An introduction to conveyancing

This brief guide explains what conveyancing is and the vital role it plays when it comes to buying or selling a residential property. 

Buying or selling a property will probably be one the largest and most significant transactions that you will ever be involved in. It can be a complicated business with various essential legal, statutory and other requirements that need to be made before the ownership of the property gets transferred from one person to another. Thankfully good conveyancing professionals will oversee the legal requirements and help guide you through the whole transaction process, ensuring that everything proceeds to completion without needless difficulties.

Conveyancing ultimately involves legally transferring home ownership from one person – the seller – to another person – the purchaser.

The whole transaction process typically starts from the moment an offer from the buyer on a property is accepted by the vendor to the moment that legal ownership of the home changes hands.

But who and what are generally involved in the crucial conveyancing process?

Solicitors and Conveyancers

The role that legal experts play is crucial to ensure the smooth transfer of ownership from one person to another.

Traditionally, solicitors undertook all conveyancing work, but there are also qualified conveyancers who can now undertake this work. However, all conveyancers must be licensed in order to charge a fee for conveyancing work.

Whether you select a solicitor or licensed conveyancer, it is important that they familiarise themselves with the house or flat in question and make all necessary legal checks about the property, ensuring that it belongs to the rightful owner so that the purchasers does not encounter problems further down the line.

They should also ensure that the property is free from any sort of encumbrances, easements and covenants that could obstruct the undisputed ownership of the property as far as the seller is concerned.

The conveyancing process

The three main stages as outlined briefly below:

Stage one:

  1. Once the vendor accepts the buyer’s offer, both parties exchange solicitors’ details*.
  2. The buyer’s solicitor contacts the seller’s solicitor.
  3. A draft contract is drawn up containing various details, including the agreed purchase price and information about the two parties.
  4. The buyer’s solicitor makes pre-contract enquiries.
  5. The buyer is sent a copy of the draft contract along with accompanying paperwork relating to the property.
  6. The purchaser’s solicitor applies to local council for local searches, checks the title, contract and papers, and raises queries with the vendor’s legal representative.
  7. Once the buyer is satisfied with the results of the searches, a contract is negotiated and agreed, which includes setting a completion date.
  8. The buyer will receive a formal mortgage offer**, if applicable. The mortgage deed will have to be signed by the borrower (purchaser).

Stage two:

  1. Contracts are exchanged, at which stage a non-refundable deposit of 10% is paid.
  2. The buyer’s solicitor prepares a draft transfer document and sends it to the vendor’s solicitor. This document, once signed by both parties, will transfer the title of the property from the seller to the buyer.
  3. The buyer’s solicitor arranges finalisation and signing of the purchaser’s mortgage documents.
  4. Final searches and enquiries are made by the buyer’s solicitor.

Stage three:

  1. On the day of completion, the buyer pays the balance (minus the deposit) of the purchase price for the property.
  2. Additional costs must also be paid on completion day; stamp duty, Land Registry and legal fees.
  3. Upon completion, the seller moves out and the purchaser can move in.
  4. The buyer receives the transfer documents and title deeds.

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* Generally, the same solicitor cannot act for both the purchase and the vendor a property. However, two solicitors of the same firm may be permitted to do so, on the condition that there is conflict of interests between those involved in the property transaction.

**Any mortgage offer is dependent on the property’s valuation – ‘The valuation’.

To get an initial idea of the value of your property before going to an expert, try our free tool.