What is conveyancing?
‘Conveyancing’ refers to the legal process of transferring a property or piece of land from one owner to another. There are normally two steps to the process: exchange of contracts, when the contract details are agreed upon; and completion, when the legal titles are passed over. It can be done either by a general solicitor or a conveyancer – a solicitor who has chosen to specialise in property law or the legal work surrounding conveyancing.
What is a draft contract?
A draft contract is drawn up by the seller when an offer is made on a property. This contract must include various details including the price, the boundaries, planning restrictions, among other things. This contract must also include a completion date for the transaction and an energy performance certificate.
Although the paperwork can be daunting, it's important to go through the contract extremely carefully and negotiate any terms if necessary. Your solicitor or conveyancer will be able to help you with this and offer sound guidance. A conveyancer will also conduct a number of searches and checks on the property.
What is a property survey?
You can apply for a mortgage before putting an offer in on a property. Based on the information you’ve given your mortgage lender (usually a bank), they’ll evaluate how much they are willing to lend you, and provide you with an ‘offer in principle’ outlining this figure.
You'll have to have a survey done on the property you’re looking to buy before that becomes a formal mortgage offer, however. This is because the lender needs to know that the property you want to buy is worth what you are willing to pay.
A survey is also important for your own peace of mind, as you need to know that there aren’t any nasty surprises about the structural state of the building.
There are three types of survey. The most basic is a valuation survey. This is fine if you're remortgaging or buying a new build. It only provides an indication of the property's value however, and doesn't look at whether the building is structurally sound and won't highlight any potential problems. In most instances, it is worth paying for a more in-depth survey.
The most popular type of survey is a homebuyer's report. This will look at the general state of repair of the building, the roof and the windows, and note any problems such as evidence of subsidence. Some problems can still go undetected as the surveyor won’t do any deep-digging, such as lifting the floor boards.
If you’re buying an old property or a renovation project, it is worth having a full structural survey done. Whilst this will cost you more than a homebuyer’s report, it is far more comprehensive. This will give you the most detail about the state of the property you’re looking to purchase.
What is the exchange of contracts?
When the buyer and seller are both happy with the terms, they sign and exchange contracts. The deal is now legally binding, so there's no going back! The buyer will normally pay a deposit on exchange and is now responsible for the home insurance on the new property.
When is completion day?
Completion day is the final element of the conveyancing process. You can exchange and complete within a matter of hours, but most people prefer to leave seven to 28 days for any final checks.
Once everything is in order, the balance of the purchase price can be paid. It can be a nervous wait on completion day because you have to wait for your mortgage lender to transfer the money to the seller's bank account which can take time.
Once the funds land, the property is yours and you can collect the key and move in. Your conveyancer will then register ownership with the Land Registry and arrange for you to pay any stamp duty that’s owed.
Why instruct a conveyancer?
It's perfectly possible to carry out conveyancing yourself, but it can be complicated and time consuming. You could also end up in a terrible mess if something goes wrong, so it’s highly recommended you find a solicitor to do it for you. Most people instruct licensed conveyancer to act on their behalf, as they’re specialists.
Conveyancers are solicitors who focus on property law and are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) in England and Wales. They can sometimes work out cheaper than a solicitor, but a licensed conveyancer can only deal with conveyancing. If any problems arise that do not relate to property law, you will have to call in a solicitor.
A solicitor can carry out conveyancing, but is also licensed to advise on other areas of the law.
How do you choose a conveyancer?
You probably want to choose a conveyancer who is familiar with your area. Most people also want to instruct someone who comes recommended. It’s important to remember that solicitors’ fees can be expensive so you should always check the likely cost before you instruct a conveyancer.
Make sure that you understand exactly how the fee system works. Some firms for example do not charge if the sale falls through, which could save you hundreds of pounds in legal fees.
MoneySuperMarket has joined forces with ULS Technology and Optimus so you can compare more than 200 highly-rated solicitors and licensed conveyancers to find the right firm at the right price.
We want to show you conveyancing quotes from as many solicitors as possible. We can’t promise to show you quotes from every single firm, though, because some don’t want to be included on comparison websites. We’ve ranked conveyancing quotes from the cheapest to the most expensive.
Is conveyancing in Scotland different?
The process of buying and selling a house is different in Scotland, so you should choose an experienced local firm if the property is north of the border.
What are conveyancing fees?
Conveyancers split their fees into two sections:
- Legal fees: This is the basic charge for the work they do
- Disbursements: These are charges for the third parties who conduct searches and surveys
What are common causes for delays in conveyancing?
- Surveys: Sometimes surveys discover unforeseen problems which may need to be resolved before the process can continue
- Chains: A chain is a sequence of buyers and sellers each waiting on someone else to buy their existing property before they can buy the one they want. If a property chain is long, it’s likely that there will be a hold-up further down the line
- Mortgage applications: Sometimes bank might take longer than normal to approve a mortgage application as it investigates the buyer’s finances
How long does conveyancing take?
The length of the process varies between every case. The average time can be around six to eight weeks to completion, however this depends on multiple factors including how complex the transaction is and the length of the property chain attached.
Why does the cost of conveyancing vary?
There are numerous elements that will affect your conveyancing fees in comparison to others:
- The value of a property: Some conveyancers take the price of your property into account and charge a percentage based on this
- The tenure of the property: Whether it is on a leasehold or freehold can affect the price of conveyancing due to the different legalities and paperwork associated with each
- Disbursements: Every sale or purchase will require different surveys and searches, which will be reflected in your fees
- Legal fees: The basic fee a conveyancer charges will differ from business to business, ranging from £300 to £2,400 depending on whether you’re buying, selling or both
How much do disbursements cost?
There are many different type of disbursements that may be necessary when buying or selling property:
- Bankruptcy search: Your solicitor will check all named parties listed on the mortgage application to ensure that no-one has been declared bankrupt (£2 to £4)
- Drainage search: This will vary based on different water companies, and will make sure that the property is connected to a fresh water supply and to sewerage systems (£30 to £40)
- Environmental search: An environmental search looks at factors such as subsidence and ground contamination (£30 to £35)
- Land registration fee: This is based on the value of your property (£40 to £910)
- Land registry office copies: Your solicitor will complete searches to make sure the seller is the legal owner. This price is for one transaction (£4 to £8)
- Local authority searches: This can be based on the borough that the property is in or the postcode. These searches determine factors like planning applications (£100 to £200)
- Telegraphic transfer fee: This is the charge incurred by the bank to send the money to the seller (£25 to £45)
When will I need to pay a solicitor or conveyancer?
On average, money is spent in three stages when buying property or land:
- Starting the transaction: You’ll be asked by your conveyancer to put up some money to pay for searches and surveys at the property you’re looking to purchase
- The deposit: When it’s time to exchange contracts, you’ll be required to pay 10% of the purchase price. Once the contracts have been exchanged, you are then legally bound to complete the purchase on the day of completion
- Completion: On the day of completion you’ll be required to put up the rest of the funds. As this needs to be sent through your bank, it can take some time to go through. Normally, you are able to collect the keys to your new property after midday once the process has been completed
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