2021 Update

Conveyancing 101: The Process, Fees... And Difficulties

Joe Bailey

If you have questions about conveyancing fees, timescales or even what the conveyancing process is, this guide will help you.

Conveyancing ProcessConveyancing Process

A licensed conveyancer can help

So you’ve decided to sell your home and move into a new one.

Whether you’re looking for a step up the ladder or that ‘forever home’ you’ve always had your heart set on, you can’t do it on your own.

This is where a the conveyancing process comes in.

This specialist doesn't come free and does involve conveyancing fees but they can help you over the numerous legal hurdles and red tape that stand in the way of you and your new abode.

What is a conveyancer and what do they do?

If you look at the job in simple terms, a conveyancer is a person who can take care of many of the legal aspects of buying and selling a home.

And right at the core of all of that is the necessity for the transfer of the large sums of money involved in moving house. So essentially, the conveyancer helps make the legal and financial parts of moving home happen.keys

At the same time, it's true that every house sale is different, and there are sometimes complications involved, and tweaks to be made, that the conveyancer will have to take care of.

If we're to list out all of the aspects of a home move that a licensed conveyancer takes care of, this would be a very long article.

Instead, let's break it down to the basic tasks.

A conveyancer will either do or be involved in the following:

  • The giving of legal advice that is relevant to your circumstances
  • Transferring money, which includes collecting and moving your money
  • Contract work, including the creation of contracts
  • The payment of stamp duty
  • Any contact and communication with The Land Registry

Seeing those above points should give you a quick idea of how important the conveyancer is to anyone who wants to buy a house.

The conveyancing process

While buying or selling a house can be an incredibly arduous process, leaving it in the hands of professionals makes sense.

Knowing the process for both buying and selling is important, because each stage is significant, and knowing where you are at will help you stay focused on the end goal.

We’ll take it from a buyer’s point of view to give you an idea of the conveyancing process timeline step-by-step.

After your offer on a home has been accepted:

  1. You instruct your conveyancer as soon as the seller has accepted the offer
  2. If needed, you arrange a mortgage, and start the survey process
  3. Your conveyancer confirms your instruction in writing and lets you know the ‘terms of business’ and any associated moving house costs and fees
  4. Your conveyancer contacts the seller’s conveyancer and arranges a contract pack
  5. Your conveyancer runs checks, including checks on the contract pack. Your conveyancer also needs a copy of the mortgage offer
  6. Any ‘pre-contract’ enquiries that your conveyancer has raised will be addressed by the buyer’s conveyancer
  7. All of this is covered with you by your conveyancer. If you have any enquiries, you raise them
  8. Exchange of contracts happens, with your conveyancer arranging the deposit
  9. Phil Spencer explains how to speed up the conveyancing process:

After the conveyancing deposit:

  1. A completion date is arranged, and contracts are ‘exchanged’.This makes everything formal. Both you and the seller are now involved and committed to a contract
  2. Your conveyancer creates a draft transfer deed and something called a completion information form and then sends these to the seller’s conveyancer
  3. A final copy of the transfer deed is created. You may have to sign this before it goes back to the seller’s conveyancer
  4. The buyer’s conveyancer arranges a completion statement, runs checks, and asks the buyer’s mortgage provider for the money
  5. Completion happens, with the keys being released to the properties
  6. Stamp duty is sent to HMRC by the conveyancer, and title and transfer deeds are received
  7. The buyer’s ownership of the property is formalised by the conveyancer contacting the Land Registry

Key Tip:

Make sure you have a detailed outline of what your conveyancer plans to do including all conveyancing fees. It should be available in a letter or through their promotional literature.

Make your own checklist in a diary or notebook so you have a clear idea of what lies ahead.

Conveyancing searches

There are a number of searches that have to be undertaken by a conveyancer.

As always, the hard work will be completed by them and you probably won’t hear much regarding the details, but it is worth being aware of what they are and how they work.

What are they?

They are searches based on the legal aspects of purchasing a home.

One thing to bear in mind is that the searches don't assure you of the condition of a property. They’re only focused on the legal process in a local authority.

This will make sense when you see the typical searches the conveyancer will carry out:

  • Local authority search
  • Drainage search
  • British Waterways search
  • Limestone search
  • Lead mining search
  • Environmental search
  • Coal Mining search
  • Gypsum search

There are a number of additional searches. However, the conveyancer may choose to ignore some searches, and this really depends on the local authority a buyer is purchasing in.

Key Tip:

Ensure your conveyancer gives you full details of the searches they intend to arrange.

The conveyancing process

As you may expect, it can often take ‘as long as it needs to’.

However, many conveyancing processes take around eight weeks. But with the individualised nature of a property and the circumstances around that property, you can expect it to take from six weeks (or less) to eight weeks (or more).

If you ask a conveyancer how long the process will take, they will most likely be non-committal. This is because of the unpredictable nature of the task.

Key Tip:

When considering the length of the process, prepare for a minimum of two months.

How much are conveyancing fees?

Again, there are a number of different factors here.

But there are two ‘areas’ of conveyacing fees that a conveyancer can ask for as part of their service.

These are the actual ‘cost’ of carrying out the work, and something called ‘disbursements’. Disbursements are the costs that normally seem complicated, and they are the third party costs that arise as part of the process of buying and selling a property.

Conveyancing costs include:

  • Anti-money laundering checks. These are simple checks that ensure your identity documents match up with your identity with authorities. These checks normally cost no more than £20. But if you’re a foreign national, for example, you can expect this to take some time, and cost more
  • Title deeds. These are important if you’re selling a home. They are held by the Land Registry and are easy to obtain. As part of the conveyancing fees the average will cost is around £10-25 to arrange
  • The searches we covered earlier in the article are where some significant expense is involved. As mentioned earlier, the type and number of searches is down to the local authority involved, but you can expect to have to pay up to £450 for all the searches required by law
  • Stamp Duty. The buyer pays Stamp Duty, not the seller. But if you’re a buyer, it can get expensive, depending on what you are purchasing. There has also been a relatively recent development for those who are entering the ‘buy to let’ market. Stamp Duty is payable here too.
  • Ownership. This needs transferring with the Land Registry as ‘transferring ownership’. The costs up to £300 but is usually around £200. The cost is dependent on property value
  • Bank or telegraphic transfer. Getting all the money involved in the right place at the right time is crucial to the successful transfer of property. This often involves telegraphic transfer, and this costs money. The conveyancer will charge you for the process. It usually costs up to £30 to organise, but the conveyancer will charge a fee above that for the work involved
  • The conveyancer’s own fees. This is down to the conveyancer and what they charge against the market rate. One thing to be careful with is the disbursements above. It is a very good idea to ask the conveyancer if any of the disbursement fees are included in a quote, because sometimes they are not. In any case, typical conveyancing fees tend to be anything from £100 - £1000.

Is it better to sell a house for cash?

Selling a house has plenty of stress attached to it, and this is usually down to money.

The biggest cause of stress is when a sale falls through.

This can be for a variety of reasons, but most often it is because a buyer cannot arrange a loan. And the ‘falling through’ part often happens right at the end of the house buying process. If you’re involved in a traditional sale (non-cash) then you’re tied to it, and you may well get that nasty surprise right at the end of the deal.

According to data from Which? the consumer magazine, three in ten house sales fell through in 2016 - data from February 2016, from 2,000 home buyers.

Whichever way you look at it, this does involve both sides in the sale losing money.

The main problems if a property sale falls through are:

  • The chain in a property sale falls down
  • The buyer changes his or her mind and cancels
  • The buyer cannot arrange mortgage financing
  • Surveys discover problems on a property, resulting in a down-valuation or making it unmortgageable.

All of these - apart from the buyer changing their mind - are pretty much avoidable.

But there is a way of making sure that you have full commitment to a purchase. And that is through cash purchases.

Surveys come in many different forms, and they have, over the last twenty years or so, become a part of the process that is under huge scrutiny. This is a good thing, as buyers and sellers know a lot more about a property than they used to. That said, it can kill a purchase or sale quickly.

If you're dealing with a cash house buyer, the uncertainty created by lenders is not a problem. This can take away a lot of the issues around mortgage financing.

We're all human, after all

One thing to bear in mind is the emotion involved in selling a house and also buying.

If someone has reluctantly agreed to sell a home, the chances are that it will fall through.

For example:

There may be a situation where a home is sold due to a death in the family.

The emotional landscape around this event is complex. If you're relying on someone selling who has these circumstances around them, there is every chance the sale will fall through.

If someone has lived in a home for decades, their emotional attachment is huge, and can again cause issues around the sale of the property.

A cash sale means shorter time frames in the process, and the chance that the sale is fully intentional, with fewer issues.

Choosing a company and selling your home quickly to them is advantageous primarily because the need for lending is avoided and speeds up the process. This cuts down on time and stress issues significantly, and also ensures that the sale has the best chance of completing.

Conveyancing is a complex process, but if it's done well, and you are fully informed as the client, you can have a smooth and reasonably pain-free sale or purchase.

Just ensure you know what is happening and you keep in regular contact with your conveyancer.


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