Conveyancing is the branch of the law concerned with the buying and selling of real estate. It’s important because this branch of the law is extremely complicated. Without a lawyer, buyers can easily make mistakes that end up being very expensive. Also, mortgage lenders generally insist that buyers use proper conveyancing.

Conveyancers’ vs Conveyancing Solicitors

Licenced conveyancers have a relevant qualification from the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). Conveyancing solicitors are solicitors who have chosen to specialise in real-estate law.

In general, using a licensed conveyancer is perfectly appropriate for standard property transactions. If, however, you are looking at a more complicated situation, then it may be advisable to hire a conveyancing solicitor. They have greater breadth and depth of knowledge.

How to choose a conveyancing professional

Nanette Kendrick, Head of New Business and Marketing at Lovedays Solicitors, who are specialist conveyancing solicitors in Matlock commented, “The best way to choose a conveyancing professional is to ask for personal recommendations. If this is not possible, look for credible reviews. If you see more than one conveyancing firm you think might be suitable, then it can make sense to look for the most affordable price.”

It is, however, important to make sure that your comparisons are fair. Conveyancers present their charges in different ways. For example, some may offer a package of everything they think clients will need. Some will offer each service individually. Some will do a mixture of both.

This means that headline prices may look very different although real-world costs are similar. At the end of the day, however, price should only be the deciding factor if you are entirely satisfied that the quality of service will be up-to-standard.

Keep in mind that if a conveyancing professional is offering lower rates than other professionals in that area, there is a reason for it. The reason may well be that they specialise in straightforward transactions that can be processed quickly and hence at volume. That’s fine, unless your transaction hits a snag and needs in-depth attention.

Conveyancing timescales

As a rule of thumb, buyers should expect the conveyancing process to take around 2-3 months. There is, however, a lot of room for variation in this. The main factors influencing the length of the conveyancing process are the complexity of the transaction and the length of the chain.

The simpler a transaction is and the fewer people there are involved with it, the easier it usually is to complete. If everybody involved is on the ball, these transactions can be completed very quickly. In fact, sometimes, they can take less than a month.

By contrast, the more complicated a transaction is and the more people are involved with it, the harder it often is to complete. If even one person involved with the transaction is not totally up to speed, they can delay everyone else. If multiple people are not up to speed, the chain can grind to a halt.

If you are under time pressure, then it’s preferable to keep this in mind before either making or accepting an offer on a property. If you’re a buyer, look for sellers who are not part of an onward chain. If you’re a seller, look for buyers who are either paying cash or are preapproved for a mortgage.

The conveyancing process step by step

Here is a quick guide to the key steps in the conveyancing process.

Finding a conveyancer

Ideally, you should start looking for a conveyancer as soon as you decide to buy or sell a property. This means that you can get the conveyancing process started as soon as you find a suitable home/buyer.

Checking the contract and property

The buyer’s conveyancer will request a copy of the sales contract. They will check this and, if necessary, contact the seller’s conveyancer for further information or documentation. They may also reach out to third parties to confirm or clarify any important legal issues relating to the property.

Conveyancers will decide what searches need to be made based partly on the nature and location of the property and partly on what a buyer’s mortgage lender requires. Although a conveyancer’s job is to look at legal issues rather than physical issues, there is a certain level of overlap with surveying.

For example, if a property is located in a historic, or present, mining area, a conveyancer may strongly recommend a specific mining search. Mining searches look for evidence of mining activity near the property. If it finds any, it looks at how these may affect the property. In particular, it looks at the potential for subsidence.

Securing/confirming the mortgage

This may be the point at which buyers apply for a mortgage. It’s more likely to be the point at which buyers confirm their mortgage offer. Modern buyers will often agree a mortgage in principle before starting their property search. The mortgage will, however, only be confirmed once the lender is happy that all their conditions have been fully met.

Signing and exchanging contracts

Once everyone is happy that everything with the property is as it should be, the next step is to confirm the technicalities of the sale. This essentially means checking that the seller has the right to sell the property, checking what is and isn’t included with the sale and checking that the buyer is legitimate (i.e. has funds from a legal source).

In the UK, the onus is on the seller to declare any known issues with the property. The onus is on the buyer to be sure that they understand the information that is presented to them. It is very possible that they will need help from a conveyancer to do so.

If a seller fails to provide information about an issue, they can be held liable for the fact. If, however, a seller provides information and the buyer accepts it, then any future problems are the buyer’s responsibility. It is therefore vital that buyers are completely happy they understand all key facts about the property before they sign a contract.

Completion

Once the contracts have been signed, the parties will agree on a date for the funds to be transferred to the seller and the keys transferred to the buyer. Usually, the buyer will pick up the keys from the estate agent.

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