At its simplest, conveyancing is the term given for the legal transfer of ownership of a property from one person (the vendor) to another (the purchaser).
When stated as simply as that, you might wonder why a fancy word such as conveyancing should be given to something so apparently straight forward. Even more to the point, perhaps, is why you should be forking out yet more hard-earned cash to someone who makes that conveyance for you – either a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer.
In fact, there’s nothing compelling you to instruct either – you might choose to do the conveyancing yourself. Remember, though, that this would leave you with a great deal of work to do yourself, in an area of the law with which you are unlikely to be familiar, and where the risks of getting it wrong will leave the responsibility entirely on your own shoulders. All this, in order to save yourself conveyancing fees that are typically not much more than £300 to £500 or so.
In order to understand why the great majority of vendors and purchasers instruct a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer, therefore, let’s take a brief look at some of the things that such a professional is likely to do:
Conveyancing – What’s involved
Once you’ve made an offer to buy, for example, the vendor’s solicitor or licensed conveyancer will draw up the contract of sale, which formally identifies the price at which the property is to be sold, its boundaries, and fittings and fixtures included in that price, the rights and any legal restrictions to be conveyed with the property, any planning restrictions, the services and utilities serving the property, and the agreed completion date;
Meanwhile, the purchaser’s conveyancer will be conducting the “searches” of the property to be sold, including the seller’s “title” or legal ownership of the home, enquiries with the local authorities about any planning permissions, roadways or other developments which might affect the property, and contact with the vendor’s conveyancer about the contract details;
The respective solicitors or licensed conveyancers will then ensure that both vendor and purchaser are content with their contracts for the transaction and arrange for the “exchange of contracts” (the binding agreement to proceed with the transaction, typically also involving the payment of the purchase deposit of 10%);
After the exchange, a legal eye is cast over the mortgage documents, with the conveyancer making sure that the balance of all monies due will be available on the agreed completion date;
A final check with the Land Registry also needs to be made before proceeding to completion;
Upon completion, the conveyancer ensures that the balance of the property’s purchase price is paid over to the vendor, that the purchaser receives the documents proving his or her legal ownership, and ensures that any keys are handed over;
The final step in the conveyancing process is for the solicitor or licensed conveyancer to register the new ownership details with the Land Registry and to ensure payment of the Stamp Duty Land Tax.