Conveyancing is the process of transferring the ownership of a property from one person to another. It consists of all the legal and administrative work associated with the transfer.
The process begins after an offer is made and accepted on a property and ends once the final papers have been signed and payments made to complete the transaction.
Conveyancing is an integral part of a house purchase and something that is expected that you pay a solicitor for. However, an often asked question is, can you do this yourself? If yes, what do you need to know about the process? What needs to happen? What pitfalls are you to avoid?
This article answers all these questions and more.
What Is Conveyancing?
Conveyancing is the process of transferring property from one party to another. It is a commonly used term in real estate transactions when buyers and sellers transfer ownership of real estate, which could be land, building, or a home.
The process requires an instrument of conveyance which is usually a legal document such as a contract, lease, title, or a deed. The document carries information which includes the agreed-upon purchase price, the date of actual transfer, as well as the obligations and responsibilities of both parties.
Conveyancing is typically done in two stages:
- The exchange of contracts; at which stage all the terms of the deal are decided and,
- The completion of the deal where the legal title passes on to the buyer
Who Typically does Conveyancing?
Conveyancing is typically done by a legal representative known as a conveyancer. The conveyancer could be a solicitor, property lawyer or a licensed conveyancer. All solicitors are qualified to do conveyancing; however, not all of them have the required experience.
Most real estate transactions require that a mortgage of some sort be taken out. As a result, mortgage lenders have a list of conveyancers whose services they would prefer.
If you choose not to use a conveyancer from their approved list, you may be required to pay a fee to go elsewhere.
What Exactly do Solicitors and Conveyancers Do?
When a conveyancing solicitor or conveyancer gets their instructions from you, the following are the services you should expect from them:
First, they will conduct searches within organizations such as local authorities and utility companies. These searches are vital because they ensure that there are no plans afoot – such as building plans – on the land you intend to buy. They also reveal if there are any potential issues associated with the property, such as:
- Whether sewers are running close to the property
- Whether the area is categorised as a flood risk
- Whether unresolved financial liabilities are hanging over it from past inhabitants
Then, they will advise you of likely costs you can incur, such as stamp duty. They will also check out the contracts drawn up by the solicitor or conveyancer of the other party.
The contract will include vital details like the price of purchase or sale. They will also liaise with your mortgage lender to ensure that they have all the information they need to proceed with your mortgage.
Your solicitor or conveyancer will register your ownership with the Land Registry as the new owner of the property if you are the buyer.
What Procedure does Conveyancing Follow?
The process of conveyancing occurs from two ends – the buyer’s end and the seller’s end. If you are the seller, the process is as follows:
- You instruct your conveyancer.
- Your conveyancer confirms your instructions through a letter which states the terms of business and the cost of fixed fees.
- Your conveyancer carries out a proof of identity check and gives you some forms to fill which will provide information about the property you are selling.
- Once you fill the forms, your conveyancer will need the title deeds or official copies of the title register and any other documents the Land Registry requires. You will also need to release details of any existing mortgage and the outstanding amount.
- Your conveyancer then prepares the draft contract and any supporting contract documentation to send to your buyer’s conveyancer. He or she also answers any pre-contract enquiries raised by your buyer.
- Once your buyer’s conveyancer expresses satisfaction with the results of their searches and the answers to their pre-contract enquiries, they confirm the receipt of a mortgage offer if any.
- You and your buyer agree on a completion date, and you both commit to the transaction legally. Your conveyancer will help you get a settlement figure to repay the outstanding amount on the mortgage if any. Your buyer’s conveyancer then drafts a transfer deed and sends to your conveyancer.
- Your conveyancer then checks the transfer deed, ensures that all is in order and sends it to you to sign, thus signaling the completion of the transaction.
As a buyer, the conveyancing process is the same as your conveyancer looks out for your interests in the process outlined above.
Can I do my Own Conveyancing?
The short answer is yes; you can do your conveyancing yourself. However, you shouldn’t do so, especially if you are buying real estate. If you are buying with a mortgage, or selling to somebody who is purchasing with a mortgage then you will not be permitted to handle the transaction yourself. Lenders have this rule to protect their own interests as professional conveyancers have professional indemnity insurance.
Furthermore, conveyancing is a complicated and time-consuming process. It is also a risky business as it could turn disastrous in the blink of an eye. It is a detail-oriented process and one which could hurt you if you miss a vital detail that only becomes apparent after you complete the transaction.
Have you ever heard of ‘caveat emptor’? It is a common law principle which means ‘let the buyer beware’, and it applies to property in the United Kingdom.
Thus, if you do the conveyancing yourself and a controversy pops up, you have no recourse against the seller. The sad truth is that in some cases, sellers do not have the legal right to sell the properties they are marketing. With a licensed and experienced conveyancer, you can avoid this pitfall.
It could seem like a good idea to do your conveyancing yourself if you are considering cost-saving. The truth, however, is that you only save the basic fee you would have paid the conveyancer. You will still have to pay other fees, including Stamp Duty Land Tax.