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Conveyancing explained

Conveyancing is the posh word for all the legal stuff that goes on when you buy or sell a residential or commercial property. Up until 1985, you had to go to a solicitor to prepare all the paperwork for you. The Government then allowed a new profession, licensed conveyancers, to also perform the service. Both solicitors and licensed conveyancers are closely regulated.

Buying and selling a property can be a financial and emotional rollercoaster.

But don’t let that put you off. Let’s see if we can go through the process simply and speedily, with a spring in our step and a smile on our face.

You’ve found a property you love, made an offer and it’s been accepted.

Next thing is to stop squealing with excitement and instruct a solicitor or licensed conveyancer. You may well have contacted a solicitor beforehand in preparation, and that’s fine.

It’s important to have someone you can communicate with face to face. Don’t simply choose the cheapest one you can find. Then again, the most expensive is no guarantee that you’ll get the best service. So the best advice is to do your research, or better still, get a personal recommendation from colleagues, friends or family.

We asked a licensed conveyancer to describe in a nutshell what Conveyancing is. He said, it can be simple, complicated, stressful and slow, smooth and quick.

So not conclusive, but just goes to prove that, because Conveyancing deals with people not just property, each transaction is unique. Different clients, lawyers, estate agents, mortgage lenders and mortgage advisors; they all have their own influence on the speed and conduct of the transaction.

How much?

The solicitor or licensed conveyancer will tell you their fees, and this should not alter unless there are complications with the sale or purchase. Your quote will show Conveyancing fees together with the VAT charged and any Search and Land Registry fees. If you are buying a new property the builders may make a small charge for creating the required legal documents.

We’ve simplified things a little bit here, but the whole Conveyancing transaction from start to finish is broadly split into three stages:

  1. The offer stage - This is when the price is negotiated and financial arrangements are confirmed.
  2. The contract stage - The conveyancer approves the contract, makes searches and enquiries, and checks the mortgage offer.
  3. The completion stage - Now it gets exciting, contracts are exchanged and a deposit is paid. A moving date is agreed and all aspects of the transactions are confirmed. Then, on the agreed date, the agreed purchase price is paid and the keys are handed over.

Your chosen solicitor or licensed conveyancer will take all the details of the transaction, addresses, relevant contact numbers, and they then open a file. Sounds all a bit CSI, but it’s just a point where they keep all the things to do with your transaction in one place.

As you’re basically transferring ownership of the property from one person to another, there are documents that need to be sourced or created, signed and handed over.

There are also a few things like searches (more about those in a moment) and various enquiries that need to be made to different people and departments. That’s why the process can often get drawn out.

What is a Property Title Search and what are they searching for?

A full Property Title Search involves going through all the recorded documents, court cases etc. (anything of public record). The simplest one of these is a ‘chain of title’ which is a list of previous owners of the property. A typical report should also contain information, such as whether or not taxes have been paid and how much. It should also include any conditions and restrictions to do with the property. In some areas it is also a requirement to make sure that the owner and the buyers do not have any outstanding court cases that may affect the property (Bankruptcies, for example).

Local Authority Search

This is a search which is undertaken at the local council. It reveals whether there are any charges or orders registered against your property by the local authority which could affect you after your purchase. It also provides information about planning, highways, environmental and transport..

Index Map Search

This search is carried out where the land you are buying is not registered at HM Land Registry. It will reveal whether anyone has ever tried to register ownership of the land.

Land Registry

This search is carried out immediately prior to completion of your purchase to ensure that there have been no mortgages or notices registered against the property you are buying.

Bankruptcy Search

If you are buying with a mortgage, and let’s face it most people will be, this search is done on behalf of the bank or building society. It brings to light any court proceedings pending against you which need pointing out to the lender.

There may be other searches carried out like mining, drainage, and environmental searches. Depending upon the circumstances of your purchase, i.e. location, it may not be necessary to carry out all these searches, but you’ll be told about these as your purchase progresses.

The essence of Conveyancing is to provide the buyer with good ‘title’ to the property. All this means is, it’s the conveyancer’s job to validate or confirm the seller’s ownership. In other words, he or she has the right to sell the property, and that there is nothing that would prevent someone getting a mortgage on the property or re-selling it.

The good conveyancer, and there are a lot of good ones out there, explain the process in a way that’s easy to understand. They keep you informed, steering clear of legal jargon, even though the documents and paperwork they are dealing with are full of it.

A good conveyancer will:

  • Keep you informed on a regular basis
  • Manage expectations of everyone involved
  • Deal with the work promptly and efficiently
  • Divide the work into logical segments
  • Simplify the process
  • Respond to telephone calls
  • Work as a team with the other professionals involved

Most people who are buying or selling a property want to avoid delays, but they also don’t want problems once they’ve moved or when they come to sell the property, and that’s what good Conveyancing is all about.

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. 

Published on 22nd January 2013
(Last updated 28th March 2018)

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