Buying a property is a huge financial commitment. Despite more than 20 years of soaring prices in the UK property market and concerns about the affordability of getting a foot on the property ladder, owning your own home remains an aspiration for the majority of people.
If you’ve never purchased a property, the process seems daunting. Very quickly, you’ll learn there’s a lot more involved than simply arranging the finance. The complexity of a property transaction is such that it has its own baffling legal language. Welcome to the world of conveyancing.
What is Conveyancing?
Put simply, it is the legal process by which ownership of a property is passed (or conveyed) from the seller (the vendor) to the buyer (the purchaser). No other kind of purchase comes close to the complexity of the process and it is frequently cited as one of the most stressful experiences in life. However, an efficient conveyancer can prevent much of this stress.
The process is complex mainly because it involves several parties and public bodies. The conveyancer opens the purchase file and sends you a client letter, which is the basis of your contract with them. They obtain a memorandum of sales from the estate agent and make contact with the seller’s solicitors, who will issue the draft contract of sale
The conveyancer will spend considerable time reviewing the contract to check for any problems or anomalies. They will receive the seller’s information form, the fittings and contents form and the energy performance certificate, all of which need to be checked as well.
A vital part of conveyancing involves various searches, which are enquiries of the local authority and other bodies about any issues affecting the property, such as planning permissions, flood risks or road building schemes. When the conveyancer has completed this exercise and once your mortgage is arranged, they will arrange the exchange of contracts. You and the seller sign identical copies of the contract, with witnesses to your signatures, and the conveyancers exchange them. This is the point at which you are legally bound to make the purchase. Beyond this point, you can’t withdraw without facing a penalty of typically 10% of the purchase price.
Completion occurs when the seller receives your purchase funds and ownership passes to you. There is a certain amount of post-completion administration to be completed as well as any final payments, the largest of which is stamp duty on the purchase, but once the transaction is completed, the process is essentially over.
Do I Need a Solicitor?
Conveyancing can be carried out by a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer. The former is fully qualified in all legal matters while the latter is focused upon the provision of conveyancing services. Both are regulated by professional bodies, have the necessary insurance and can perform the same duties. Although the estate agent will often recommend a solicitor or conveyancer, you can give yourself a choice by using a concierge service such as Sam Conveyancing which gives you access to a number of high-quality conveyancers and solicitors. It’s an easy way to obtain competing quotes, investigate the track record of different professionals and make a decision on your own terms. The model used by Sam Conveyancing is becoming very popular in the increasingly time and price sensitive property market.
What Does it Cost?
It’s impossible to be definitive. Some solicitors charge an hourly rate but most will quote a flat fee. Expect to pay somewhere between £1,000 and £1,500 with Land Registry charges and search fees on top. Confirm the likely costs with your conveyancer as early as possible.