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The Bumper Guide to Conveyancing

Moving house is stressful enough without worrying about how to find a solicitor for the conveyancing process, and while we’re at it, what even is “conveyancing” anyway?

Most people have no need to know the ins and outs of the conveyancing process, and that’s ok, so to help you out over the next few weeks of your move, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about conveyancing into one mammoth article.

Guide to Conveyancing by The Solicitor Finder

What is conveyancing?

When you move house, you’ll need a solicitor to do something called “conveyancing” for you. This is basically all the legal work of switching a house from someone’s name, into someone else’s. Then you move in! Except it’s not quite that simple…

Technically, conveyancing is the process of changing the legal ownership of a property. When you buy a house, the title deed will need to be transferred from the seller to the buyer and new contracts will need to be drawn up and signed before the keys are handed over, amongst other legal requirements. This is called conveyancing and is usually done by a conveyancer or a property solicitor.

A solicitor or conveyancer: what's the difference?

There really isn’t much difference, except that a conveyancer will only do conveyancing and a solicitor might have experience in other legal matters too.

If you’re trying to compare conveyancing solicitors, remember that it’s more important to ensure that your conveyancing fees are fixed and the service is recommended by previous happy customers, than whether or not you choose a conveyancer or property solicitor.

How can I find a solicitor?

  1. You can use The Solicitor Finder to compare conveyancing solicitors online. You’ll be able to see all their details in one place and can compare conveyancing fees too.
  2. Some people still prefer to use a local conveyancing solicitor, and that’s ok too, you can compare conveyancing solicitors on The Solicitor Finder by location, then filter them by price if you want.
  3. Search online for conveyancing services to seal the deal. Once you’ve found a couple of property solicitors you like the sound of, take a look at their website and see which ones you like best.
  4. Give us a call. If you’re still stuck, or can’t decide which solicitor to choose, call our expert team and we’ll help you find a property solicitor that fits your needs exactly.

Should I choose local solicitors?

While there used to be some benefit to choosing a local conveyancing solicitor, nowadays with the internet there’s no need to book based on location. You won’t actually see much of your conveyancer and most communication will be done by email, phone or post.

An experienced conveyancer can do a perfectly good job without needing to live in the local area, but if you want to book local, just filter by location on The Solicitor Finder.

What should I look for in a solicitor?

  1. When you choose a conveyancing solicitor, you’ll want to go with someone who is experienced and knowledgeable of all areas of the conveyancing process. Have a look at their testimonials; do they have a good reputation?
  2. Are they friendly and approachable? Do you think you could work with them? The search for a property solicitor can be exhausting, but the conveyancing process will be even more so if you end up with a solicitor you can’t stand!
  3. Another important aspect is finances and you can also compare conveyancing solicitors by cost. Is there a rough guide on their prices available to see beforehand so you know how much to budget for? Do they offer Fixed Fee conveyancing?

When you compare conveyancing quotes on The Solicitor Finder, you’ll only get results of experienced solicitors who offer a Fixed Fee service, so all you have to do then is decide which one you like the look of.

What is “fixed fee” conveyancing?

Fixed Fee conveyancing is when your property solicitor gives you a final quote before beginning the conveyancing process. This is a standard price for a typical conveyancing transaction. This way you know exactly how much you will be spending on legal fees right at the start, and you won’t have any surprise costs at the end.

If it transpires that your transaction needs additional work, your solicitor will advise you of this before any further cost is accrued.

Believe it or not, some not-so-honest conveyancing solicitors will still charge by the hour, or add on extra charges at the end of the conveyancing which you weren’t aware of, leaving you with a huge bill that you hadn’t budgeted for.

This is why it is so important to ensure you are getting a Fixed Fee conveyancing service like those offered through The Solicitor Finder. We offer fixed fee quotes for typical conveyancing transactions, and we don't work with solicitors who charge for phone calls and extra services.

Will they work with my mortgage lender?

Another point to consider when you compare conveyancing quotes is if the solicitor is approved to work with your mortgage lender

Most mortgage lenders will only work with a set of approved solicitors, making your decision a little harder. If you find a property solicitor you like elsewhere and get a quote, only to find that they don’t work with your mortgage lender, you have added considerable delay to your house hunting.

This doesn’t have to be the case though as The Solicitor Finder allows you to specify your mortgage lender, and then filters the results according to your selection, so you are only shown conveyancing solicitors that you can work with.

What should I ask my solicitor?

It can be difficult to know what you should be asking when you finally find a solicitor. Here’s some of the main areas to discuss with your conveyancer:

  • How much will my final bill be?
  • Are the fees fixed or will there be any later additions to my bill?
  • How long will my conveyancing take?
  • Do they have positive testimonials?
  • Do they charge if the sale falls through? How much?
  • What is their process of conveyancing?
  • Have they dealt with a similar property to yours before?
  • What problems could arise?
  • When will they be available to contact?
  • How long do they usually take to reply to enquiries?

So now let’s assume your search for a property solicitor is over and you’ve found the perfect person to take charge of your conveyancing, what happens next?

What is the conveyancing process?

While every house sale is different, there will be a few things that come up in every conveyancing process. Your conveyancing solicitor will carry out the following:

  • Applying for conveyancing searches for the property.
  • Drawing up contracts and overseeing the signing and exchange.
  • Dealing with the Land Registry.
  • Working out Stamp Duty and arranging it to be paid on time.
  • Transferring money between buyer and seller.
  • Providing legal advice.
  • Arranging the collection of keys upon completion.

What are property searches?

Conveyancing searches are formal enquiries to local authorities or registers about any issues that may affect your new property. These include environmental searches to find out if there is any nearby land contamination, flood searches if the house is near a river or lake, mining searches to check that the house isn’t built on disused mines and many more.

It's important to get all the appropriate conveyancing searches done before you buy the property as you don’t want to find out later down the line that the place is prone to flooding or structural problems.

Your seller is under no obligation to inform you of any problems with the property due to something called ‘Caveat Emptor’, which means ‘Buyer Beware’. It means that you must find out everything you can about the house through conveyancing searches and surveying before you buy.

What is the Land Registry?

The Land Registry is the government organisation that all land and property in England and Wales is registered with. When you buy the deed to a new house, you will have to register it with your details to make it official. Your conveyancing solicitor will be able to do this for you after completion.

How much Stamp Duty will I pay?

Stamp Duty is worked out in levels, so how much you will pay depends on the price of your house. There is no Stamp Duty to be paid on the first £125,000. Anything worth between £125,001 and £250,000 has a 2% fee. The next level is £250,001 and £925,000 which attracts a 5% charge. Then £925,001 to £1.5 million is 10%.

If this seems complicated, don’t worry, your property solicitor will work out how much Stamp Duty you need to pay and add it to your other fees so you don’t need to organise anything by yourself.

What is “Exchange of Contracts”?

The Exchange of Contracts happens after all the conveyancing searches are complete and the buyer is happy with the results.

Your conveyancer will check through the contracts and get you to sign. At this point the sale becomes legally binding.

After this, the contracts will be exchanged with the seller’s conveyancer and the deposit will be paid. The deposit is usually 10%, with the rest being due on completion.

What does “completion” mean?

“Completion” is when the rest of the money is transferred (so after the mortgage lender has paid, if you are relying on a mortgage like most people) and the keys can be handed over. The Completion date is agreed on at the Exchange of Contracts and can happen in on the same day as exchange.

What happens next?

After completion, all that’s needed is to register your details with the Land Registry and pay your conveyancing solicitor their fees, plus any Stamp Duty due.

The Conveyancing Timetable

It can be helpful to know when all this will be happening so we’ve created a conveyancing timetable of a typical transaction here for you to consult and print out if you need.

Time (weeks) Buyer’s Solicitor Seller’s Solicitor
0 - 1 Initial conversations with solicitors to agree terms
1 - 3 Get title deeds from seller’s mortgage lender or Land Registry.
Write up draft contract to give buyer’s solicitor.
1 - 6 Check through contract and approve
Carry out conveyancing searches
Inspect title deeds
Check mortgage offer
Raise any enquiries with seller’s solicitor Respond to enquiries from buyer
6 - 8 Exchange of Contracts (Buyer pays deposit)
Draft Completion documents
Carry out Land Registry and bankruptcy searches
Request mortgage advance from lender
Approve Completion documents
Calculate Completion figure
Read and sign Completion documents
Arrange for buyer to pay funds Send money to seller
8 + Completion
Arrange for buyer to collect keys
Register the property with Land Registry
Send deeds to mortgage lender
Done!

If you’re moving house, you’ll be beginning with a search for a solicitor. Cut out the delays and confusion and use The Solicitor Finder to compare conveyancing quotes and find the perfect solicitor to suit your needs.

Call us on: 0800 038 6644 or get a free instant quote online with The Solicitor Finder

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