To “prospective homebuyers” – who haven’t heard the term before – the mention of conveyancing can sound pretty confusing, but don’t worry, we’re here to explain everything, from what a conveyancer does to why you need one, how to get the best out of them, and even where to find one.
What is a conveyancer?
In simple terms, a conveyancer is a legal professional that deals with property transactions. Whether they’re a solicitor, a property lawyer, or a licensed conveyancer, this is the person who deals with the legal side of a home move, specifically making sure the transfer of ownership from one party to another is carried out properly. Their job starts when your offer on a house is accepted and ends when you get the keys.
What exactly does a conveyancer do?
If you hire a conveyancer, they will perform a series of tasks on your behalf that are essential to completing the purchase of your new property.
Carry out property searches
The conveyancer will perform a number of legal searches to discover if there are any issues involving the property you want to buy. For instance, what if there are plans to whack a new motorway at the bottom of the garden? Or maybe there’s a public right of way that crosses the property. These are the kinds of things a Local Authority search will turn up.
They can also find out about the land the property sits on, and whether there is risk from flooding, contaminated ground, or instability for example.
They’ll also check the Land Registry for documents that prove the seller has ownership of the property, which is a legal requirement.
Liase with the seller’s conveyancer
Your conveyancer will communicate with the seller’s conveyancer (probably in weird legal-speak that most normal people wouldn’t understand) so they can exchange the necessary paperwork. This includes drawing up a contract for the sale, as well as supplying the Title Deeds for the property you’re buying. They’ll also request a number of protocol documents, which are forms that include vital information about the property from the seller.
Check the paperwork
As and when your conveyancer gets their hands on the forms and reports they will check them to make sure everything is above board. If they have any queries it is up to them to contact the seller’s solicitor for answers.
Your conveyancer will prepare you for signing the contract drafted by the seller’s conveyancer. At this point all enquiries about the property need to have been resolved, and you should have confirmed you’re happy with the fixtures and fittings as listed. Both parties need to have agreed a date to complete the sale, which is normally a week to a month after contracts have been exchanged, though it can vary.
Take the deposit
Once you’ve signed the contract, it’s time to hand over your deposit to your conveyancer to ensure it is ready for transfer upon exchange. This amounts to 10% of the value of the property (or 5% if you have a 95% mortgage), and if that’s not scary enough, you will lose this money if you decide to pull out of the purchase later on.
Be aware some banks limit the amount you can transfer to £10,000 per day, so you may need to make several payments. Otherwise, you can do a CHAPS transfer which will clear the same day if you do it before 3pm, and will cost you between £10 and £35 depending on the bank you’re using.
When you’ve agreed with the seller a time to exchange contracts, your conveyancer will contact the seller’s conveyancer to complete the process. This involves the two of them reading the contracts to each other over the phone to ensure there are no discrepancies before posting them to each other.
Once this is done you are now in a legally-binding contract to buy the property on a fixed moving date. The deposit which has been sitting in your conveyancer’s account as cleared funds will now be transferred to the seller’s account, and if you fail to complete the purchase of the property then you can wave goodbye to that money. On the other hand, the seller is now also legally obliged to sell you the property, which means they can’t now accept an offer from another buyer – unless they want to be sued!
Register an interest in the property
The conveyancer will contact the Land Registry to inform it you intend to take ownership of the property. It will then freeze the deeds of the property for 30 working days in preparation for them to be transferred to your name once you’ve applied for and paid the rest of the money to the seller.
Complete the purchase
Before completion day, your conveyancer will send you a statement telling you how much money needs to be paid to complete the purchase of your new property. The funds need to be cleared into your conveyancer’s bank account at least a day before the date of completion. They’ll also secure the mortgage funds from your lender in time for completion.
This is also the point when they will give you the final bill to cover the cost of their legal work and any payments they made to third parties on your behalf, as well as the stamp duty.
Then, on completion day, the conveyancer will transfer all the money to the seller’s conveyancer by same-day CHAPS transfer, and once they’ve confirmed it has been received, they’ll call to give you the good news before telling the estate agent to hand you the keys.
Tie up loose ends
Now that you’re the happy owner of your new home, your conveyancer will take care of the final things to be completed. This consists of contacting the Land Registry again to inform them you’ve taken ownership of the property, paying the stamp duty for you, and sending a copy of the deeds to your mortgage lender to hold until the mortgage has been completed.
Why do you need a conveyancer?
If you’ve read all that and decided you’re happy to take it all on yourself, then by all means go ahead. But moving home is plenty stressful enough without adding the duties of a conveyancer to your workload. That’s why the vast majority of homebuyers pay a professional to take on the responsibility for them.
How to get the best out of your relationship with your conveyancer
Although you are paying your conveyancer to perform their role in helping with your house buy, you’ll find it’s also your responsibility to make sure they’re making progress. There are many points along the way where things can grind to a halt if your conveyancer isn’t being proactive, so it’s in your best interests to chase them whenever you feel things are going too slowly. Otherwise, what can already be a long and drawn-out process can end up dragging on even further.
To help things go smoothly and give your conveyancer less excuses for delays, it’s also your responsibility to give them everything they need to move things forward. That means making payments on time, signing forms as soon as possible and generally taking care of anything on your side of things promptly. Make sure the ball is always in their court!
How to choose a conveyancer
One choice is whether to go for a conveyancer or a solicitor. While they are both legal professionals, conveyancers specialise in property transactions, while solicitors usually deal in other areas as well, which means they are sometimes less focused. Solicitors are also more expensive, but if you’re facing a potentially complicated transaction, say one that involves a boundary dispute, then they will be more qualified to deal with any other legal issues that might rear their ugly heads.
Furthermore, if you’re getting a mortgage and want to avoid paying an extra £200 in bank representation fees, you’ll need to choose a conveyancer or solicitor that’s already approved by your lender. In this case, check with the conveyancer which lenders they deal with before you secure your mortgage.
If your estate agent recommends a conveyancer, don’t just plump for them without shopping around first. While it might seem convenient, the chances are you’ll find a better deal elsewhere. The easiest way to looks for deals is to use a comparison site to collect multiple quotes from a variety of different conveyancers.
How we can help you find a conveyancer
You may have realised by now that the role of the conveyancer in a home buy is pretty crucial, which means you should choose wisely when it comes to recruiting one. However, buying a house is expensive enough, so you need to make sure you’re getting the best service for your money.
By using our price comparison widget, you can easily browse a variety of conveyancing firms to discover the one that’s right for you. To save you time, effort and money, we’ve gathered the details of dozens of reputable conveyancers in one convenient place, so you don’t have to trawl through a load of different sites – try it now.