What Is Conveyancing

When coming across the term for the first time, or maybe having never thought about it in great detail before, many people find themselves asking ‘what is conveyancing exactly’? Simply speaking, conveyancing is the legal transfer of property or land from one party to another. This means that the conveyancing process must be carried out whenever a person buys or sells a property or land. Depending on the transaction, conveyancing can be a complex process and should always be carried out by a licenced conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor. This article will explain the role of a conveyancing solicitor in detail, and the legal process they will follow when employed by you to assist in buying a new property.

Conveyancing Explained

As previously mentioned, conveyancing is the term covering the legal and administrative process that comes with the transfer of ownership of buildings or land from one person to another. A licensed conveyancer or a conveyancing solicitor is instructed by the person buying or selling a property to make sure the necessary searches are conducted, fees are paid to the appropriate parties and contracts and documents are signed and transferred, amongst other things.

You should ‘instruct’, or employ a licensed conveyancer once an offer has been agreed on a property. It is important to get quotes from several firms to find the best conveyancing solicitors as it is an important service involving large amounts of money when both the buying and selling property. It is equally important not to be drawn in by unusually cheap conveyancing quotes without examining the service and breakdown of costs each company offers. You might find later on that some costs have been hidden though recent transparency laws are now in place to tackle this. If you are unsure about the exact service they offer, ask to have conveyancing explained to you in their terms and go from there, The conveyancing process lasts until you get/hand over the keys to your home so it’s important to know what’s going on.

Instructing A Conveyancer

Once a sale price has been agreed, you should instruct your chosen conveyancer. They will provide you with a legal contract pack including a ‘fittings and contents’ form and a ‘property information’ form. These will be obtained from the seller’s conveyancer. Remember to make a comparison of the best conveyancing solicitors before committing.

At this point, buyers usually arrange for a property survey for their new house.

Whether you are selling or buying a property, or as often is the case, both, you should think about hiring a Conveyancing Solicitor as soon as is practicable. There are plenty of things that they can be preparing and getting on with, such as drawing you up a ‘terms of service’ and obtaining the title deeds for your home. The sooner they can do this, the less delays there should be along the way (in theory anyway).

What Will My Conveyancer Do?

Conveyancing is a detailed and complicated legal process, and we recommend that you always use a qualified and experienced professional. Your conveyancer will:

  • Liaise with the seller’s solicitor and ask for a contract pack.
  • Conveyancer confirms instructions by letter setting out the terms of business and fixed fee costs.
  • Checks the contract pack, raises pre-contract enquiries.
  • Ask for a copy of your mortgage offer.
  • Conduct the necessary local authority searches.
  • Raise any queries brought up by the searches.
  • Buyer’s Conveyancer prepares a draft transfer deed and completion information form and sends these to the seller’s Conveyancer for completion.
  • Arrange exchange/completion dates with both parties.
  • Exchange contracts with the seller’s conveyancer.
  • Arrange the transfer of your deposit to the seller’s conveyancer.
  • Prepare the completion statement and transfer deeds which you must complete.
  • Transfer signed transfer deeds to the seller’s conveyancer.
  • Request payment of the mortgage from your lender.
  • Arrange the wire transfer of the balance of the purchase price to the seller’s conveyancer.
  • Pay Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) to HM Revenue & Customs if necessary.
  • Forward documentation for the legal transfer of ownership to the Land Registry.
  • Forward title deeds to your mortgage lender.

Let us look at some of these terms in closer detail:

Property Searches?

Property searches, or conveyancing searches are enquiries made by your solicitor to find out about any underlying issues regarding a property you plan to purchase. Your conveyancer will carry out these searches with the local authority and other parties.

The main searches when buying a property are:

  • Local Authority Search
  • Water and Property Search
  • Environmental Search

They include issues such as whether planning permission is in the pipeline for a future development that would adversely impact your property and its value, the quality of the ground on which your property stands or issues with common drainage and access rights.

The conveyancing searches must be completed and approved before you exchange contracts and you become legally committed to purchasing the property. These searches may highlight additional costs which may arise further down the line meaning you could re-negotiate price or decide not to go ahead with a troublesome purchase.

Planning A Completion Date

Once the contract pack, mortgage offer and local authority searches have been completed and appraised by your conveyancing solicitor, they will relay any issues to you. As an example, issues might include:

  • Access rights that might cause future disputes
  • Amy contaminated land the property is situated upon.
  • Flood risks.
  • Whether the council are planning any major road works very close to your new home
  • Any planned structural developments close to the property you are buying.

Once it has been established that there are no off putting problems brought up by the enquiries, you will discuss possible exchange/completion dates with your solicitor and agree a date with the seller’s solicitor. Your conveyancer will deal with the contract exchange and transfer your deposit to them.

Exchange

Once the above process has been dealt with, your conveyancer will put together the final completion statement, transfer deed and mortgage deed which you will sign. This will outline the money you will pay upon completion.

Final checks will be made to ensure no changes have been made to the Land Register since the initial searches were carried out. The seller’s solicitor will then be sent the signed transfer deed. Contracts will be exchanged and the deposit will be sent to the seller’s solicitor. Once exchange has taken place, you are legally bound to buy the property.

Completion

Completion is when the sale is finalised and the property is legally yours. You are now the registered owner of the property. Your conveyancer will ask for your finances from the mortgage lender, transfer the balance of the sale price and receive a signed Transfer Deed.

Your conveyancing solicitor then take possession of the title deeds, transfer deeds and proof of outstanding mortgages.

After Completion

After completion has taken place (and if you have a mortgage) , your conveyancer will send your deeds to the lender. They will arrange for any Stamp Duty to be paid to HMRC and send the necessary documents to HM Land Registry which will register you as the rightful property This must be done within 30 days of completion of the purchase or you will be liable for penalties.

HM Land Registry will send the title deeds to your conveyancer which will be passed onto your mortgage lender. If you are a cash buyer, the title deeds will be sent to you.

Can I Do My Own Conveyancing?

Most people hire a Conveyancing Solicitor or licensed conveyancer to undertake the legal side of property purchase/sale. However, in theory, it is possible to do the Conveyancing yourself though it is advisable to think about this very carefully as it is a complex legal process and if things go wrong it can have far-reaching, not to mention extremely expensive consequences. For example, if part of the process is carried out inadequately you could find yourself involved in costly legal disputes over boundaries or discover you missed the planning of a new motorway to be built opposite your home. Worst case scenario, you could even miss that the seller did not have the legal right to sell the home.

Very few home-buyers undertake the Conveyancing themselves, for three main reasons:

  1. Mortgage lenders – Many mortgage lenders will insist that you instruct a Conveyancing Solicitor as this will protect their interests. They will not risk having inadequate Conveyancing work on a property they have an interest in.
  2. Risk – Conducting your own conveyancing there is a much higher risk of things going disastrously.
  3. Other Parties – Other people involved in the transaction may not be happy (quite rightly so) with you doing your own Conveyancing. They might reject your offer on this basis alone due to issue 2 above.

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