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What Do Conveyancing Solicitors Do and What is the Process?

08 Apr 2019

What Do Conveyancing Solicitors Do and What is the Process?
Conveyancing in the legal process and transfer of home ownership from the seller to the buyer.

The process is carried out by conveyancers or solicitors and starts when you have an offer accepted and continues until the keys are finally handed over.

Although this is an essential part of selling your home, it is often a process that is complicated and many people are unsure what is involved with conveyancing. It is possible to do the conveyancing process yourself if you are not taking out a mortgage, which can save you a few thousand pounds in legal fees. However, as most of us will be in the position of needing to take out a mortgage, you will need to find a solicitor or conveyancer when purchasing a home. The estate agent will usually recommend a conveyancer they work with, but you should shop around and get quotes from elsewhere as they might not always be comparable in price.

Instructing a Solicitor or Conveyancer

The first part of the process is choosing who you want to handle your conveyancing process and instructing them to carry out the work. This will involve finding a solicitor that you are happy to carry out the work and getting a quote that you are happy to pay and can afford. You don’t have to choose a local solicitor but it can help with some of the processes in getting forms signed and sent across if your solicitors are local. But many solicitors have an online process now which makes sending documents across easy. Fees purely for your conveyancer can range from around £850 to £1,500 on average.

Legal Work

The first part of the conveyancing process will involve all of the legal work related to your property and putting the documentation together. Your solicitors will examine all of the draft documents and supporting documents. They will also need to carry out an ID check in line with the Government’s regulations and this will involve getting your identification verified by an official such as your solicitors, a mortgage advisor, a doctor, accountant or financial advisor. This will need to be photocopied and signed, along with a declaration from the person checking the document to ensure it is an acceptable form of identification. You will also need to provide evidence of the source of funds to your solicitors to prove that you have funds to buy the house.

Property Searches

This is the next part of the legal process and is usually the only part that will require payment up front from your solicitors or conveyancers. You will need to pay for the property searches before the completion and this is usually around £400 on average but make sure you know how much you will have to pay upfront before instructing your solicitors. The Property Searches include the following;

  • Local Authority Searches – these searches are used to find information about plans from the local authority for things such as new roadways or works that could affect your property
  • Checking Title Register – your solicitors will check all of the legal documents to prove the seller’s ownership of the property
  • Checking Flood Risk – part of the service generally involves carrying out a flood risk assessment, although it might not be needed if there are no rivers or bodies of water nearby
  • Water Authority Search – this will include information on how the property gets its water and if public drains could prevent any extension works
  • Chancel Repair Search – this relates to medieval liability for church repairs on a property, although the law was changed in 2013 so this isn’t always undertaken
  • Environmental Search – this will provide information about the land surrounding your property and if there are any environmental hazards such as contamination
  • Optional Searches – there are generally other optional searches that are location specific such as mining searches or extra local authority searches

It might be worth checking which searches are included as part of your quote as something that isn’t included might be a vital piece of information for your purchase. If it isn’t included then it will usually cost you extra.

Conveyancing for your Mortgage

One of the most essential parts for your conveyancing process is your solicitor's conveyancing for your mortgage and putting everything in place. Once you have got your mortgage in place, the lender will send documentation across to your solicitors who will check through everything. And ensure that it is all in order. The solicitors will then handle the transfer of funds such as your deposit and the mortgage. Before contracts are exchanged, you will also need to have buildings insurance in place as you will immediately be responsible for the building. You can usually arrange this with your mortgage lender as this is the easiest way to get this in place.

Signing and Exchanging Contracts

This is into the final part of the process and your solicitor will now need to ensure that all enquiries that you have about the property have been answered before you sign contracts. You will also need to make sure that all fixtures and fittings are what you expect. You will then get a completion date in place that both parties agree to. This will also include arranging the transfer of your deposit to the solicitors. You will then need to visit the property and ensure that everything is still in order and all fixings are in place.

The next part of the process will involve the exchanging of contracts, which your solicitor will do for you. If you are in a chain then this is the part that can be held up, as the solicitors will only exchange if the rest of the chain is in place to do so. So if one person pulls out then everyone will need to wait until this is resolved. Once you have exchanged contracts you are legally bound to the sale and if you do not complete will still be liable to pay for 10% of the property.

After Completion

Once you have completed, you are now in the final part of the process and your solicitors will work through tying up any loose ends. This involves lodging an interest in the property, meaning the deeds are frozen for 30 days and you have time to pay the seller and transfer the deeds into your name. The seller will then move out and leave the keys with the estate agent for you to collect once it is confirmed that all money has been paid. Your solicitors will also tie up final details such as stamp duty, and sending through copies of your title deeds and legal documents.

This is a long drawn out process and is the reason why buying a property can often take at least 4 – 6 weeks after your offer has been accepted. In truth, things can actually take longer so you shouldn’t be too concerned if this process is taking its time. Make sure you stay in contact with your solicitors throughout the process.