FAQs

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WHAT IS CONVEYANCING

These are the services that your conveyancing solicitors will provide to you, to help you buy or sell your property. We will take all the steps that are necessary to transfer the property from one party to the other.
In simple terms, this just means the transfer of legal title to a property from one person to another. It can also include the granting of a charge over a property such as a mortgage.
When you consider how much money most properties cost, pro rata to the purchasers earnings, it’s very often a very significant transaction. For most people, buying or selling a property is the biggest transaction they will ever be involved in. If they have a mortgage, it will also be the biggest financial commitment they will ever have made. So whilst we don’t think it’s necessary difficult, it’s extremely important to make sure we get everything right, and that the purchaser fully understands every aspect of the transaction and their obligations.
Conveyancing is the process used to transfer property (freehold or leasehold) from one person to another. Put another way, if you are buying or selling a house or a flat, you need to use a legal process called conveyancing.
It means the transferring of property (freehold or leasehold) from one person to another.
Why you should use an expert conveyancer. There are all kinds of businesses out there offering legal and conveyancing services. We would recommend that you use one that specialises in conveyancing. If you were having brain surgery, you wouldn’t use a doctor that specialises in heart surgery. They may be very good doctors, but they don’t necessarily know enough about how brains work to give you the best chance of survival. Well law is very much the same. Look for someone who has experience in property law.
That’s actually quite a big question, but here’s a really brief summary. The buyer’s solicitor asks the seller’s solicitor questions about the property. The buyer’s solicitor also asks third parties such as the local authority and the land registry to tell them all about the property. If the property is leasehold, they’ll ask the landlord about the property as well. Once they have all the information, they will tell the buyer everything they have found out about the property. Assuming there isn’t anything about the property that puts the buyer off (such as subsidence or very high service charges) the buyer and seller exchange contracts, at which point the buyer pays a deposit (usually 10% of the asking price) to the seller. There is then a bit of time when a few more checks are done, and mortgage money can be drawn down from the mortgage company, and everyone can sort out removal companies and tell everyone they are moving. After that, completion takes place where the balance of the purchase money is paid, and keys are handed over, and the seller moves out and the buyer moves in.
If you are selling your house, your solicitor will ask you for information about the property. They will ask you to fill in some standard forms, so they have all the information they need. They will then share that information with the buyers’ solicitors, who will also do independent searches on the property such as the land registry and the local authority. They may then ask more questions of you. For example, you might have told them about an extension that you had built. They might come back and ask for more details such as who did the work, how long ago and whether you have any paperwork for it. Once the buyer is satisfied that they have all the information they need, and that they are happy with that information, contracts are exchanged and the buyer will pay a 10% deposit. This money will either be kept for you by your solicitor, or they may be able to use it for the deposit on a property you are buying. A date for completion is agreed, to allow everyone enough time to prepare to move. On the completion date, the seller’s solicitors will receive the rest of the purchase money from the buyer’s solicitors. Once that money arrives, you must move out of the house and hand over the keys, as the property now belongs to the buyer.
If you are buying a house, your solicitors will ask the sellers solicitors for information on the property. They will also ask third parties for information on the property, such as the land registry and the local authority. Once they have all the information they need, they will produce a report for you (called a report on title) which will highlight any problems with the property that you should be aware of. If you are happy with the property, your solicitors will then exchange contracts with the sellers’ solicitors, at which point you have to pay a deposit (usually around 10%) but the seller doesn’t get this money yet – it either stays with their solicitor, or it’s used towards a property that they are purchasing as part of the chain. A date is then agreed for completion, to allow you all to arrange for removal companies to be booked and to give your solicitor time to receive the money from the mortgage company. On completion date, the rest of the purchase price is paid to the sellers’ solicitors, and as soon as they confirm they’ve received it, you can collect the keys and move in to the property.
Your conveyancer will do all the legal work. You may also need a surveyor to check the property is sound and worth the money you are paying for it. Other parties such as the local authority and the land registry will need to give us information on the property, but we organise that for you. We will tell you everything we find out about the property. If you are borrowing money, your financial adviser will help you with that. You will need to deal with all the practical things, such as booking removal vans, notifying everyone about your move such as utility companies and the council.
Actually, not everyone thinks that conveyancing is interesting, but we think it is. We enjoy finding out everything that you need to know about your property, and we love helping people to move into their dream home.

TIME SCALE QUESTIONS ON THE WHOLE TRANSACTION

Anything is possible, but it’s very hard. There are certain steps we should go through, such as searches, and these can take at least 2 weeks to obtain. If you are buying the property with your own money, you can choose to waive your right to have the searches, but if you are buying with a mortgage, your mortgage company will insist on the searches being done, in which case getting it done in two weeks is practically impossible, and even harder if there is a chain involved. An average time frame for a transaction is 3 months.
We will always do our best to meet our client’s time frames, but the reality is that there are other parties that we need to deal with, such as the other side, other parties (if you are part of a chain) and often a mortgage company. Unless you are buying with your own money and waive your right to have searches done and enquiries raised, we will need a couple of weeks to get the searches in and review them. If you are buying with funding, your mortgage company will insist on having these searches undertaken. An average property transaction takes around 3 months.
It’s not impossible, but this is quite a challenge, especially if you are part of a chain. The most important part of a property transaction are the searches, and the local authority searches usually take at least two weeks to come in. Once we have these, they may lead to more questions. We are also dependent on other parties, such as the other side and the mortgage company, so that no matter how fast we work, if they are unwilling or unable to work as fast, there may be little we can do about it. An average time frame for a property transaction is 3 months.
An average property transaction is around 3 months. It is possible to do it faster, with the cooperation of all the parties, such as the other side, the mortgage company and any other parties if you are part of a chain, but there are some things that are beyond our control. For example, the most important search we do on the property is the Local Authority Search, for which we are dependent on the local authority. Sometimes they have a big backlog and we simply have to wait our turn.
Buying a property is probably the biggest and most expensive transaction that most people will undertake. There are a number of steps we need to undertake to make sure that you fully understand what you are buying, and to highlight to you any risks you are taking or anything you should be aware of. You’d be upset if a few months down the line you found out that there was a problem with the boundary that you weren’t aware of, so it’s important that we go through everything properly. We also need to deal with a number of other parties, such as the other side, your mortgage company, other parties (if you are part of a chain) and possibly your surveyor so we can only work as fast as they can.
There can be a number of things that can cause a conveyancing transaction to take longer than it should do. For example, if the people you are buying from are on holiday, there may be a delay whilst their solicitors wait for them to return so they can take instructions. If you are buying a property from the estate of someone who has passed away or from someone who has gone into a home, it may take longer to take instructions or the estate may need more time to find information that we need. In addition, if you are part of a chain, it may be that we are ready to go, but someone above or below you in the chain may have a problem, and if you want the deal to go through, you may have no choice but to wait.
We don’t think of ourselves as slow. We would say we are methodical and thorough. We want to do the best possible job for you and we want you to be fully satisfied with the job we do, so it’s important to us that the job is done right. Sometimes that isn’t fast but we would say it’s better to do it properly, than quickly.

TIMESCALE QUESTIONS ON SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF THE TRANSACTION

From when we are instructed, to exchange (when the parties are committed to the transaction) normally takes around 2 months. There is then usually another month between exchange and completion, when the transaction is concluded. The parties can agree to a shorter or longer period between exchange and completion, depending on their needs and any other transactions involved such as if there is a chain.
Although the conveyancing contract is the probably the most important document in the transaction, actually drafting it is quite straight forward. It can often be done in one to two hours as much of the wording is standard. What takes the time is collecting, collating and reviewing all of the paperwork about the property so we know what to put in the contract. That can take a month or two.

COSTS QUESTIONS

Most solicitors charge on a fixed fee basis. Some will do this based on their standard charges. Some will do it on a percentage of the property, particularly with more expensive transactions. Occasionally firms charge on an hourly basis. Each law firm will have its own policy regarding negotiations. Occasionally, if business has been a bit quiet, or if you are able to offer something else (such as you’ll give them other business), you may be able to do a deal, so there’s no harm in asking but don’t be surprised if the answer is no.
If the law firm you are using takes credit cards then yes, you can pay using a credit card. Otherwise this won’t be possible.
If your property transaction is business related, such as buying or selling an investment property, then your fees may be tax deductible. However if you are just buying or selling your family home than they almost certainly won’t be. Check with your accountant.
Every firm will have their own terms and conditions. The most common is that you will be asked to make a payment on account, to cover any expenses your solicitor might incur, with the balance to be paid on completion.
These are the charges that your lawyer will charge you for the work that they will do to help you buy or sell your property.
Disbursements are the expenses that your solicitor will incur on your behalf as part of the property transaction. The buyer usually incurs the majority of the disbursements, because the buyer is the one that will need to have searches done against the property. Other disbursements include Land Registry fees to register the property, insurance policies that we may have to take out for you (which we will agree with you in advance) and costs we may have to incur such as if we have to courier documents (again with your agreement).
Some firms will offer a fixed fee no matter how much your property is worth. Others will do it as a percentage of the value of the property. Every firm does it differently so it’s best to ask up front. Remember that cheaper doesn’t always mean better!
We actually don’t think that conveyancing is expensive. The people in our office who will be doing the work for you, will have undergone years of training to make sure they fully understand what they are doing. We also have considerable overheads, such as insurance so that if something were to go wrong (because accidents do happen) you are fully protected. If you compare this to what many estate agents are paid, given that often they don’t have our training and insurance obligations, and most estate agents aren’t required to have insurance (and are rarely sued) we hope you will see that we are actually extremely good value for money.
For the same reason that property prices vary, or different cars cost different amounts. A one bedroom cottage in a remote part of the countryside is going to cost considerably less than a 10 bedroom mansion at Hyde Park Corner in London. Different firms in different locations will offer different services and will have different overheads. Some firms will be looking to do high end transactions, and others will be looking to do the lower end of the market, but will be looking to do high volume of transactions.
Usually each side pays their own legal costs and expenses. So you pay for your conveyancing costs and the other side pay for their conveyancing costs. In commercial transactions, sometimes the party taking a lease may have to pay their landlord’s solicitors.

MORTGAGE QUESTIONS

Every mortgage is different, but there are certain standard clauses and conditions. It is quite common for a mortgage to include the costs associated with the mortgage, such as survey fees and arrangement fees, but it’s very unusual for a mortgage to cover anything else, such as our fees or searches. Sometimes a mortgage can include provision for additional works, such as renovations to the property, but this is something you will have to discuss with your mortgage broker.
Sometimes a home owner will decide to remortgage their property, usually either to borrow more money (perhaps to carry out some works to the property) or to take advantage of a better mortgage deal, such as a fixed rate or lower interest rate. You will need a solicitor for this, as your mortgage company will insist that it’s done properly, but the process is quite straight forward. If you are changing mortgage company, they may want all the searches and the survey done again, but as there is no other party involved, we don’t have to do a contract or negotiate terms. We only have to satisfy the mortgage company that there are no problems with the property that would devalue it. The rest of the transaction is purely paperwork.

WHO CAN DO CONVEYANCING

In theory, if you are buying a property, without a mortgage, no one can force you to use a solicitor. However, unless you have considerable experience in property transactions, we would strongly recommend that you seek legal advice, or you could lose all of your money. What’s more, you may need some legal assistance in submitting documents to the land registry who will want to be certain that you are who you say you are. However, if you are buying with funding, your mortgage company will insist that you use a solicitor, as they will want to be certain that any problems with the property (which could affect their investment) are identified and dealt with at the outset before they part with any money. So the probability is, no, you cannot do the conveyancing without legal advice.
If you are buying with a mortgage, your mortgage company will insist on a solicitor being involved. If you are buying using your own money, you can do most of the work yourself, although this may mean that you are overlooking serious problems with the property that need to be addressed, and it can take much longer than if we were doing it for you. The Land Registry may also not be willing to accept information from you without verification.
Some law firms will delegate routine work to unqualified staff who are often referred to as paralegals or clerks. This helps keep costs down so that the client can receive a more cost effective service. However, the important work, such as exchanging contracts, transferring money and checking reports on title should be undertaken by a qualified member of staff such as a solicitor or licenced conveyancer.
In theory, a barrister who has a good understanding of property law and how to do searches etc could act for you on buying or selling a property. However, in practice it is highly unlikely that a barrister would be able to do everything that is involved in a property transaction. For example, a conveyancer needs to hold money on behalf of the client, which must be held in a client account, which is a special account which shows that the money belongs to clients, and not to the barrister or their business. Very few barristers have the facilities to have client accounts.
A lawyer is the general term that we use to describe anyone working in the legal profession. So this can include solicitors, barristers and licenced conveyancers. This means that some types of lawyers can do conveyancing, but other types of lawyers probably don’t.
Yes you can. If for any reason you are unhappy with your solicitors and you want to move to a different firm there is nothing to stop you. However, the previous solicitors may have the right to be paid before they release any documents and the new solicitors may take a little time to get up to speed which could cause a delay in your transaction. So we’d suggest that you only change solicitors if you are certain that it’s your only option.
Yes. If something goes wrong, you can sue your conveyancing solicitor. You would need to show that they had been the cause of the problem, and that you had suffered a loss as a result. So, for example, if a problem has arisen because the person you bought the property from gave false information, that is not your solicitors fault, and they cannot be held responsible. If a problem has arisen because the solicitor didn’t ask the person you were buying the property from the right question(s), then they may be at fault, but if you would have gone ahead and bought the property at the same price, regardless of the answer(s), you will have difficulty bringing a claim because you cannot show that you have suffered a loss as a result of their acts or omissions.
As with any transaction, any one of a number of things can happen to mean that the sale doesn’t go through. The most common ones are that either side changes their mind or has a change in circumstances. For example, if you are buying from someone who is then going on to buy another property, if their purchase falls through, this could affect your purchase. It can also happen that the buyer will find out something about the property that means that they have to or decide to pull out. For example, the survey could uncover problems with the property such as damp or subsidence which means that either the buyer no longer wants to buy the property and/or that it is decided the property is not worth the price that has been agreed (eg because of what it will cost to put it right) and the seller won’t agree to reduce the price.
Sometimes things do go wrong with property transactions. At any point up to exchange, either party can pull out. Very occasionally this can happen after exchange. If something goes wrong with your transaction, your solicitor will advise you of what your options are and how best to deal with it.
Conveyancing solicitors are solicitors who specialise in property law. They will be experts in all property related matters and can give specialist advice on your transaction.
Your mortgage company will insist on you using a recognised lawyer who is properly experienced and registered to undertake transactions of this type. If you are not buying with a mortgage, you can use whoever you like, but you are at risk if you use someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.
Conveyancing is usually undertaken by solicitors or licenced conveyancers, sometimes with the help of paralegals.
A conveyancing lawyer is someone who specialises in property transactions, which is a very specialist area of law.
All solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority. Complaints about your own solicitors should be made to the Legal Services Ombudsman.

SEARCHES

They are the checks we carry out on your property to find out all the things that you and your mortgage company need to know about the property before you buy it. This might be whether the property is in a flood area, whether there are any works likely to be carried out in the area that you should know about, and whether the property was built and/or extended in accordance with planning permission and building regulations. These searches can reveal information that might mean that the property is not worth the money you are planning to pay for it, so it can save you money and aggravation in the long run.
The searches vary from property to property. For example, we wouldn’t do a coal mining search (a search to check if there is any chance of the property being at risk of subsidence because it is on or near an old mine) on a property located in Central London. However the standard searches are

The local authority search
Drainage and water reports
Environmental reports
Chancel Repaid and Indemnity
Mining reports
Anti money laundering reports
Land registry
Utility reports

Also, if you are buying a leasehold property, we will ask the landlords for a seller pack, which will give us information about the freehold.
The Local search (also known as the local authority search or sometimes the local land charges search) is a report we obtain from the local authority which gives us information that is specific to the property and the surrounding area.
They are highly advisable, but we can’t force you to undertake them. However if you’re buying with a mortgage, your mortgage company will insist that you have them done and will refuse to lend you the money unless they are done property.
Most of the searches are very quick and can be done in a couple of days. However the Local Authority Search which is the most important one usually takes around 2 weeks. Unfortunately, sometimes the local authority have a back log. Sometimes we can speed the process up a bit by ordering a personal search (where someone from the search agency goes to the Land Registry in person to do the search themselves) but if there is a backlog, everyone will be looking to do this, so there can be waiting list for personal searches so this won’t save you any time. What’s more, some mortgage companies won’t accept a personal search, and they are more expensive.
Because your mortgage company will insist on them, and with good reason. If they are investing their money in helping you buy your property, they want to make certain that there are no skeletons hidden in the closets! So if you are buying without a mortgage, consider why your mortgage company, who know how things can go wrong with properties, insist on searches being done! Searches tell you things about the property that you cannot see for yourself, such as whether the building was built in accordance with planning permission, and has been built properly and signed off by building control. If things like this have not been done, you could find that the building suffers from defects in the future which you may not be able to claim for, as it was your choice not to do the searches.

ON LINE CONVEYANCING

Much of the transaction can be done electronically, such as exchanging information with you, and the other side. In addition many mortgage companies work on line and we can communicate with the land registry electronically as well. However, some work has to be done in person. For example, we will need you to sign the contract in hard copy, and we may want to meet with you to confirm your identities. So whilst property transactions have definitely moved into the 21st century, due to the very sensitive nature of some of the information we are dealing with, the amount of money at stake, the risks of cyber breaches and the importance of getting it right, some direct contact may be necessary.

THE CONVEYANCING PROCESS

The process starts when you instruct us to start work. There will be paperwork that we need you to sign, and we will want proof of identity for you and anyone buying the property with you. We will need funds on account from you to cover our initial outlay. After that, we will start work.
It’s probably a good idea to find a solicitor as soon as you’ve decided that you’re going to buy/sell a property. Although there may be some weeks (and sometimes months) between your decision to buy or sell, and actually agreeing terms, by having a solicitor ready, you will know exactly what the costs are going to be, so you can factor that in to your budget. If you don’t deal with it until after terms have been agreed on the property, you may find you’ve left yourself without sufficient funds. The latest time to instruct a solicitor is when the terms are agreed. At that point the estate agent will ask you for details of your solicitor, and the sooner you can give those details, the faster the transaction will progress. What’s more, if you are unable to produce those details for a few days or weeks, the other side may form the opinion that you are not serious about the transaction and could pull out.
When you are looking to instruct a solicitor, we would suggest that you look for someone who is experienced, with a reasonably sized team so that if someone is on holiday, there are plenty of other people around who can help you. Make sure they are SRA regulated and that they are offering a competitive price. If they are too expensive, they may be out of your price range, but if they are too cheap you may not get a good service. Usually you get what you pay for.
Although there’s quite a bit to the process, in brief terms
• The buyer’s solicitors obtains information on the property, such as by doing searches, asking questions of the sellers solicitors, liaising with the Land Registry and the mortgage company.
• Once the buyer’s solicitors are certain that they have all the information they need, they will report to the buyer and the mortgage company.
• If everyone is happy with the information, contracts are exchanged, when a 10% deposit is usually paid, which commits the parties to the transaction.
• Some administrative work is then done between exchange and completion.
• At completion, the balance of the purchase price is made, and the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer.
Once the searches have been completed, we will review them, and identify any issues that they raise. We will use this to ask questions of the vendor (enquiries) and once we have all their answers, we will produce a report on title for you, telling you everything you need to know about the property.
These are the enquiries that we make, once we have all the searches. They are questions that we ask of the vendors solicitor, such as asking them to clarify boundary issues, works that have been undertaken at the property or charges against the property.
Although this is one of the most important parts of the transaction, it’s actually one of the simplest, because all the hard work has been done before we’ve got to this point. Contracts are almost always exchanged in a phone call which takes place between the solicitor for the vendor and the solicitor for the purchaser. They should both be holding a copy of the contract signed by their respective clients. They will check that they are both holding the right version of the contract (because tweaks will have been made to the original draft) and they will discuss any minor amendments (such as correcting typos). They will agree the date and time for exchange (ie the date and time they are speaking) and when completion is to take place. They will then confirm that exchange has taken place, which will be written on the contract, and each will send their version of the contract will be sent to the other in the post. The purchaser will also pay the deposit.
This is the point in the transaction where the parties make a firm commitment to sell/buy the property and where the buyer pays (or commits to paying) a deposit of 10% of the purchase price. Once all the checks and enquiries have been undertaken, and the buyer confirms they are happy to proceed, the solicitors exchange contracts, which is usually agreed to over the phone and then the contracts are sent to each other by post.
If you are part of a big chain, we need to get the people in the chain to agree to exchange, without actually exchanging until everyone in the chain has agreed. Otherwise you could have a situation where you’ve agreed to buy the house you want, but the people buying from you haven’t committed to buying your house, which could leave you committed to buying one house, without having sold your house. So the solicitor at the bottom of the chain might call the next person up, and ask them to agree to exchange, and then they are committed to exchange for a period of 2 hours, to allow the second solicitor to call the next solicitor up in the chain, and so on until everyone in the chain has committed to the transaction. If everyone in the chain agrees to exchange during that 2 hour period, then they can all proceed to actually exchange, and everyone is committed to the transaction. However if it isn’t possible to get everyone to agree during that 2 hour period, anyone who has agreed, is automatically released from their promise to exchange, and we will start again the next day. It may sound complicated, but it actually works quite efficiently as the solicitors are well practiced in doing this.
Once completion has taken place, there isn’t much for you to do. We have some paperwork to deal with, which is to make sure that the Land Registry records are updated to show the new owner, any old mortgage is paid off and removed from the Land Registry and any new mortgage is registered at the Land Registry. This is all part of our role and we’ll update you once this has been completed.

CONVEYANCING PAPERWORK

Yes. Anything we discuss with you, paperwork we exchange with you or documents we compile for you are privileged.
These are the papers that show who the registered owner of the property is. However, as conveyancing has become very automated in recent years, many properties are now fully registered at the land registry, so it may be that when you buy a property, you won’t actually be given any deeds, as they are no longer necessary.
The contract is the document that both parties complete, setting out the terms on which the seller is selling the property to the buyer. The contract is prepared by the sellers solicitor, but will be reviewed by the buyers solicitor who can ask for changes to be made, and there may be some negotiations backwards and forwards between the solicitors until both sides are happy with it.
It depends on what documents need to be witnesses. If we need you to have a document certified, this will mean that they need to be signed by a recognised person, such as another solicitor. On other occasions, it might just be sufficient for your signature to be witnessed by an independent person who can verify that it was you who signed the document, such as a neighbour or work colleague. A document can never be witnessed by someone related to you (including a partner), and we would recommend avoiding someone who has any vested interest in your assets, such as a beneficiary under your will.
• During the course of buying or selling a property for our clients, a number of documents will be produced. The most important documents are
• the contract, which sets out the terms on which the property is being transferred
• the report on title, which is a summary of all the searches and enquiries carried out on the property; and
• the TR1 which is the Land Registry document which actually transfers the property from the seller to the buyer.