Anyone buying or selling a property in the UK must go through a conveyancer to make sure the transaction is carried out correctly, yet what a conveyancer actually does is a mystery to many. Millions of homes are bought and sold in the UK and this article aims to clarify the role of a conveyancer in a property sale.
Conveyancing solicitors have attracted a bad press recently due to lengthy delays in the process, leading to frustrated buyers and sellers. Conveyancing solicitor Daniel Chard has set out to provide answers to commonly asked questions about conveyancing to clarify the process.
We take a look at his answers to the questions.
What does a conveyancer do?
A conveyancer will protect their client’s interest and handle the contracts of sale process. They also ensure that a transaction is legally valid and that ownership of a property is transferred correctly from one person to another. A conveyancing solicitor will handle the legal process of the property transaction, including checks and searches on the property and area. The aim is to make sure there are no hidden surprises when the deal is done, and they ensure money changes hands at the right time. A property conveyancer can deal with residential conveyancing and commercial property. When instructed for a job the conveyancing solicitor will give a quote for all the work needed.
What is conveyancing?
The term relates to the legalities of property or land purchase.
- Investigating the legal title to the property to ensure the seller has the right to sell it.
- Liaising with the different parties involved in the transaction, including other lawyers, estate agents, banks or mortgage companies, surveyors, and possibly freehold landlords and leasehold managing agents.
- Examination of the Official Register of Title or title deeds if the property is unregistered.
- Making sure the right amount of money is paid to the right parties and that any mortgages are redeemed.
- Obtaining any government grants on behalf of the buyer.
- Asking or responding to questions from the seller’s solicitor.
- Advising the purchaser on the rights and obligations associated with the property such as easements, drainage, water supply, and boundaries.
- Obtaining and examining searches from local authorities, water companies, and environmental consultants to assess matters such as flood risk.
- Making sure all legal documentation is correct.
- Registering the transaction with HM Land Registry following completion.
How long does conveyancing take?
The conveyancing process takes between 12 to 16 weeks though it can take longer due to the many different stages. Not having all the information to hand will slow things down and times will differ depending on the complexity of issues relating to the transaction. Average time spans are:
- Pre-contact work: 2 weeks.
- Mortgage arrangement: 4 weeks.
- Draft contract: 2-10 weeks.
- The time between exchange and completion: 1 week.
How much does conveyancing cost?
Costs vary depending on the individual case, whether you’re purchasing and selling your home at the same time and whether the property is freehold or leasehold – leasehold property is typically more time-consuming and complex. Costs should be paid upon completion of the transaction. Some conveyancing solicitors offer fixed fee conveyancing, so the final price is fixed unless there are unforeseen circumstances. Your quote for property conveyancing work should include a breakdown of costs, including legal fees, stamp duty land tax, disbursements, or fees paid to third parties such as the Land Registry.
Fees include the costs of:
- Drafting contracts.
- Arranging property searches and subsequent paperwork.
- Liaising with the buyer or seller’s solicitor.
- Liaising with the mortgage lender and buyer regarding proof of funds/mortgage offer.
- Legal advice about the property purchase or sale.
- Responding to queries from the buyer or seller.
- Exchanging contracts.
- Managing the transfer of funds upon exchange of contracts and sale completion.
- Managing the completion process.
The conveyancing process offers assurance
Conveyancing is often a complex process that can identify potential legal issues with the transaction which may make an individual more susceptible to fraud, according to Daniel Chard, partner and head of property with conveyancing specialist solicitors Bird & Co, who said that it’s important that the work is done with diligence. He added:
It’s crucial that people understand how conveyancing is not just a mere formality, but an integral part of the property transaction process, that protects individuals from falling victim to scams and fraud. The temptation to cut corners with legal fees isn’t worth the potential risks with one of your most profitable assets, as well as the financial and emotional distress it can cause.
How to find the right solicitor for you
- Recommendation from friends and family.
- Recommendation from a lender, mortgage broker, or Independent Financial Adviser.
- Independent research on local conveyancers with a good track record.
- It’s also advisable to check that your chosen conveyancer is a member of the Council for Licenced Conveyancers and the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.
- Solicitors in England and Wales are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, so check that your property lawyer comes under this umbrella.
How to complain about a conveyancer
You can go through the firm’s own complaints process or complain via a Legal Ombudsman.
How to become a conveyancer
There are several ways to get into the profession. You don’t have to be a solicitor to become a conveyancer. A conveyancer just works on the conveyancing process while a conveyancing solicitor can also advise on other areas of law. Both are legally trained. To become a conveyancing solicitor, it’s necessary to complete a law degree and an LPC qualification before training with a law firm in several areas of law. It can take six years to train to be a solicitor. If you have a degree that is not in law, you will have to sit a law conversion course before undertaking your LPC.
The routes into conveyancing are:
- Start as an apprentice.
- Train with a professional body.
- Extend on a law qualification or relevant experience.
Whether it’s your first property or not, the process of buying a house is for most people a major decision. To make your property purchase or sale hassle free, using a qualified conveyancing solicitor should ensure that all the legal aspects are properly dealt with to protect your interests.