A Conveyancer's Expert Guide to the Conveyancing Process

A Conveyancer's Expert Guide to the Conveyancing Process

Hayley Hellon

Hayley Hellon


February 18, 2022

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When you’ve finally found the perfect property, a homebuyer will need to use a specialist to complete the conveyancing process. From securing the title and land rights to putting in necessary property checks, a conveyancer plays a vital role when it comes to the complex legal processes of buying a house. 

While it’s not necessarily a legal requirement, allowing the professionals to handle the stages of conveyancing will make your life a whole lot easier. The alternative option of completing the conveyancing process yourself comes with multiple risks and it is not recommended.

There are thousands of excellent and dedicated conveyancers who will guide you from start to finish through the home buying process. Now, you’re probably asking “what is the conveyancing process?” We’re here to help.

In this ultimate guide to the conveyancing process, we’ll give you a step-by-step rundown of the stages of conveyancing as well as an overview of the conveyancing process timeline. That way, you’ll know what to expect when you’re buying a new home. Let’s get into it.

What is a Conveyancer? 

Before we get into the details of the conveyancing process timeline, you’re probably wondering what is conveyancing? And what does a conveyancer actually do?. 

A conveyancer is a property law specialist that ensures all the legal aspects of a sale are in order. For example, they will make sure the contract is watertight and all the relevant government bodies are informed that you are the new owner. 

They work on behalf of both buyers and sellers and will handle the legalities and paperwork surrounding domestic properties such as houses and flats as well as commercial buildings and land. They’ll step in once you’ve agreed on an offer for the property in question, but you can also reach out to them earlier in your house hunt. 

What’s the Difference Between a Conveyancer and a Solicitor? 

While conveyancers and solicitors essentially carry out the same task, there are also slight differences between the two. 

A conveyancer is regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) and is trained specifically in all aspects of buying and selling a property. On the other hand, a solicitor is a qualified lawyer - which means they would be able to handle complex legal issues in other areas that don’t involve property. 

At this point, you might be wondering whether you should choose a conveyancer or a solicitor. While you can use either to land your dream home, it is worth keeping some factors in mind. 

Firstly, a conveyancer will usually be less expensive - even though they come with all the specialist knowledge that you need to complete a sale. What’s more, they can represent both the seller and the buyer -which in many cases can make the process quicker. On the other hand, a solicitor tends to be more costly because they are trained as lawyers so can offer general legal services as well. A solicitor might be busy with other legal cases and could even be busy attending court hearings while working with you. 

Regardless of whether you choose a conveyancer or solicitor to proceed with the conveyancing process, they will act as your main point of call when handling contracts, dealing with the land registry, and providing legal support. 

Still not sure whether to choose a conveyancer or a solicitor for your property purchase? Take a look at this handy comparison below.

What to Look for in a Property Conveyancer?

Before you begin the stages of conveyancing, you need to contract the services of a conveyancer. There are a number of important factors to keep in mind when choosing the right conveyancer. 

Your conveyancer should be: 

  • Highly recommended - It’s recommended to put in a bit of research and figure out which conveyancer is best for your situation. Ask around friends and family members for their recommendations. Also, check out legal review sites to read the feedback that’s been left for conveyancers you’re considering working with.
  • Efficient - Conveyancing should not be rushed, but you should be looking for a service that is thorough and efficient. Look for reviews on how long conveyancers take and what their working style is like. Find out how many other clients they are currently working with to better understand how much time they can set aside for you. 
  • Embracing the latest technology - Old methods slow the conveyancing process down and could prove to be more costly. Your search should be focused on conveyancers that can provide a digitalized service that includes features like a self-service portal and virtual ID verification.  This will save you a lot of time and streamline the entire process.

The Conveyancing Process: Step by Step

Now that you know what a conveyancer does and you know what to look for in a conveyancer, let's breakdown the stages of conveyancing:

Step 1: Property Offer Accepted and Conveyancer Instructed

Once your offer on a house has been accepted, it’s time to hire a representative to step in and start the conveyancing process.

This is also known as ‘instructing’. This is because you instruct the conveyancer to begin the conveyancing process on your behalf. 

To get the ball rolling, a buyer’s conveyancer will confirm the instruction in writing and also provide the client with details of the terms of business and their fee (known as a Client Engagement Pack). It is important that buyers carefully read all the information and paperwork that has been provided to them. What’s more, don’t hesitate in maintaining a dialogue with the conveyancer as well as ask any questions that may arise. 

Here are just some questions you should ask your prospective conveyancer:

It’s normal for a conveyancer to request an upfront payment of around £400. He or she will use this money to do preliminary searches such as ID checks and obtain information from the Land Registry. Conveyancers are required to do these searches to rule out any fraud or criminal concerns.  After that, you aren’t required to pay any further upfront fees until the contracts have been exchanged later down the line. 

Your conveyancer will then liaise with the seller’s conveyancer to get hold of a contract pack. This paperwork (that your conveyancer will later comb through) includes

  • Draft sales contract
  • Fixtures, Fittings and Contents form (TA10)
  • Property Information form (TA6)
  • Leasehold Information Form (TA7 - if property is leasehold)
  • Land Registry title documentation
  • Energy Performance Certificate

At this point, you should also start looking into property surveys. It may be a good idea to purchase home buyer’s insurance. Again, while a conveyancer will do everything in their power to make sure a property purchase goes through, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Is Home Buyers Insurance worth it?

Home Buyer Protection Insurance is designed to help you cover legal fees and mortgage lending costs should a house sale fall through. However, it is not a legal requirement to buy this level of insurance, but we recommend exploring the options available to you.

While every conveyancer will do their utmost to make sure a property purchase is completed, unexpected issues (like the seller pulling out or your offer being gazumped) can happen. This can leave a large dent in your finances if you’ve already paid for property surveys and begun a mortgage valuation. 

You can expect to pay somewhere in the region of £50 to £100 for Home Buyer’s Insurance.

Here are some additional benefits of getting home buyer’s insurance:

Step 2: Enquiries and Searches Begin 

At this point, your conveyancer will raise any pre-contract inquiries. What this means for the buyer is that your conveyancer will request proof of the origin of your funds as well as your mortgage offer. Proof of where you have obtained finances can include:

  • Completion documents from the sale of a property
  • A P60 payment slip
  • Documents that detail an inheritance 

Your conveyancer will also go through and check all the details of the contract pack. One of the important documents in this contract pack is the Property Information Form (TA6). This basically provides all the important information you need to know about the house you are buying. 

Here, the seller must reveal whether there are any disputes with neighbours (or if a neighbour has an ASBO). What’s more, structural details about extensions or environmental concerns like flood risks will also need to be stated here. They are also legally obligated to confirm if there are occupiers who currently rent the property. 

This document will even go as in-depth as revealing if there was a violent murder at the property. 

This part of the process is very important. If a buyer discovers later down the line that a seller has failed to disclose the relevant information, it could be classed as misrepresentation. Based on the Misrepresentation Act 1967, buyers can make a claim against the seller for financial compensation - or request to end the contract. 

What is the Caveat Emptor?

While your conveyancer will be well versed in the legal jargon involved with the purchase of a property, it is in your interest to also be aware of some key principles. 

When buying a house in the UK, the legal principle of Caveat Emptor is applied. This translates as ‘let the buyer beware’ and basically means the buyer is required to carry out due diligence and all the relevant checks before buying the property. As well as looking into physical and structural issues, the Caveat Emptor principle also applies to any legal concerns. 

During this step in the conveyancing process, your conveyancer will collect information about the property from the relevant authorities. They will then go through and check if there are any legal concerns related to the sale.

On top of this, local authority checks will be completed at this point. This will include looking into where drains are located and if there is a chancel liability (which means you are obligated to pay towards local church repairs). 

Step 3: Conveyancer Reports Back to you on Their Inquiries 

Having reviewed the information that the seller has provided and run all the necessary checks, the next part of the conveyancing process involves the conveyancer reporting their findings back to you. 

This means that they’ll send you all of the documents that have been checked for you to look over and sign. At this point, it’s vital you read the necessary documents to make sure it’s what you agreed to. 

In particular, you should carefully look through the Fittings and Contents form as this specifies what the seller is leaving in the property. If the contents are different from what you were previously told, now is the time to speak up. 

Step 4: Transfer Your Deposit Payment to Your Conveyancer

Once you’re happy with the findings of the conveyancer’s pre-contract inquiries, it’s time to start signing the necessary paperwork and arranging payments.

The first bit of paperwork your conveyancer will send you is the Registered title: whole transfer form (also known as a TR1) You’ll need to read and sign before sending back by recorded delivery. This is an official government document that kickstarts the transfer of the deeds into your name. 

You will then need to transfer your full deposit to the conveyancer, who will later complete the payment. This needs to be done before the contracts are exchanged and the property legally becomes yours. 

PRO TIP: You need to make sure that the deposit payment that you transfer to your conveyancer has cleared before the completion date. Keep in mind that some banks have limits on daily transfer amounts (so may require several payments over a few days), therefore be sure to check that you can do this in time. 

Step 5: Your Conveyancer and the Seller’s Conveyancer will Exchange Contracts 

The exchange of contracts can take place now that you, the seller, and your respective conveyancers are happy with all of the checks and are willing to proceed with the sale. At this point, your conveyancer will draft a transfer deed and send documents over to the seller. 

After the conveyancers acting on behalf of the seller and the buyer agree to a completion date, the contracts can be exchanged. This takes place by phone and will include the conveyancers reading out and agreeing to the terms laid out in the sales contract. They read the terms out to make sure that they are the same. Once completed, it means that the sale is legally binding and the property is almost yours. 

At this point, your conveyancer will run through some final checks to do with the property sale known as pre-completion searches. They will make sure that you haven’t gone bankrupt during the process (a K17 search), and an Official Search with Priority (OS1) will confirm that you have priority to purchase the land on which the house is built. They will also request the mortgage money from your lender to be paid before the completion day. 

Step 6: Completion 

While the time frame varies, there may be a period of a few weeks between the exchange of contracts and completion. This depends on the move-in date agreed within the sale contract. 

The term completion refers to the final day in the conveyance buying process. On completion day, your conveyancer will make sure that any fees payable such as your deposit are transferred to the seller’s conveyancer. Your mortgage lender will also release the mortgage payment. The seller’s conveyancer will provide a receipt that confirms they have received the funds and completion can go forward. They will also send through the Title Deeds and transfer documents. 

The seller is also obliged to vacate the property by this date and you will receive the keys to your new house. You can now pop the bubbly and start the process of moving into your new property.

Step 7: Post Completion Final Steps

Although you’ve got your hands on the keys and the property is officially yours, there are still some final steps left. However, you don’t need to put the champagne on ice. The final actions in this stage of conveyancing are your conveyancer’s responsibility.

Following the completion of the property purchase, it’s a legal requirement to inform the Land Registry of the new owner within 30 days. Your conveyancer will arrange for this to be done on your behalf once the completion date has arrived. Then, you’ll receive a copy of your new title deeds in return from the HM Land Registry. You’ll need to forward a copy of this to your mortgage lender. 

Many buyers in the UK will also be required to pay stamp duty on their new home. Stamp duty is essentially a tax that is collected by the government following the purchase of a house. Buyers usually have 14 days to complete this payment after completion. Your conveyancer will be able to advise you on how much you owe and arrange for stamp duty to be paid. 

PRO TIP: While the Stamp Duty Holiday has now come to an end, there are still some exceptions and discounts when it comes to paying this tax. Prospective buyers can use the Stamp Duty Land Tax Calculator to find out how much (if any) stamp duty they will need to pay.

You’ll also be required to settle any outstanding costs such as payment for your conveyancer. Although any sum that was paid at the start for initial searches should have already been deducted. 

How Much Does Conveyancing Cost? 

Conveyancing fees will depend largely on the type of property you are buying, but you can usually expect to spend between £1,000 to £1,500 on the work conducted by a traditional property conveyancer. You actually might expect to pay less for an online conveyancer - and they might also offer the added bonus of a ‘no completion, no fee’ agreement which can sound even more appealing. 

Click here to find out more about the pricing available at ProConveyancing.

How Long Does the Conveyancing Process Take? 

You can expect the conveyancing process to take roughly 12 weeks. However, it’s important to note that the conveyancing process timeline can vary wildly. 

There’s a number of factors to keep in mind when it comes to completing a conveyancing checklist on time. Firstly, there are a number of players involved in the conveyancing process and every step needs to be completed in order for the sale to move forward. Here are some examples of common disruptions to the conveyancing process timeline:

  • You’re in the middle of a housing chain
  • Buying a leasehold property - as there are more legal steps
  • Parties failing to send documents on time
  • Waiting for mortgage valuations to be completed

What is a Housing Chain? 

Like the term suggests, a property chain refers to an interlinked chain of buyers and sellers. This means you’ll be buying a property from a seller who is also in the process of buying a property from another seller, and so and so on - forming a chain. What’s more is that each buyer will also be working with their own conveyancers, mortgage lenders, and surveyors. 

While this might not necessarily derail the house buying process, it can sometimes lead to delays. For example, any issue that arises elsewhere in the chain can affect the entire process and everyone involved. A mortgage application falling through in an unrelated house purchase can slow down the length of time it takes you to achieve completion.

While some may suggest that it is best to try and avoid a property chain, in many cases it is unavoidable. That’s where an experienced conveyancer will prove invaluable, being able to guide you through the process. 

It’s worth remembering that the conveyancing process requires meticulous attention to detail to make sure that every document is in order. So, while delays may be frustrating, it’s better than the process being done incorrectly. 

How Can the Conveyancing Process Be Sped Up? 

A few years ago, a government survey found that one-third of home buyers wished that the legal process of buying a home could be completed quicker. However, the official Law Society conveyancing protocol also revealed that there were a whopping 70 steps and procedures that make up the conveyancing process.

Although it’s understood that the legalities of buying a house can take months, there are ways in which conveyancing can be streamlined and made more efficient. 

Here’s a handy infographic detailing the ways in which you can speed up the conveyancing process:

And finally...

And there you have it! From combing through the sales contract to paying your stamp duty, you can see how important a conveyancer is. What’s more, by understanding the conveyancing process, you can be even better prepared for what your conveyancer needs from you. 

Now that you understand the many stages of conveyancing, you can go forward and begin your search.. By taking the time to choose the right conveyancer who understands your unique needs, you will be able to complete this process quickly and efficiently.

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