What is Conveyancing?
The Ultimate Guide (2023 update)
What is Conveyancing?
The Ultimate Guide (2023 update)
If you have been struggling to work out what conveyancing is worry no more. Our Ultimate Guide explains all.
Simply put, conveyancing is the legal process used to transfer a property from one person to another in the UK.
It is required in almost all situations where someone is buying or selling a building, a piece of land, or even extending a lease.
In this guide you will find everything you need to know about the conveyancing process.
Feel free to use the Quick Page Navigation links below to skip through and find the answer to your question.
Quick Page Navigation
- What is Conveyancing?
- Who Does Conveyancing?
- The Conveyancing Process Explained
- Step 1: Before an Offer
- Step 2: Offer Acceptance to Exchange of Contracts
- Step 3: Completion
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I find a good conveyancer?
- How does Leasehold conveyancing work?
- How long does a house sale take?
- How much are conveyancing fees?
- Can I do DIY Conveyancing?
- In Summary
What is Conveyancing?
As stated previously, conveyancing is the legal work performed to transfer the ownership of a property from one person to another.
It is required when buying and selling both freehold and leasehold properties.
The word conveyancing is an umbrella term, which includes several different elements of legal practice which come together when exchanging property.
Ultimately, conveyancing is a recognised system to ensure a transaction is both legal and binding, and that there are no hidden issues with a property.
Who Does Conveyancing?
Conveyancing is conducted by either a solicitor, a licensed conveyancer or, occasionally, the person who is buying or selling the property. This is often termed DIY conveyancing.
However, DIY conveyancing is not recommended, for a variety of reasons. These include it being risky, time consuming and complicated. For example, if you miss something vital when buying a house and it only becomes apparent afterwards you would have no recourse against the seller. This is because the legal principle of “caveat emptor”, or ‘let the buyer beware’ applies to property in UK law.
By attempting to save a few hundred pounds, DIY conveyancing could result in you being tens of thousands poorer dealing with a legal fault.
By hiring a professional, you are protected by their professional indemnity insurance. All trustworthy conveyancers have this kind of insurance. In the worst of situations, you can sue a conveyancer for damages.
In addition, no lender would ever consider giving a mortgage to someone attempting to do their own conveyancing.
When looking for a reliable conveyancing firm take the time to do your research as this will pay dividends in helping to ensure a smooth transaction.
Do I need to use a solicitor?
In the past conveyancing was almost entirely the domain of solicitors and conveyancing services and were usually provided by a generalist solicitors practice.
They would offer this service among various other legal services, including family law, inheritance, and commercial law.
However, due to the continuing rise in home ownership in 1985 legislation was introduced to change this system. The profession of licenced conveyancers was created, with the first licenses issued in 1987.
A licensed conveyancer is a type of lawyer who only trains in and is only permitted to practice conveyancing. Licensed conveyancers must be a member of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (the CLC). Established in 1985, this organisation regulates conveyancing in the UK.
Some conveyancing companies operate under an alternative business structure or ABS. Unlike with a traditional solicitors practice, not all company directors need to be lawyers under this structure.
Solicitors versus Licensed Conveyancers
A licensed conveyancer is only qualified to practice property law while a solicitor can offer legal services beyond this. This is because solicitors have extensive training in many areas of law.
Using a solicitor is a good idea if you are involved in a more complex transaction which will touch on things other than conveyancing. Typical examples include divorce or inheritance. Other reasons can include issues surrounding inheritance, dealing with squatters, or trying to work something out with an uncooperative freeholder.
Whilst it is unlikely that a specialist conveyancer working at a solicitors will be able to help with this, someone else in the firm probably will.
In most cases, a licensed conveyancer should be just as good as a specialist solicitor for the purposes of conveyancing, as they are both specialists in this area.
Note that solicitors are allowed to offer conveyancing services even if they have little practical experience. For this reason, generalist solicitors are not always the best choice as conveyancers.
If you do hire a generalist solicitor, you should ensure they are a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.
The Conveyancing Process Explained
The process begins with a property being put ‘on the market’ for offer and ends with a sale being completed.
This is best divided into three steps:
- Before an Offer
- Offer Acceptance to Exchange of Contracts
The Conveyancing Process – Step #1
Before an Offer
What to do before you make an offer
Firstly, if you intend to buy property, you should ensure your finances are in order. If you are getting a mortgage, this will involve getting a decision in principle. Cash buyers should ensure the required monies are available.
After this, you need to choose and instruct a conveyancer. Choosing a good conveyancer is very important when buying property. If something is wrong with the property, you need to know this before you buy it.
To instruct a conveyancer, you need to fill in and return a document called a letter of engagement. This will be provided by a conveyancing firm after you have explained what your requirements consist of.
When you instruct a conveyancer, you will be asked to provide proof of ID, which will be checked. Conveyancer’s do this to comply with money laundering laws and to avoid being held liable for fraudulent transactions. If you plan to buy a property with somebody else you will be asked to confirm if you are buying as joint tenants or tenants in common.
If you also intend to sell a property, it is a good idea to use the same conveyancer for both transactions.
What to do before you accept an offer
If you are selling, there is more to do at the pre offer stage.
Firstly, like when buying, you need to choose your conveyancer and fill in and return the letter of engagement along with a piece of valid ID and proof of address. This will be checked to comply with money laundering laws.
However, unlike when buying, selling a property involves several additional steps.
Your conveyancer will ask you to fill in two or three forms and gather several documents together.
The forms required are the Property Information Form TA6, the Fittings and Contents Form TA10, and the Leasehold Information Form TA7, only applicable to leasehold property). These forms must be filled in both honestly and accurately. Any lies could lead to a sale falling through or a buyer suing you for damages.
Form TA6 discuses things including access rights, boundaries, drains, building work, parking, tree preservation orders, various environmental matters, and disputes with neighbours.
This form requires a substantial number of documents in support of it. These include:
- Any planning consents
- Building control approval certificates
- FENSA certificates
- Guarantees and Warranties for any building work previously completed
- Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- Flood risk reports
- Radon test reports
- Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)
- Gas Safety Certificate or Gas Safety Record
Form TA10 asks what is sold with and is separate from the property sale. It includes checkboxes for common items, such as curtains or appliances, and allows sellers to charge for items they want to sell separately.
Form TA7 asks questions which are specifically related to leasehold properties. This form asks for several documents in support of it, which will be available in a management information pack. You can order this pack from your freeholder, although they may charge you as much as £300 for the privilege.
In addition to providing the necessary documents and filing in the necessary forms, when selling you must also inform your mortgage lender. They will confirm how much of your loan is still outstanding, and check if you are liable to pay an early redemption charge.
Finally, when selling you should secure an Official Copy of the Title Register. This document is the modern equivalent of the title deed for a property and is available from the Land Registry for £3. They are normally supported by a second document, called a Title Plan, which is also available for £3.
The titles deeds establish if any restrictive covenants are registered against a property.
Your conveyancer will also obtain a copy of a title plan that confirms the property’s boundaries.
If a property has not been sold since 1990, it is possible that it is unregistered. if this is the case, the title documents are usually held with the solicitor who helped purchase it.
Your conveyancer will need to send an Official Copy of the Title Register to the buyer to complete the transaction.
The Conveyancing Process – Step #2
Offer Acceptance to Exchange of Contracts
Provided a seller has passed the ‘under offer’ stage and is happy to proceed with a buyer the sale will move to the next step.
Once an offer is made and accepted, the seller’s estate agent will mark the property as sold subject to contract both online and within their shop window.
The agent will then produce a Memorandum of Sale detailing the buyer’s and seller’s details and forward this to the seller’s conveyancing solicitors.
It is at this point the conveyancing process can start.
The seller should ask their conveyancer to create a draft contract, while the buyer should order all of the necessary property searches.
The draft contract uses the information provided by the seller in the Property Information Form and the Fittings and Contents Form to indicate what a seller intends to include with the property. This will range from fixtures and fittings to guarantees and warranties.
You will need to send this first version to the buyer as part of the draft contract pack, which should also include filled in copies of forms TA6, TA10 and TA7 if applicable.
Searches, surveys, and enquiries
Once your offer for a property has been accepted you will need to proceed with ordering your searches and surveys.
Searches and surveys are used by buyers to check for problems with a property before purchasing it.
What is a survey?
Surveys comes in various forms. These range from a basic mortgage valuation/survey through to a homebuyers report and ultimately a more detailed structural survey. All surveys are an inspection of a property to ensure that it is suitable to secure a loan against. This should be carried out by a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
A surveyor will assess the property, checking its roof, walls, ceilings, floors, staircases, chimneys, as well as inspecting any services, such as water, gas, or electricity.
Using this assessment they will write a report, which will indicate the overall condition of the property. This will point out any major issues which will require repair. Often, issues which are flagged in a survey can lead to a buyer wanting to re-negotiate the purchase price. This is something best done by your estate agent.
When you are selling a property, you will need to organise access so your surveyor can carry out their inspection.
What are property searches?
A property search, also known as a conveyancing search, is an enquiry about a property made on the behalf of a buyer to an outside authority.
These searches can protect buyers from dangers ranging from collapsing mines and toxic land contamination through to planning issues and proposed developments.
Mortgage lenders will insist on buyers ordering property searches. While they are not compulsory for cash buyers, they are a wise precaution, as without them you will have no redress if a problem comes up later.
Common Property Searches
There are a number of conveyancing searches which are required for all property sales.
Other searches are only necessary for certain properties. Your conveyancer will advise you on which searches are necessary for your purchase.
Common conveyancing searches include:
- The Local Authority Search.
This search is recommended for every property. It is made up of two sections, the LLC1 and the CON29.
The LLC1, or Local Land Charge Registry search, checks for any restrictions or charges which may affect a property. This covers information about any planning, smoke control or heritage concerns which may affect the property, as well as any enforcement notices and environmental issues, such as flooding.
The CON29 helps to establish if anything may affect the properties value in future. This can include information about upcoming changes to the local road or rail network and planning decisions which could affect the property, as well as warning you if a compulsory purchase order is out for a property.
You can get two kinds of local authority search, council searches and regulated searches. Council searches are carried out by staff at the local authority, while regulated searches are conducted by private companies.
Your conveyancer will be able to help you choose which type of local authority search is best for you.
- The Water and Drainage Search.
The water and drainage search checks to ensure the location of any drains, if any publicly maintained drains run through the property, and how surface water runs away.
This search is normally provided by the local water company.
- The Mining Search.
The Mining Search checks if the land a property sits on is vulnerable to subsidence.
A key example of a search which only applies to some properties, the mining search is important when buying properties in areas which have a history of mines, such as Cornwall or Northumbria.
- The Chancel Repair Liability Survey
Surprisingly, many properties in the UK are liable to have to pay for the upkeep of the local church. This can theoretically run into six figures if the church calls it in. Knowing about this means you can insure against it. Your conveyancer should be able to tell you if a property is liable for this.
Limitations of Property Searches
While property searches are an important barrier against things going wrong with your purchase, they are not fool proof.
The local authority search cannot tell you about planning applications made after it was created. And no searches will tell you what a property is like in rush hour traffic or on Saturday night when a local pub kicks out.
It is always worth checking out a property at different times of day before buying it, otherwise you could be in for a nasty surprise!
Enquiries of the seller
If you need to make any additional enquiries of the seller, you should do this along with your property searches. These enquiries can be pretty much about anything to do with the property.
If something strange comes up in the searches or the draft contract pack, this is the point where you should raise it with the .
The Conveyancers Legal Report
When all searches have been received, your conveyancer will put together a formal document called the Conveyancers Legal Report.
This shows the results of all their enquiries. The buyer should read this in its entirety and query anything they do not understand.
When the draft contract and the conveyancers legal report are complete it may be necessary for both parties to negotiate.
Perhaps the investigations have brought up something less than ideal, and the property no longer appears to be worth quite as much as originally thought.
If so, it can be reasonable for you to reduce your offer as the buyer.
When you are selling, it is normal practice to agree to conduct repair work, or to look at the benefits of buying indemnity insurance, or reduce your price to continue with the sale.
Provided you can reach an agreement, the transaction will continue. If not, this could lead to an aborted house sale meaning you have to start over again marketing your house for sale.
Before Exchange of Contracts
Provided an agreement has been reached, preparations will begin for the formal exchange of contracts.
No matter whether you are buying or selling, you will be sent a copy of the contract and a TR1 Form to sign by your conveyancer. This must be returned quickly.
If you are the buyer, you will now be asked to send deposit funds to the seller’s conveyancer. This will typically be 5-10% of a property’s purchase price and will be held as cleared funds by the seller’s solicitor until the sale completes.
Once the deposit is sent, it is time to agree on a completion date.
This is the day when ownership of the property formally transfers, and normally, everyone moves house!
When buying property, this is the point you will need to arrange buildings insurance as your lender will insist on you having cover from the point of exchanging contracts.
After the TR1 form is signed, the deposit is sent, and completion date is agreed it is finally time to exchange contracts.
When you exchange contracts, the sale becomes legally binding. If you pull out before this point the other party may have legal recourse against you.
Normally the formal exchange of contracts takes place on a recorded phone call between your and the other party’s conveyancers. As both contracts are already signed, both parties have already agreed to accept the transaction.
When you are in a property chain, the exchange of contracts will only take place when all parties in the chain are ready.
The Conveyancing Process – Step #3
The Run up to Completion Day
Once the contracts have been exchanged there is a rush of things to do before completion day.
Whether you are buying or selling you will need to check the completion statement sent by your conveyancer.
For sellers, this will confirm how the funds from the sale will be dealt with. If you are buying, the completion statement will detail a summary of all the monies that need to be with your conveyancer before completion day. This will comprise of the balance owed for the property, any remaining conveyancers fees, and of course, and Stamp Duty Land Tax that will fall due.
If you are buying with a mortgage, you will need to sign your mortgage deed, agreeing to your lender’s terms, to secure the required funds.
Finally, your conveyancer should be conducting Land Registry Pre-Completion searches. These searches are for final proof you can buy the property, and that the seller is able to sell the property.
On Completion Day
If you are buying, on completion day your conveyancer will send over the remaining funds to the seller’s conveyancer to purchase the property. This will usually be sent by bank transfer.
Once this has been received, the seller’s conveyancer will tell their estate agent to release your properties keys.
The seller’s conveyancer must then send a completed TR1 Form and Official Copy of the Title Register to the buyer’s conveyancer.
After this, it is time for the sellers’ conveyancer to settle any mortgage or secured loans and take their fee. Finally, they will send any remaining money to the seller’s bank account. This completion statement details all the costs associated with the transaction.
After completion has taken place, the buyer’s conveyancer must record any Stamp Duty Land Tax due with Inland Revenue and register the new purchase with HM Land Registry.
This is done by sending off a TR1 Form, and if applicable the mortgage deed. In return, the buyer will receive a copy of the title deed, and title plan, showing you as the rightful owner of the property.
You should now register for utilities, services, and council tax. This completes the conveyancing process.
The Conveyancing Process:
Frequently asked questions
How do I find a good conveyancer?
The UK conveyancing industry is notorious for being slow and expensive compared to other countries.
As of July 2022, remaining impacts from the Coronavirus pandemic, a shortage of conveyancers and slow operations at local authorities had brought the conveyancing process to a crawl, with the average property deal taking four months to complete.
This makes finding a good conveyancing service more important, as many of these delays can be mitigated by having a dedicated expert at your side.
Why do you need a good conveyancer?
Finding a good conveyancer will speed up your transaction as they will complete work quickly and efficiently. This reduces the chances of a property sale falling through and limits stress and mistakes throughout the process of buying or selling a house.
A good conveyancer can also help you negotiate with other parties successfully, potentially saving you money overall.
Bad conveyancers will fail to answer phone calls, read emails, or get into contact with you. And when they do, they will communicate in impenetrable legalese rather than plain English.
Other concerns can include conveyancers misreading documents and not alerting you to potential problems in good time. This can cost you a lot of money, cause you enormous stress, and even put your property transaction at risk.
Does my conveyancer need to be local?
The short answer is it depends.
If a transaction is relatively simple, and you know your area well, there can be no benefit to using a local conveyancer.
On the other hand, if the sale involves things like changing pre-existing boundaries, creating new rights of way, or dividing a property, it can be very beneficial to have the conveyancer based within easy traveling distance of the property.
Do I have to use my estate agents recommended conveyancer?
It is normally a bad idea to use the conveyancer recommended by your estate agent.
Often, they recommend overpriced services, rewarded by substantial referral fees they have negotiated with their recommended conveyancing partners.
Cross-selling these services is often part of an estate agents job description, and they can be quite pushy trying to convince you to use their preferred conveyancer.
What are the signs that indicate a good conveyancer?
There are lots of indicators to look out for when choosing a conveyancer.
The industry is very competitive, and many will be looking for business while offering a sub-standard product.
Ten tips to finding a good conveyancer
1. Ensure your conveyancer tells you who will be handling your case:
When you instruct a conveyancer, they should be able to tell you who specifically at their firm will be handling your case.
In addition, they should be able to give you a direct contact phone number for this person.
This will either be a licensed conveyancer, or a paralegal or trainee supported by a licensed conveyancer. Firms often use a dedicated team approach, where a licensed conveyancer checks all the admin tasks conducted by their team of paralegals and trainees.
A dedicated team approach can be fine for simpler cases, but for anything more complicated you should choose a firm where you can get into direct contact with your licensed conveyancer.
2. Look for a conveyancer advertising a “no completion no fee” service.
A third of all property sales in the UK fall through before completion and having protection against this can be very useful.
Admittedly, the term ‘no completion no fee’ is slightly ambiguous, as in reality, if a conveyancer or solicitor has paid disbursements on your behalf you will still be charged for these. The conveyancer will only waive their basic fee.
In addition, offering this sort of service motivates a conveyancer to operate quickly and accurately. If the property sale falls through due to a delay or error on their part they will not be paid.
Typically, you will make a small payment upfront of between £150 and £300, but nothing more if the transaction fails.
If you are interested in a property and need to show you have appointed a conveyancing firm but are not yet certain on your purchase, you can ask the firm to initially not incur expenses.
Generally, it is always worth asking the firm how much the costs will be if a sale falls through, even if they do advertise on a ‘no completion no fee’ basis.
3. Experience with residential property law is the most important thing to look for.
While general solicitors’ practices do carry out conveyancing, they sometimes have limited practical experience in the area. You should ask a prospective conveyancer if they have dealt with property’s like yours before.
If you are dealing with a leasehold, a listed building, or a new build home, ensure your conveyancer has genuine experience. These types of property can cause problems for the inexperienced.
4. Look for tech savvy conveyancers.
Lots of modern conveyancing services use technology to help you monitor your case.
Online case tracking is particularly useful, as every step of your transaction is recorded in one place. You will be given a username and password to access this.
Operating this kind of service allows you to check on the progress of your case and know immediately if there are any hold ups.
An exciting innovation in this field is the automated ‘view my chain’ system. This can allow both agents and independent buyers or sellers to find out what is holding up a sale.
5. Look for a firm operating on a “fixed-fee guarantee” basis.
Some firms charge for conveyancing work on an hourly basis. This can lead to bills escalating very quickly.
A fixed fee guarantee ensures that the fee a conveyancing company initially quotes is the fee they charge. This will allow you to budget more accurately and avoid paying through the nose for dealing with any complications.
6. Look for a firm on all major lenders approved panels.
If you are buying a property with a mortgage, it is important to choose a conveyancer that is on your lenders’ list of approved companies. If your conveyancer is not on this list, your lender will insist on instructing their own.
This is not a good situation, as you will be stuck paying the fees of two legal professionals, one of which you have no control over.
In addition, the time taken for communications between the two conveyancers will make everything else take longer.
7. Look for firms that will provide a “client care letter” upfront.
A client care letter contains a cost breakdown and description of the services a conveyancing company provides. It should cover everything mentioned above, and if something is missing, strongly consider using a different service.
Remember, you are not committed to using a conveyancing service until after you have returned a signed client care letter.
8. Look for a firm which is accredited with the Council of Licensed Conveyancers or the Law Society.
The Law Society and the Council of Licensed Conveyancers are the regulatory bodies governing conveyancing in the UK. All good conveyancers will be registered with one of these bodies.
Do not let a fly-by-night chancer unaffiliated with regulatory bodies do your conveyancing or legally represent you in any way.
9. Do not appoint a firm that charges too little— especially when buying!
A cheap online conveyancing firm is unfortunately often too good to be true.
Be very wary of any firm charging under the odds for a conveyancing service, especially if you are buying an unusual or older property.
When selling, a cheap firm can be better, but many of the cheapest online conveyancing houses are slow and overworked so could still jeopardize a sale.
10. Consider online conveyancing.
There are a lot of services available online which offer fixed fee and no completion, no fee conveyancing. These services are more common at online conveyancers than at traditional brick and mortar solicitors.
They often offer the same service as high street conveyancers, but without the brick-and-mortar shopfront.
Many people, including Gavin Brazg, founder of the house selling advice website The Advisory, recommend some online conveyancing firms heartily.
Mr Brazg says he uses online conveyancing because ”everything is done by phone, email and sometimes post” and that he never needs to meet with his conveyancing firm.
Unfortunately, not all the firms online are worth using. Many operate on an enormous scale with large teams of staff working through large caseloads.
These firms can be spotted by looking for something that looks too good to be true. They will have most or all the features we have recommended at a very low price.
Often the reality of dealing with bad online conveyancing firms is awful.
Expect slow service, a different person on the phone each time offering terrible continuity and the potential of it all grinding to a stop.
This is because some low-end online conveyancing firms employ staff who operate from a flowchart, which may lead to roadblocks appearing in place where a better conveyancer would have navigated them quickly.
Finding a good online conveyancer is just like finding a good high street conveyancer.
Check the services they offer; ensure they aren’t too cheap, ask them the right questions and read their reviews.
How does Leasehold conveyancing work?
In addition to helping people buy and sell property conveyancers are also key for dealing with leasehold property.
This is because in the UK leaseholders have the right to unilaterally have their lease extended, or to buy the freehold of the property where they live.
Both steps can substantially increase the value of your leasehold property.
When dealing with leasehold property conveyancing it is generally advised to instruct a conveyancer who specialises in the field. Normally, specialised leasehold conveyancers will be members of the Associate of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners (ALEP).
How long does a house sale take on average?
The short answer is it depends on a lot of factors.
When you have the perfect mix of selling a freehold property to a chain free cash buyer a sale can take as little as four weeks or even less.
However, as you complicate things by adding mortgage lenders, chains, and leaseholds to the mix the timeline of the process increases dramatically.
The conveyancing for a long chain of sellers dealing with a complicated leasehold arrangement in the middle can take as long as six months or even longer. Breaks in the chain can increase this even further.
Leasehold sales take longer and are often more expensive as there is more legal paperwork involved than with freehold property.
This is because the buyer will need the management information pack and not all managing agents respond to requests quickly. In addition, acquiring this pack can sometimes cost as much as a few hundred pounds.
Instructing a solicitor or conveyancer usually takes about 24-48 hours. If they cannot process instructions on the same day, it is usually a bad sign, and you should consider picking someone else.
Filling the Property Information Form and Fixtures and Fittings Form can be an easy or a difficult task, depending on how much work you have had done to your property and if you have kept all the warranties, guarantees, building control certificates and planning permissions to hand.
These forms normally only take an hour or two to complete but can take much longer if you have lost vital information or need to request it from the source.
While preparing a draft contract should take a conveyancer just a few days, getting from the draft contract to the exchange of contracts can take between six to ten weeks.
This will depend on many factors including what is uncovered in the survey, how long any lenders take to confirm mortgage offers and the length of any chain the seller is involved in. Property chains are the single biggest thing that can affect just how long it takes to sell a house.
It usually only takes one to two weeks to get from exchange of contracts to completion. However, this can be made quicker or slower, depending on what suits the needs of the people involved.
How to speed up conveyancing when selling a property?
Conveyancing can be slow and for much of the process you will typically need to be patient.
However, there are a few things you can do to speed it up.
- Firstly, choose a legal company which operates on a no sale no fee basis. This means it will be in their interest for the sale to go through getting everything done as quickly as possible.
- Second, ensure that your conveyancer has systems in place for you to track progress and identify problems. This will help you respond to, and sort out, these snags quickly.
- Third, ensure that all the paperwork, including your photo ID, EPC, planning permissions, warranties, guarantees, and building regulations sign offs, are kept together and are easily accessible. You will need all these documents and should gather them before you put your property on the market.
- Fourth, be sure that the cash to pay any upfront conveyancing fees is readily available.
- Fifth, be available and ensure that you answer any queries or requests for signatures, paperwork, and payments quickly.
- Finally, you should have a contact number for someone at your conveyancers. If you do not hear back on a query within 48 hours, you should contact one of the partners to ensure you have the right person.
How much are conveyancing fees?
The amount charged for conveyancing can vary dramatically, but a quote generally always consists of two parts.
The first is the solicitor or licensed conveyancer’s basic fee. This is what they are charging to do the work.
The other part should cover disbursements. These are payments that the conveyancer will need to make to outside agencies on your behalf.
When you instruct a conveyancer, you will need to send them an initial payment. This is called an “upfront payment on account”. It is normally between £250 and £500 but can be substantially more if the property is a leasehold.
Disbursements are payments made to a third party by a conveyancer. Common disbursements include:
- Anti-money laundering checks, which verify your identity. They tend to cost more if you are living abroad or not a British national. Expect to pay between £6 and £20 for this.
- Title Documents. Getting hold of a copy from the Land Registry costs £3.00 for each document.
- Searches, including local authority, environment and drainage searches can cost a buyer between £250 and £450, depending on how many are necessary.
- Property fraud checks cost £10.00 and are important to identifying that the lawyer you are sending money to is working for a real company.
- To transfer ownership the Land Registry charges a £200 – £300 fee.
- Banks charge transfer fees of between £20 – £30.00
- Stamp duty land tax is currently charged on the purchase of all first-time property purchases worth more than £250,000. Costs vary, as it is charged on a sliding scale. Some first-time buyers may be exempt.
- An additional disbursement is required when buying through a “help to buy” supplement scheme. This can be as much as £300.
- An additional disbursement is also required if you are buying with a deposit gifted to you from someone else, including family. This usually costs £100 or less.
- Additionally, using a lifetime or Help to Buy ISA can result in you being charged up to £50.00 as the conveyancer will have to perform more work.
- Finally, buying property which is not registered with the Land Registry results in a supplemental fee. This is typically between £120 and £240.
Because conveyancing is a competitive business, many firms attempt to make their prices seem lower than they are.
Firms do this by inventing disbursements, taking tasks and charges that should be covered under their basic fee and putting a price on them. These are known as phantom disbursements.
This gives the impression their basic fee is lower than it is.
Many ultra-low price conveyancing services advertise using this tactic. What looks like a cheap quote can eventually turn into something very different.
How much do conveyancers charge buyers?
A good conveyancer will normally charge a buyer between £1,000 and £1,500 (not including Stamp Duty).
As conveyancers mostly are in place to protect the buyer from purchasing a “money pit”, it can make sense to go for a high-end conveyancing service when buying. This is particularly the case if you are looking at leasehold, newbuild or out of the ordinary property.
A high-end conveyancing service can cost as much as £3,000. While spending this much can appear extreme when buying a property, a good conveyancing service can potentially save you tens, or even hundreds of thousands of pounds.
How much do conveyancers charge sellers?
When selling a property, you should expect to pay your conveyancer between £600 – £1,000.
Top end conveyancing services can charge more, often up to £2,000. However, as a seller needs fewer protections than a buyer this is very rarely necessary.
You should be very wary of anyone offering conveyancing services with a basic fee of less than £600.
Why do conveyancers charge more for leasehold properties?
When selling or buying a leasehold property you should expect your conveyancers to charge between £150 and £400 more than if it was a freehold.
This is for several reasons.
First, conveyancers generally charge a supplemental fee of between £100 and £200 for leasehold property. This is to account for leasehold conveyancing being more complicated and time-consuming than freehold conveyancing.
On top of this leasehold properties will require official copies of the title and lease. This costs £12.00.
Finally, when selling leasehold property, the buyer will expect a managing agents pack, sometimes called a leasehold information pack. This will contain information about the property, including service charges, ground rent and company details. This can cost between £150 and £500 (plus VAT).
How much do conveyancers charge for extending leases and buying freeholds?
Conveyancers often charge more to extend a property’s lease. Expect to pay between £2,000 – £5,000 for your own legal costs as well as £1,000 – £2,000 for the freeholder’s legal fees.
Charges when purchasing a freehold tend to be slightly lower, starting at around £1,000.
Can I do DIY Conveyancing?
The main problem with attempting DIY conveyancing is that as a private individual, you cannot hold negligence insurance.
Solicitors and licensed conveyancers both require a professional negligence insurance policy to operate. This means that if they mess up your conveyancing, you are covered.
Doing your own conveyancing is not impossible, and thousands of people have done it in the past, but in the modern day, it is simply not worth the hassle.
Due to the prevalence of chains, getting everything done quickly is unlikely to help complete your transaction substantially faster. The truth is all property chains only move at the speed of the slowest party, which provided you chose a decent conveyancer should not be you.
In addition, given it takes an estimated 30 hours to complete the process, it is unlikely to work out as an effective way to save money either. This is especially the case when insured online conveyancing services are available from as little as a few hundred pounds.
If you do attempt DIY conveyancing, make sure it is in relation to a freehold property, with no complicating factors such as divorce, or buying or selling at auction.
Successful self-conveyancing is possible, it is just not worth the effort in our eyes.
Conveyancing can be a complicated business and is something best left to an expert. This is especially the case in non-standard situations where other factors come into play.
When appointing a solicitor or conveyancer take the time to obtain several quotes from leading firms and be sure to check out reviews form their previous clients.
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