What is Conveyancing?

When you are buying or selling your home, conveyancing is the legal process you’ll need to go through to make sure that ownership is legally transferred to the buyer. Read on to find out what’s involved, how much it costs and how long it can take.

Brean Horne Last updated on 08 February 2022.
What is Conveyancing?

Buying a home is an exciting milestone, but lots of legal and administrative work goes on behind the scenes to make it happen.

This process is known as conveyancing, which starts when your offer for a property is accepted, and finishes when you receive the keys to your new home.

Here, we explain what conveyancing is and how long it can take to complete before you can move into your home.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring a property or land from a seller to a buyer.

The conveyancing process is designed to ensure that the buyer becomes the legal owner. It also makes sure that they are aware of any restrictions before buying so that there aren’t any unwelcome surprises.

Conveyancing includes several stages, such as local authority searches to see if there are any restrictions or future planning applications that might affect the property, exchanging contracts and completion.

Typically, conveyancing is handled by a licensed conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor, or by a chartered legal executive working alongside a lawyer. It is possible to complete the process yourself, however many people prefer to pass the task on to a specialist to avoid any legal complications.

It’s important to note that if you are buying a property in Scotland, the legal system is different, and you will need to instruct a solicitor as soon as you are ready to make an offer on a property. For more information on the conveyancing process in Scotland, visit mygov.scot.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that while buying a property in Northern Ireland is a similar process to England and Wales, an older property law applies.

How long does conveyancing take?

Conveyancing can take between eight and 12 weeks on average, but it may take longer if there are delays in the process – for example, if you are in a long property chain or there is a disagreement about the terms of the property title.

Conveyancing might also take a bit longer during busy periods in the property market, with firms processing an increased number of property sales.

Although you can’t help unexpected delays in the conveyancing process, there are ways to help the process run smoothly, such as:

  • Hiring (or instructing) a solicitor or conveyancer as soon as possible.
  • Sending your documents and proof of ID promptly.
  • Providing proof of funds on time.
  • Speaking with your conveyancer and estate agent regularly to stay updated on the process.

How much does conveyancing cost?

The fee you pay for conveyancing is split into two categories: the basic fee and disbursements.

The basic fee covers the cost of hiring a conveyancer to carry out the legal work, while disbursements cover the cost of payments your conveyancer makes to third parties – for example paying land registration fees and local authority searches.

The cost of conveyancing varies depending on the type and value of property you buy. But you can expect to pay around £850 to £1,500 for the basic fee and between £250 and £350 for disbursements, excluding stamp duty costs.

Most firms charge fixed conveyancer fees, but some companies may charge an hourly rate. You may have to pay an upfront deposit when you hire a conveyancer, which is usually around 10% of their fee.

Once the sale of the house is complete, you’ll have to pay the remaining amount. If a sale falls through, you’re likely to have to pay a fee for some or all of the work already completed.

It’s really important to check before hiring a conveyancer, so you don’t get caught out by unexpected costs. It is always worth getting two or three quotes in writing from conveyancers or solicitors, which clearly set out their terms – for example, what their fees would be should the sale or purchase fall through.

» MORE: What are conveyancing fees?

Can I do my own conveyancing?

It is possible to do your own conveyancing but, typically, mortgage lenders will request that you hire a conveyancer who is on their panel of approved conveyancers.

It’s important to note that the conveyancing process is a very complex and time-intensive process. If you do decide to go it alone, you’ll need to be confident that you understand all of the steps involved. If you are in any doubt, then hire a conveyancer. The last thing you want is to spend even more on legal costs trying to undo your mistakes.

» MORE: What is the cost of buying a house?

Do I need a conveyancer for a remortgage?

You only need a conveyancer or solicitor to remortgage your home if you are switching to a new mortgage provider. That’s because the title deed has to be transferred from your current lender to the new one. The conveyancer’s work includes verifying your identity, checking the title deeds and carrying out money-laundering checks.

» COMPARE: Remortgage rates

What is online conveyancing?

Online conveyancing works in the same way as traditional conveyancing, except that the entire process takes place online and over the phone rather than face to face.

Many online conveyancers offer a “no sale no fee” guarantee. That means that you won’t have to pay legal fees if the property sale falls through.

Online conveyancing tends to be quicker and cheaper than traditional conveyancing. You can also track the sale of the property online.

How to find a good conveyancer

Whether you decide to hire a traditional conveyancer or try online conveyancing, the following tips can help you find the best firm:

  • Shop around: Get quotes from different conveyancers to compare prices.
  • Research costs: Be sure to check each firm to see if they have any hidden costs that may not have been included in the quote.
  • Customer reviews: Customer feedback and testimonials can help give you an impression of the type of service a firm offers.
  • Recommendations: Ask close friends, family or your mortgage lender for recommendations to find a good conveyancer.
  • Professional bodies: Organisations such as the Society of Licensed Conveyancers, The Law Society and the Conveyancing Association can help you find licensed conveyancers and solicitors in your local area.

Although conveyancing fees are important to consider, cheaper doesn’t always mean better value. It’s really important to weigh up other factors, such as experience and customer service, into your decision to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.

» MORE: 11 tips for first-time buyers

About the author:

Brean is a personal finance writer at NerdWallet. She covers a range of financial topics and has written for consumer titles including Which?, Moneywise and The Motley Fool. Read more

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