A quick guide to conveyancing

When you are selling your house, a good estate agent will do most of the work for you. Once you have accepted an offer, however, there is one area where you are likely to need additional help in order to complete the sale: conveyancing.

What is conveyancing?

Essentially, it is the process of legally transferring ownership of the property to the buyer.

Who can do conveyancing?

The short answer is, anyone! Nonetheless, it can be a complex process, and massive problems can arise if conveyancing is not completed thoroughly. As a result, it is not a good idea to try to do it yourself unless you have legal training. Traditionally, the process would be carried out by a local solicitor and might require several visits to their office in order to complete forms and discuss progress. This is still an option, but tends to be relatively expensive, and requires you to make time for meetings.

More recently, a large number of specialist conveyancing firms have grown up. It is usually possible to deal with these companies online and by post, substantially reducing the time and inconvenience incurred. These companies can be cheaper than traditional solicitors, but, when comparing costs, make sure you are clear as to what is included in the headline quote. Comparison websites now also offer conveyancing quotes, which can be an easy way of finding a competitive provider.

How much will it cost?

Obtaining a variety of quotes, or using a comparison website, should help you find a good deal. Costs normally range from £500 to £1,500, depending upon the provider and the complexity of the transaction. If you are selling a leasehold property, there will be additional complications, including reviewing the terms of the lease and obtaining information from the landlord, which can add a few hundred pounds to the cost.

How long will conveyancing take?

In England or Wales, the process will typically take 4-10 weeks from acceptance of an offer to final completion. This will depend on a number of factors, such as the efficiency of the conveyancers or solicitors for both buyer and seller, how quickly you respond to queries, and the speed with which the council deal with any search enquiries (which can be very slow). In Scotland, the process can often be completed within 4-8 weeks.

What happens during the conveyancing process?

Once you have appointed your conveyancer, they will guide you through the process. Before contracts can be exchanged, you will need to fill in some detailed questionnaires, which your conveyancer will send you when they are appointed. These contain important information about the property and spell out precisely what will be included in the sale, in order that a contract can be drawn up.

The TA6 form contains most of the general information about the property, including council tax, disputes and complaints, boundaries, known proposed developments (such as if HS2 will run through your back garden!), sewerage and utilities, etc. If the property is leasehold, you will need to complete a TA7 form giving more details. The TA10 form enables you to specify which fixtures and fittings are included in the sale. Form TA13 verifies that the property is free of any mortgage or liability claims, and includes details like the proposed completion date, and how keys will be handed over. It will take some time to get all the information together to complete these forms accurately, but it is vital that you do so, as the whole transaction could collapse if you are found to have provided false statements.

Your conveyancer will now be able to draw up a draft contract. There may be negotiations about the completion date, what will be included in the price, and who will fix any issues shown up by the survey. Before contracts can be exchanged, you will also need to obtain a redemption quote from your mortgage company, so that the mortgage may be paid off on completion.

Contracts will be exchanged at a mutually agreed date. Once this is done, neither side can pull out of the deal without penalty. When completion takes place, the purchase price is transferred to you, less any mortgage redemption payment, and the keys are handed over. At this point you will need to pay your estate agent and your conveyancer.

What marks out a good conveyancer?

The best conveyancers will provide realistic and itemised quotes, and will make every attempt to stick to the proposed timescale. They will communicate with you regularly, especially if delays are likely to occur. Finally, of course, they will prepare correct and accurate legal documents. Look out for these features in online reviews.