
When looking for a conveyancer or conveyance solicitor it’s worth asking some key questions:
o What’s included in the price – and what costs may be extra?
o Will I be charged if the sale or purchase falls through?
o Will I have a dedicated conveyancer or solicitor?
o Can I make contact and find information outside of office hours?
o How can I keep track of the process?
Once you have chosen a conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor it’s time to get them to work. Give their details to your estate agent who will send them a Memorandum of Sale with all the key details.
You’ll also be asked to fill in some forms and provide ID, plus proof of residence such as a utility bill.
If you’re selling then now is the time to complete a fixtures, fittings and contents form. Meanwhile your conveyancer will be clarifying the situation regarding mortgages to ensure lenders are in the loop. If you’re buying, this is also the time to organise a survey to have an expert inspect the structure of the property – this is optional but may give you peace of mind on older properties (see below).
JARGON BUSTER Memorandum Of Sale
Think of a Memorandum of Sale as a fact pack for those organising the transaction. It will contain the address, agreed price, and details of the buyer, seller and conveyancer or conveyance solicitors. There may also be details about anticipated completion dates and what fixtures and fittings will be included, depending on what was agreed as part of the deal between seller and buyer.
• The contract pack:
The seller’s conveyancer will put together a draft contract pack with the contract, seller’s property information and the land registry documents. This will go to the buyer’s conveyancer to inspect.
Want to know if your dream home is at risk of flooding or built on contaminated land? That’s where searches come in ¬– and most mortgage lenders will insist on them. There’s a host of searches that can be carried out to learn more about the property and the area around it. Your conveyancer will spot potential issues and clear up any questions.
• Contract and legal report:
Once both sets of conveyancers or solicitors are happy it’s time to send out a legal report. This has all the legal info about the property and a first draft of the contract – plus a document called the transfer (TR1 form). The transfer shows that both sides have agreed to the sale – it literally transfers ownership. When everyone is happy, your conveyancer will organise for the paperwork to be signed.
Your conveyancer will work with your mortgage provider to make sure they are happy with all the details. They’ll then send you a mortgage deed to sign.
Here’s the scary bit – transferring the full deposit needed to secure the property. But don’t panic; if you’re buying and selling at the same time and using equity to pay your deposit, then the deposit you receive as a seller will normally be passed along the chain. Your conveyancer will take care of the maths and how the money moves around. Any fees will also be included in the final calculation.
JARGON BUSTER Deposit
Deposit can mean two things to house movers. It commonly means the difference between the mortgage amount and the house price. It’s the cash you have to pay on top of whatever you are borrowing. However, in the legal language of conveyancing, it means the amount that a buyer pays in advance and could lose if the sale does not happen because they pull out. It’s nearly always 10% of the total price. The two meanings are completely different so be careful not to confuse them.
• Setting a date:
Most property moves involve a chain of buyers and sellers. All the conveyancers and conveyancing solicitors will work together to agree a completion date.
With a date in the diary it’s time to legally agree the terms and sale date by exchanging contracts. This is a key moment as 10% of the sale price could be payable if completion doesn’t happen. Your conveyancer will double-check everything is in order before this step is taken.
It’s the big day! Your conveyancer will have arranged everything so that the right funds move to the right people on the day – and if you are selling, ensure that the money is in the bank. Once everything is in place the estate agents will be informed and it’s time to pick up the keys. Congratulations.
How about if I am only buying or selling?
The buying and selling conveyancing processes are different but with a lot of crossover. Sellers don’t need to organise searches and may not need to worry about mortgages if they’re not buying another property. The responsibilities of conveyancers vary if they are working for only a buyer or seller – and fees will be less.
How long does conveyancing take?
The industry average is 10-16 weeks. A super-fast process could take a few weeks if there are cash buyers and no chain – on the other hand it can take months to complete a sale if problems emerge that need investigating and resolving. Your conveyancer or solicitor is there to ensure things move as quickly as possible and will set a target date at the start of the process. They should also let you know what is happening at every stage – there’s nothing worse than being left in the dark when longing to move.
What about surveys?
Surveys involve an inspection of the property you are buying. Your mortgage provider is likely to insist on a basic valuation survey to establish a minimum value .Talk to your conveyancer, solicitor or estate agent about whether it makes sense to have a more indepth Homebuyers report, or a full structural survey that will provide more information and give greater peace of mind.
How much does conveyancing cost?
How much you pay for conveyancing will depend on whether you are selling, buying or both. Included in the cost will be fees for conducting the legal work itself, registering with the Land Registry, Stamp Duty Land Tax (or LTT if in Wales) and any searches that are carried out. Again, check what is included in the quote when choosing a conveyancer. You can use our Conveyancing Calculator if you want a quick, accurate cost estimate.
JARGON BUSTER Stamp Duty
Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is a lump-sum tax payable when buying a property over a certain price in England (In Wales, this is referred to as Land Transaction Tax). The government sets the rate of Stamp Duty (or Land Tax) and the rate goes up in stages – the more expensive the property the higher the rate will be. There is no Stamp Duty for properties under a certain value and reduced rates for first-time buyers.
• Auction conveyancing – what’s different?
Put in the winning bid at a property auction and you are contractually obliged to buy. The auction house will provide a legal pack, but it makes a lot of sense to have a conveyancer review all the information and carry out extra checks.
• Conveyancing for buy-to-let – what help do I need?
When buying a property to let it’s vital that you have the right sort of mortgage and you might need a licence from the Local Authority. Your conveyancer can advise on that, plus any additional issues that can arise with buy-to-let.
• Vacant possession – what does it mean?
Buying or selling a property with ‘vacant possession’ simply means it must be empty on the day of completion. Speak to your conveyancer if you have concerns that tenants may not move out as there are additional safeguards they can insist on. It is also possible to buy or sell with tenants remaining in the property (in situ) – your conveyancer will be able to help with this too.
• Leasehold and freehold – what’s the difference?
If you buy a property freehold then you own the building and the land it is on. Buy leasehold and you own the building (not the land) for a set number of years detailed in the contract. It is possible to own the leasehold and a share of the freehold – this is common for the sale of flats. It may also be possible to extend the length of the leasehold.
• First-time buyer – what’s different for me?
Things are simpler if you are a first-time buyer as you don’t need to worry about selling at the same time. There may be government schemes and incentives to help you get on the property ladder such as equity loan schemes and Lifetime ISAs.
• Re-mortgaging – do I need a conveyancer?
You’ll almost certainly need a conveyancer if you are re-mortgaging and moving to a new lender. If you’re sticking with the same lender and changing deals, there shouldn’t be additional legal work.
Conveyancing jargon buster
Still confused by the difference between searches and surveys, conveyancing solicitors and conveyancers? Check out our plain English guide to the specialist language involved in moving