What is conveyancing? Everything you need to know

Conveyancing can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Our comprehensive guide breaks down the conveyancing process and explains the key concepts you need to know.

Your guide to conveyancing

Conveyancing, it’s something no home mover can avoid and an essential aspect of buying and selling property. It’s a process filled with lengthy surveys, mountains of paperwork, and potential delays sure to infuriate even the most experienced of homebuyers. For those starting out on the property ladder though, just what exactly is conveyancing? Answering this isn’t always easy unfortunately, which is why we’ve decided to step up to the task. We want to break down conveyancing into manageable chunks with our comprehensive guide, which you can turn to at any point in your home moving journey.

Conveyancing in a nutshell

When someone wants to buy a home, UK law dictates that the seller can’t just put a price on a property and sell it without any external influence. This is where a conveyancer comes in. They manage the transfer of the property from the owner to the buyer, covering important details in between. These details involve investigating the property (for faults), exchanging contracts, completing the transfer, and managing the post-completion process.

Who does the conveyancing?

Conveyancing is done either by a solicitor or a dedicated conveyancer, who you will instruct to start the conveyancing process. They won’t only draw up the legal contracts and arrange for the transfer of the title to the Land Registry; conveyancers also assist with contract legal advice, your mortgage offer, and with any issues discovered during the property survey.

What’s the first step?

You need to find a solicitor or conveyancer to instruct. By instruct, we mean you basically tell them to conduct conveyancing on the property you’re looking to buy. If you want to take our advice, we suggest spending some time shopping around and comparing quotes. We can help you with this, thanks to our conveyancing marketplace, where you can compare and choose conveyancers based on their reviews and price.

What happens next?

After appointing a solicitor or dedicated conveyancer, it is up to them to create a draft contract (terms of engagement) with you. Here they will set out their charges and the deposits needed for them to conduct the conveyancing.

The legal process

 

Once a contract has been drawn up, your solicitor will get in touch with the property seller’s own solicitor, where the former will tell the latter that they have been instructed to acquire a copy of key documents. These include the property’s title, the draft contract, and the standard forms.

Your solicitor will have to examine both the draft contract and the supporting documents, as well as staying in contact with the seller’s solicitor. Any queries you may have will be passed from your solicitor onto the seller’s; don’t hesitate to mention anything you think isn’t quite right. Generally speaking, it is up to you to go through the forms sent by the seller to see if there is anything that concerns you. If you’re not quite sure what to look for, your solicitor should be more than happy to advise.  

Property leases

This ties in to the legal section, but it deserves its own mention. Property leases are very important to check when considering buying a home. Ask if it is leasehold, or freehold, because the two have distinctions that can alter the conveyancing process. Leasehold can be an issue if the lease is below 80 years; they are quite pricey to extend and you will have had to have lived in the property for two years before you can. If you want our advice, avoid leases under 60 years.

Searching the property

Properties are mysterious entities, often hiding all manner of sneaky issues you might miss during a viewing. Not only this, but there’s the potential for disruptive council work in the future, something you’ll definitely want to know about before you move into your new home. Part of the conveyancing process is making sure you’re not caught out, which is why they conduct a series of legal searches on the property you’re hoping to buy.

Some of these searches are as simple as checking whether the house is on a flood plain. Some, like local authority searches, require back-and-forths with tight-lipped council staff reluctant to admit any garden-destroying motorway plans. Other searches include:

  1. Environmental Search – this is where the conveyancer will search for any potential environmental hazards, such as ground stability issues or the aforementioned floods. You’ll also receive information on other nearby environmental issues, such as landfill sites, industry (former and current), radon gas potential, and residual toxic chemicals (such as lead, arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals).
  2. Title register and title plan checks – these are documents that confirm the legal ownership of the seller’s property. You can’t sell a property without them.
  3. Location-specific search – some areas in the UK could have unique factors that impact properties. Cornwall for example, with its legacy of tin mining, can be subject to unique checks that make sure a property isn’t near enough to an old mine, such that its foundations may be threatened.

Contract negotiation

During the property survey, both solicitors will start to negotiate terms on a draft contract. If the contract is finalised and both parties agree to its contents, then it becomes official and can be signed in preparation for the exchange.

The buyer at this stage will need to have a guaranteed mortgage offer. The lender will instruct the solicitor to act on their behalf, who will check the mortgage terms and arrange for the buyer to sign the mortgage deed.

The final step

After the mortgage deed is signed and ready to go, it is now when the buyer and seller commit to the property transaction. If either party decides to pull out for whatever reason, they will have to compensate any loss incurred by the opposite party.

If not done already, there might be a few extra checks that need to be done (bankruptcy, land registry, etc.). Once the remaining checks are finalised though, the mortgage money is requested and sent to the buyer’s solicitor, who will prepare the final financial statements.

How can OneDome help with conveyancing?

As the UK’s first transactional property portal, we cover every step of the home moving journey, including conveyancing. We make it simple to find and compare conveyancers based on their reviews and price, meaning you get access to the conveyancer that works best for you. As well as this, you can share documents and communicate with your conveyancer online, meaning no more paper trails or trips to the post office. All documents are encrypted for your peace of mind, as are any messages you send; only you and your conveyancer can see them.

Want to know more about the words and technical terms used in conveyancing? Read our comprehensive conveyancing glossary here.

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