What does my conveyancer do and how do I choose one?
What does a conveyancer do?
If you’re buying or selling property then you’ll need a conveyancer – or conveyancing solicitor – to help you. Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring home ownership from one individual or company, to another.
It’s technically possible to conduct the conveyancing process yourself as long as you’re not taking out a mortgage (as the lender will require a professional legal firm to be involved). However, unless you’ve received all of the appropriate legal training, we would seriously recommend you hire a professional!
The vast majority of people prefer to find the right solicitor or conveyancer and “instruct them” to oversee the conveyancing process.
How to find a conveyancer
Most people will use a local firm that they've recommended to them. There is also a growing number of online platforms that can find you an online conveyancer for a fraction of the normal cost of a more traditional solicitor.
What your conveyancing solicitor will do first
One you’ve chosen your conveyancer, they will open your file and send you a schedule of fees and ask you to sign a formal instruction.
You’ll also need to give information about the estate agent, whether you have a mortgage and if so, details of the lender. They’ll also ask to see photo ID, for example your passport.
Your conveyancer will have been sent a memorandum of sale by the estate agents which will have the solicitor details for the buyer. You’ll need to complete some legal questionnaires about your property and what you intend to include in the sale.
Next, your solicitor will contact your buyers solicitor to inform them they have been instructed to act for you with your purchase and/or sale, prepare a contract and send it to the buyer's solicitors.
What about my mortgage?
If you have a mortgage on the property you’re selling, your conveyancer will need to contact the lender and get a redemption figure. This is the final amount owed by you to the lender once the property is sold. It will consist of the amount left outstanding on the loan and any early repayment charges you may have.
Most mortgages are portable, meaning that you can transfer them from the home you are selling to the home to which you want to move, if you’re buying on.
Deeds and tenure
Your conveyancer will send the draft contract and a copy of the Title – often referred to as the ‘Deeds’ – for the property to the buyer’s conveyancer.
It’s your conveyancer’s job to answer any queries the buyer’s solicitor raises in relation to your property.
For example, the buyers could discover an issue with a boundary between your property and a neighbour or that the house you’re selling is at risk of flooding.
Signing on the dotted line
Once all the queries have been satisfied, your conveyancer will send you the checked documents to sign and return.
Agreeing exchange and completion dates
Phew, nearly there! Your conveyancer’s next job is to negotiate the date of exchange when you legally sell your home. They will then arrange the date of completion – this is the day you’ll hand over the keys to your new home.
It can involve some compromise to find a date suitable for everyone, particularly if it’s a long chain.
After completion, your conveyancer will pay your mortgage off, with any extra fees due to the lender, pay the estate agent if applicable, pay themselves and then send the remaining monies to you.
What’s the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer?
Both conveyancers and solicitors are fully regulated and insured professionals, and when it comes to handling your property transaction, will operate in a very similar way. However, it is worth noting the differences between the two before you get started.
Conveyancers are specialist property lawyers who are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, and who focus largely on residential property transactions.
Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and offer a much broader legal service and are able to deal with more complex legal issues. Their knowledge beyond property conveyancing law is necessary when dealing with the likes of boundary disputes or if the sellers are separating and using more than one solicitor.
Have they been recommended?
Recommendations from friends or family are a great starting point, but most estate agents will be able to recommend a local solicitor or conveyancer if you’re struggling to find one. Your mortgage broker or financial adviser might also be able to recommend a firm.
Customer review websites like TrustPilot or Feefo can also be really helpful when searching for reputable companies with honest customer feedback.
What’s their communication like?
Property transfers are complicated and can often be time-consuming, so a solicitor or conveyancer who communicates well and gives you regular updates will make the whole process less stressful.
Having a key contact is essential, so find out if you will have a named individual looking after you and your sale. Ask if there are specific times when you can contact them and if they have a system that allows you to track how the purchase is progressing.
Also, don’t forget to check if they have any annual leave booked that could impact the transfer and ask who will step in if they're away. If holiday or sickness cover isn’t available, it could delay your house sale or purchase by a couple of weeks.
Understand and compare conveyancing fees
There are three different types of fees when it comes to conveyancing:
- Hourly rate
- Fixed fee
- Percentage cost
It’s advisable to get a couple of quotes first and ask for a full break down so that you can make a direct comparison. Make sure you check whether the total cost will be a fixed or if it could vary according to the workload.
And the final price should be inclusive of everything necessary to complete the sale, including searches, monetary transfers, stamp duty or land tax costs and Land Registry fees.