What does a conveyancer actually do?

Most people can find buying and selling a property quite a daunting process, especially as they may only buy or sell a property a couple of times during their life. This is where a conveyancing solicitor will be able to assist you throughout the process.   If you’re about to buy or sell a property and want to understand more about how it works and what’s involved, this guide is for you.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal transfer of a property from one person to another.  It covers the whole process for buying or selling a property, from the time when a buyer’s offer is accepted by the seller to the moment the buyer collects the keys for the property. A solicitor carries out all the legal and administrative work that deals with the transfer.  In addition, the solicitor makes sure that their client is registered and the Land Registry as the legal owner of the property and the land.

What exactly will a solicitor or conveyancer do for me? 

Although no two property transactions are identical (because no two properties are identical!) they do follow a fairly routine process.

Here’s a step by step guide:

The initial steps

1. The seller will usually put the property on the market through an estate agent although they can advertise it themselves on line. 
2. The buyer puts in an offer, and (possibly after some negotiation) the purchase price is agreed.
3. Then both the buyer and the seller will each instruct a solicitor to act for them.
4. The solicitors write to each other, to confirm that they are instructed, and to confirm the important points, such as sale price, and any special conditions such as an agreed timetable.
5. The seller’s solicitor will ask their client to fill in forms, which will tell the solicitor all about the property, such as how many bedrooms it has, what is being left with the property (such as fixtures and fittings) and who is responsible for maintaining any boundaries.
6. The seller’s solicitor then sends these forms, and a draft contract to the buyer’s solicitors with copies of any relevant documents such as a copy of the certificate from the land registry showing that their client owns the property. 

The searches

7. The purchaser’s solicitor will order searches on the property (such as local authority searches and a water search) which will show if there are any issues with the property, which may not be obvious just from a visual inspection, such as whether the property has ever flooded. 
8. As well as the searches, the buyer’s solicitor will ask lots of questions which the seller’s solicitor must answer.  These are called enquiries. 
9. The buyer’s solicitor will also be speaking to their client about money.  They will look at what the purchase price is, how much (if anything) the buyer is borrowing (such as from a mortgage provider or family member), and how much the buyer needs need to pay themselves to buy the property.  They will make sure that the buyer has enough money, not just for the purchase, but for any other costs, such as stamp duty, searches, mortgage charges and legal fees.
10. The buyer’s solicitor will liaise with the mortgage company to make sure that the money is going to be available in time for the purchase to complete, and that the buyer understands the basic terms.
11. If the property being bought is leasehold (usually a flat) the seller will also need to provide a sellers pack from the freeholder, to show things like how up to date the service charges are, and whether any works are likely to need to be done to the property in the near future.
12. The buyer’s solicitor may also liaise with the buyer’s surveyor to talk about any concerns about the property such as any breach of building regulations.
13. Once the buyer’s solicitor has all the searches and all the answers to the enquiries, they can tell the buyer everything they need to know about the property, such as if there are any rights of way over the land. 
14. The seller’s solicitor can also give advice on the local authority search to confirm that the property meets planning permission and building regulation requirements.  It can help the new owner avoid being liable to rectify a previous owner’s failure to get the right planning permission or to comply with other restrictions.
15. The seller’s solicitor will also confirm whether the contract is agreed, and if not, what changes they want to make.
16. As well as legal aspects of the transaction, both sides solicitors also have administrative work to do.  They will keep in contact with all the parties (you, the estate agents, the other side’s solicitors, the mortgage company) to make the transaction run as smooth as possible.

Exchange of contracts

17. Once the buyer has confirmed to their solicitors that they are happy with all the answers to information on the property and they are ready to go ahead, and once the wording of the contract has been agreed by both parties, each party signs their copy of the contract.
18. The solicitors for each side then speak over the phone, confirm that they are each holding a copy of the contract that has been signed by their client, and that they are ready to exchange contracts.  They will confirm when the completion date is to take place, and how much deposit is being paid (usually 10%). 
19. At the end of this conversation, contracts have been exchanged, and both sides are committed to the transaction.  It often comes as a surprise to the buyer and seller that such an important step in the chain takes place in a brief telephone conversation.
20. The parties then send their signed copy of the contract to the other side by post, with the buyer’s solicitor also sending the deposit.

Between exchange and completion

21. Between exchange and completion, the seller’s solicitor will give the buyer’s solicitor confirmation of how much they want on completion so that the buyer’s solicitor can check it is correct.  The seller will also give an undertaking that they will use the money they receive to pay off any existing charges (such as the seller’s mortgage) on completion.
22. On the day of completion, the buyer will send the money to the seller’s solicitor, and as soon as the money is received by the seller’s solicitor, the keys can be released to the buyer.  This can take some time if the transaction is part of a chain, so that the buyer’s solicitor is waiting for proceeds of sale of the buyer’s property before they can send the money to the seller’s solicitor.
23. Although this is the end of it as far as the buyer and seller are concerned, the solicitors still have a few steps to take.  They will make sure any stamp duty is paid, they will make sure any existing charges are removed, they will ensure that the property is now registered in the purchaser’s name, and that their mortgage is recorded.

Conclusion

A conveyancer is essential when purchasing a property. They make the process as simple and as easy as possible for you.   They will also be able to explain the process as it’s going along and advise you of any risks you are taking and how to reduce those risk.

 

Disclaimer – our articles are designed to give you guidance and information.  There is no substitute for proper direct advice, particularly as everyone’s circumstances are different.  If anything in this article may affect you, please contact us for advice that is specific to your circumstances.