Conveyancing – Definition, Overview & FAQ
What is conveyancing?
Definition: Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring property ownership from one person to another.
It is a crucial aspect of buying and selling real estate, ensuring that the transfer is legally valid, and that the rights and responsibilities of each party are clear and enforceable.
Conveyancing involves a series of legal steps and documentation to ensure the property is transferred according to law. This process typically includes checking the legal title of the property and ensuring there are no issues that could affect future ownership or use.
The conveyancing process is usually carried out by conveyancers or solicitors. These professionals handle the legal aspects, including drafting and reviewing contracts, conducting property searches, liaising with local authorities, and managing the transfer of funds.
Conveyancing process explained
The conveyancing process is a series of legal steps involved in transferring property ownership from one party to another. It is typically undertaken by a conveyancer or solicitor and encompasses various stages:
- Instruction and Initial Checks:
a. The buyer and seller each appoint a conveyancer.
b. The conveyancer conducts initial checks, confirms their instructions, and sets out their terms of business and fees.
- Drafting and Reviewing Contract:
a. The seller’s conveyancer prepares a draft contract, including details about the property, sale price, and any other relevant terms.
b. The buyer’s conveyancer reviews the contract and raises any queries based on the property documents and information provided.
- Property Searches and Enquiries:
a. The buyer’s conveyancer conducts various property searches to identify any legal or local issues that might affect the property’s value or use, such as planning restrictions, environmental hazards, or disputes.
b. They also raise enquiries with the seller’s conveyancer to clarify details and resolve any issues revealed by the searches.
- Mortgage and Financial Arrangements:
a. If the buyer is purchasing with a mortgage, the conveyancer will liaise with the mortgage lender to ensure the mortgage offer is in place and conditions are met.
b. The buyer arranges for the deposit to be in place for exchange.
- Exchange of Contracts:
a. Once all queries are resolved, both parties sign final versions of the contract.
b. The contracts are formally exchanged, legally committing both parties to the transaction. A completion date is set.
c. The buyer typically pays a deposit at this stage.
- Pre-Completion Preparations:
a. The buyer’s conveyancer prepares a completion statement, organizes the final funds for purchase, and carries out pre-completion searches.
b. The seller’s conveyancer prepares to repay any existing mortgage on the property.
a. On the completion date, the buyer’s conveyancer sends the balance of the purchase price to the seller’s conveyancer.
b. Once funds are received, the seller vacates, and the keys are released to the buyer.
c. The property ownership is officially transferred from the seller to the buyer.
- Post-Completion Formalities:
a. The buyer’s conveyancer pays Stamp Duty Land Tax on the buyer’s behalf, if applicable.
b. They also register the new owner of the property with the Land Registry.
c. The seller’s conveyancer ensures all mortgage debts on the property are cleared.
- Closing the Case:
Both conveyancers confirm completion and close their files, providing the necessary documentation to their clients.
Who performs the conveyancing?
Conveyancing, the legal process of transferring property ownership, can be carried out by different types of professionals:
- Solicitors: These are qualified legal professionals who handle various legal matters, including conveyancing. Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in England and Wales. They often work within law firms and can provide a wide range of legal services beyond just conveyancing.
- Licensed Conveyancers: These are specialists in property law who are specifically trained to handle conveyancing. Licensed conveyancers are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) in England and Wales. Unlike solicitors, their expertise is solely focused on property transactions.
- Property Lawyers or Legal Executives: In some cases, legal executives who specialize in property law can also carry out conveyancing. They are usually part of a legal team in law firms and work under the supervision of solicitors.
- DIY Conveyancing: Technically, it’s possible for individuals to carry out their conveyancing, but this is not commonly recommended due to the complexities and legal risks involved. Property transactions involve intricate legal processes and paperwork, and mistakes can be costly.
When choosing a professional for conveyancing, it’s important to consider their experience, reputation, and the level of service they offer. Costs can vary, so it’s also advisable to get a few quotes and understand what is included in their services.
How long does conveyancing take?
The duration of the conveyancing process can vary significantly depending on a range of factors, but typically it takes between 8 to 12 weeks from the acceptance of an offer to completion. However, this timeframe can be shorter or longer based on several key elements:
- Property Chain: The length of the property chain can greatly impact the duration. A chain-free transaction, such as buying a new build property or selling to a first-time buyer, can be quicker. Conversely, a long chain of buyers and sellers can lead to delays.
- Mortgage Approval: The time it takes for a buyer to receive mortgage approval can affect the timeline. If there are delays in mortgage processing, this can extend the conveyancing period.
- Searches and Surveys: The time to complete various property searches and surveys can vary. Delays in receiving these reports, or issues identified needing further investigation, can prolong the process.
- Legal Complexity: The complexity of the legal aspects of the transaction, such as issues with the property’s title, planning permissions, or leasehold matters, can also influence the timeframe.
- Buyer and Seller Circumstances: The readiness and circumstances of the buyer and seller play a role. If either party has specific requirements for moving dates or faces unexpected personal circumstances, it can impact the timeline.
- Communication and Efficiency: The efficiency of communication between all parties involved (buyers, sellers, conveyancers, estate agents, mortgage lenders) can either expedite or delay the process.
- Market Conditions: In a busy property market, the increased volume of transactions can lead to general delays, affecting conveyancers, lenders, and search agencies.
The cost of conveyancing
The cost of conveyancing can vary widely depending on several factors, including the location of the property, its value, the complexity of the transaction, and whether you’re buying, selling, or doing both. Here’s a general breakdown:
- Conveyancer’s Fees: These are the fees charged by the solicitor or conveyancer for their professional services. These can range significantly based on the firm’s reputation, the complexity of the transaction, and regional variations. As a rough estimate, you might expect to pay anywhere from £500 to £1,500 for conveyancing services, but this can be higher for more expensive or complex properties.
- Disbursements: These are additional costs incurred by the conveyancer on your behalf, including:
– Search Fees: Costs for various property searches, such as local authority, environmental, and water searches. These can total £200-£300.
– Land Registry Fees: Charges for registering the property with the Land Registry. These fees depend on the property price but typically range from £20 to £910.
– Bank Transfer Fees: Usually a small charge for transferring funds, often around £40-£50.
– Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) in England, Land Transaction Tax (LTT) in Wales, or Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) in Scotland: These are property taxes that vary based on the property price and the buyer’s circumstances. The conveyancer will handle the payment but it’s a significant additional cost for the buyer.
- Additional Costs for Leasehold Properties: If you’re buying a leasehold property, additional fees might apply for things like obtaining the leasehold information pack, which can add £200-£400.
- VAT: Remember to consider VAT, which is typically charged at 20% on top of the conveyancer’s fees.
- Estate Agent Fees: If you’re selling, estate agent fees may also be a part of your overall costs, though these are separate from conveyancing fees.
It’s important to get a detailed quote from your conveyancer at the start, which outlines all the expected fees and disbursements. This will give you a clearer picture of the total cost. Also, it’s wise to shop around and compare quotes from different conveyancers, but remember that the cheapest option isn’t always the best in terms of service quality.
Who carries out conveyancing?
Conveyancing is typically carried out by a conveyancer or a solicitor. Conveyancers are specialized in property law, while solicitors can handle a broader range of legal matters.
Can I do my own conveyancing?
While it’s legally possible to do your own conveyancing, it’s generally not recommended due to the complexity of the process and the risks involved. Mistakes can be costly and legally problematic.
What are conveyancing searches?
Conveyancing searches are inquiries made to various authorities to uncover any legal, environmental, or financial issues with the property that might affect its value or ownership.
Do I need a conveyancer for a leasehold property?
Yes, conveyancing for leasehold properties can be more complex than for freehold properties, due to additional factors like ground rent and service charges.
Can conveyancing be fast-tracked?
While some aspects can be expedited, conveyancing typically has to follow a set process. However, good communication and prompt responses can help avoid unnecessary delays.
What if the conveyancing process finds problems with the property?
If issues are found, such as structural problems or legal discrepancies, they need to be resolved before proceeding. In some cases, this can lead to renegotiation of the sale terms or even withdrawal from the transaction.