What is conveyancing like today?

Holly Thomas / 24 April 2015

If it's been a long time since you last moved house, the whole process can be a bit daunting. Holly Thomas explains what you need to know about the legal side of buying and selling houses in today's property market.



When buying a home, you will need to get legal help to complete the conveyancing process, which deals with everything that covers the transfer of property ownership.

A solicitor can handle this, but not before going through a rigorous and thorough series of checks.

If you haven’t moved house in some time, you may have forgotten how conveyancing works or not be aware of how the process has progressed over the years.

Read our guide to sneaky estate agent tricks.

Here’s what you need to know about conveyancing today:

The process is frequently a source of much frustration - particularly with those in a hurry to exchange. A survey of more than 2000 buyers and sellers conducted by Morar Consulting shows that the average conveyancing process took 11.3 weeks.

Communications between client and solicitor are still conducted mostly by letter or telephone – and are the cause of most of the complaints to the Legal Ombudsman.

Checks

A solicitor will perform a lengthy number of checks leading up to exchange and completion to ensure there are no other factors you should be aware of, other than any raised by the seller.

They do a local authority search to make sure there are no plans to build a motorway through your new garden, for example.

There are land registry searches that check the current ownership, as well as the official boundary of the house. Water authority searches check the drains and there will also be a flood risk check.

As well as these checks – and more – the solicitor will draft the contract and amend it where necessary in the run up to exchange. Your solicitor will offer legal advice and recommendations on any problems that arise from any searches.

Costs

Fees for conveyancing work vary, so when getting a quote make sure that you know what costs are included. You will usually be charged for the conveyancer's time, phone calls, letters and emails, as well as their indemnity fee.

The fee will also depend on how straightforward the purchase is. The cost could be slightly more for those buying leasehold properties (rather than freehold) as they involve additional work. You might be quoted a flat fee, while others will charge a percentage of the property's value.

Don’t forget to check if the quote includes VAT.

Read our simple guide to stamp duty.

Find a conveyancer

It's a smart move to instruct a solicitor before you start looking for a property to avoid having to make this important decision in a rush.

It also means you appear really efficient once you have had an offer accepted. At this stage an estate agent will ask for your conveyancer's details to pass onto the sellers.

Use a solicitor registered as a Law Society member.

Beware of estate agents’ recommended conveyancers, as they may charge you the commission they in turn pay the agent for the referral.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.