When you move house, it can feel like you need an army of people in order to push your purchase through. Solicitors, estate agents and mortgage advisers all form part of your arsenal, but there’s another regiment that causes all kinds of confusion among potential buyers: conveyancers.

What does conveyancing mean?

Conveyance: the transfer of property from one person to another, or the document by which this is effected.

Conveyancing is an integral part of the home-buying process, but what does it actually mean? Unless you’re currently in the home-buying business, it’s unlikely that you’ve heard of conveyancing or understand exactly what it involves.

Essentially, conveyancing refers to the legal transfer of a property from one owner to another. This process encompasses all legal and administrative work that comes with buying a house, and it is valid under the law.

Conveyancing is carried out by conveyancing solicitor or licensed conveyancer acting on the behalf of a buyer. This ensures the deal is carried out lawfully and efficiently. The conveyancer will certify that their client receives the title deeds to the property and the land the property sits on.

Conveyancing for my House Move

Choosing your Conveyancer

Choosing the right conveyancer is an essential part of the home buying process. Having a qualified and reliable conveyancer will ensure that the transaction goes ahead without any avoidable hitches or delays and it will keep legal costs down to a minimum.

When choosing you conveyancer, there are a few things that you need to consider. Firstly, you should only appoint your conveyancer once you are considering buying a property. Even before you have mad an initial offer, look around for a well-regarded conveyancer and see how much they charge for their services. Having them available at all times will ensure that the process is sped up and that the purchase can be finalised as swiftly as possible. By hiring a conveyancer after you have made an offer, you may end up delaying certain parts of the process, which can hamper your chances of landing the property of your dreams.

Making sure that your conveyancer is registered with the Council of Licensed Conveyancers is also a key thing to consider when appointing someone to look after your purchase. At the end of the day, you want the best people for the job, so it’s important that you do your research when it comes to whom you decide to go with. Likewise, if you hire a solicitor to carry out your conveyancing, ensure that the Solicitors Regulation Authority regulates them. It is illegal for them to practise without this regulatory requirement.

Most importantly, though, is to remember that purchasing a house is one of the biggest investments of your life. While it can be tempting to be drawn in by low fees and unrealistic timescales, don’t be fooled by false promises. Take your time and do your research; this is not a decision that you want to come to regret due to trying to save a few pounds.

Do-It-Yourself Conveyancing

It is possible to deal with your own conveyancing, but be warned, it’s an extremely detailed, complex and drawn out legal process. It’s recommended that you hire your own conveyancers and let them take care of the legal side of buying the property. As mentioned, conveyancers look after a lot of different aspects when it comes to buying a home, with many of them being time-consuming and somewhat complicated.

While it may be tempting to take on the conveyancing process yourself, by getting yourself a conveyancer, you ensure that you are protected throughout the home exchange.

Not only does a conveyancer ensure that you are protected, but if you do decide to go it alone, you could be hampering your chances of getting a mortgage. The majority of banks will insist that you use a professional solicitor or conveyancer to undertake the conveyancing process in order to protect their own interests. The law regarding property can be tricky, with there being an increased possibility of thing going wrong if you decide to go it alone. In order to avoid additional costs and potential court appearances, it’s best to let the professionals handle the legal side of the purchase.

Conveyancing Fraud

Of course, as with all expensive investments, you do run the risk of becoming a victim of fraud. With the amount of money involved in home buying, conveyancing is becoming an increasingly popular avenue for fraud. In fact, such is this growing trend; conveyancing fraud has now become one of the most common cybercrimes in the legal sector.

In order to avoid being the victim of this crime, make sure that you are constantly alert and cautious when it comes to interacting with your conveyancer. If you are interacting over email, always check the email address to ensure that it is coming from a domain that matches the address of your conveyancer’s website and company name. Likewise, never accept bank details that are provided over email as they may have been intercepted and changed.

If you are doing business through email, make sure that you are using a secure Wi-Fi network when talking to your conveyancer or transferring sizable amounts of money. Do not use public Wi-Fi in cafes and pubs as they can be hacked and you may be left exposed and liable to the victim of fraud. Also, when talking about your personal finances, it’s best to go into your conveyancer’s office or do it over the phone.

If your conveyancer does ask for funds to be sent over, it’s worth sending over a test payment to ensure that the money is being sent to the correct account. Instead of sending over all of the money in one go, transfer £1 to the account and ask them to confirm that they received it. On top of this, if you receive an email saying that these bank details have changed, do not take it at face value. In order to ensure that this information is correct, call up your conveyancer’s office and ask them to confirm the change on the phone or in writing. While email has changed the way we communicate with each other and made our lives easier, it has also opened up an easier for fraudsters and scammers to get to your hard-earned money.

The Conveyancing Process

Putting in Your Offer

If you are successful in your bid on a property, you will hear your conveyancer or mortgage lender refer to the exchange of contracts. While you may think that the property is already yours, with you having negotiated terms and had your offer accepted, the purchase does not become legally binding until the contracts are exchanged.

Conveyancers acting on behalf of both buyer and seller handle the exchange of contracts. Until the terms are agreed and signed, both parties have the freedom to walk away from the agreement at any time. Of course, this can lead to a buyer being put in a compromising position. Gazumping – where another buyer comes in with a better offer – is a real prospect until the contracts have been exchanged and signed.

Conveyancing Searches

When you take out a mortgage on a property, that mortgage is secured on the property itself. The value of the property serves as a guarantee to lenders in the event that their money is not paid back.

For this reason, a range of checks and local authority searches are typically required by mortgage lenders. These rule out the risk of undisclosed issues with the property affecting its value down the line, and ensure that it’s fit for purpose and ready to move into.

To give you an idea of what conveyancers are checking for, this could be anything from public rights of way and restrictions of usage to flooding risks, nearby mine shafts and “contaminated land”.

If you’re buying without a mortgage, you technically don’t need to do any conveyancing searches. However, as these searches can uncover issues with serious financial and everyday implications, it’s always advisable to have them carried out. By the same token, always use a professional conveyor; buying a property is a sizable investment, so it pays to be safe not sorry.

The 4 most common conveyancing searches, required by most lenders are:

  1. Local Authority Search (LAS)
  2. Water and Drainage Search
  3. Environmental Search
  4. Chancel Repair Search

Depending on the circumstances, your solicitor or conveyancer may advise that you complete additional searches, including:

  • British Waterways Search
  • Flood Report
  • Local Land Charge Search
  • Commons Registration Search
  • Coal Mining and Brine Search

Conveyancing searches cover the legal aspects of the purchase only and are not the same thing as property surveys. So, things like the Homebuyer’s Survey, the Valuation Survey and the Structural/Building Survey are the responsibility of the buyer – not of the conveyancer.

For more info on conveyancing searches, check out our dedicated post!

Conveyancing Process: Property Searches

Gazumping

If you get gazumped, it means your offer is no longer the highest bid. This will lead to the seller walking away from your negotiation or increasing the asking price for the property at the last minute.

While many see it as immoral and protest against the act, gazumping is still legal in the UK and there is nothing that legally protects a buyer from being a victim of it. In light of this, the government is currently looking at creating new legislation to protect buyers from being gazumped.

That said, if you are gazumped, you’re free to gazump the gazumper with a higher offer still. However, if this is something you choose to do, ensure that you don’t over-extend yourself financials. If you do get gazumped, it’s sometimes best to walk away.

See also: Gazumping – our guide to a gazump-proof move

Gazumping: All You Need to Know

Exchange of Contracts

Assuming all property checks are complete, your conveyancer will swap contracts with the seller’s party, arrange the transfer of the deposit and prepare the completion statement and transfer deeds for you to complete the purchase. Not only this, but they will also request the mortgage advance from your lender and transfer the balance to the seller’s conveyancer.

If all goes well and your conveyancer seals the deal, the contracts will be exchanged, and a deposit of 10 per cent of the purchase price will be required from the buyer to ensure that the property transfers into their ownership.

If you pull out of the deal after the contract exchange, you may lose the deposit you paid. So it’s important that you are fully committed and able to carry out the purchase as agreed in the contract terms.

See also: all you need to know about exchanging contracts

Exchange of Contracts: Quick Guide

Stamp Duty

A conveyancer’s work is not done with the sale. After the contracts have been exchanged, they will submit a tax return and pay the required Stamp Duty Land Tax to HM Revenue & Customs. They will then forward documentation regarding the transfer of ownership to the Land Registry and forward the title deed to your mortgage lender.

See also: all you need to know about stamp duty (SDLT)

All You Need to Know about Stamp Duty (SDLT)

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Buying a house can be a confusing time and it involves a lot of people doing a lot of different jobs. At the centre of it all, however, is your conveyancer. Hopefully, you are now aware of what it is that these people do and you understand their importance in the home buying process.

If you are in the market to buy a house, your conveyancer will be one of the most important people that you will deal with and it’s important to make sure that they’re reliable, recognised and trust-worthy.  As mentioned, this is a big investment and you need to be considered, thoughtful and calm when making all of your decisions in order to ensure that you protecting yourself in the best way possible.

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