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What Conveyancers Do

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 16 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Conveyancing Property Conveyancing

Property conveyancing is the technical process by which ownership of a property, or a piece of land, is transferred - or conveyed - from one party to another.

Any transfer involving land, or buildings on it, must be thoroughly checked to ensure that the parties to the transaction know precisely what is being sold. House conveyancing has traditionally been done by solicitors but the work may also be done by licensed conveyancers.

Preparing Contracts

Once an offer has been made and accepted for the purchase of a house the parties to the sale will instruct conveyancing solicitors or a licensed conveyancer to carry out the conveyancing.

The first step is to prepare contracts which set out exactly what has been agreed between the parties. The purchaser’s solicitors will need various documents from the vendor, including copies of the title deeds and the property information form, so that they can carry out their own conveyancing.

Carrying Out Searches

The purchaser’s conveyancer will carry out Local Authority searches to find out whether any special rules or restrictions apply to the property which is to be bought. They will also carry out searches in relation to the seller’s ownership of the property – to ensure that he has the right to sell it.

Negotiations During Conveyancing

Prior to exchange of contracts, negotiations may take place between the buyer and seller via their conveyancing solicitors. The parties may disagree as to what fixtures and fittings should be included in the price. The results of a search or survey may lead to the purchaser requesting a reduction in the agreed price. These negotiations may be protracted and many a house sale falls through because the parties cannot agree terms.

Exchanging Contracts

Once the parties have agreed all the details and the contracts have been finalised, the conveyancing solicitors acting for the buyer and seller will swap signed copies of the contract for sale.

At this stage the buyer’s conveyancer will almost certainly have to hand over a deposit to the seller’s conveyancer. The terms of the sale are now fixed. Should the purchaser pull out after exchange he will almost certainly forfeit the deposit.

A date will now be set for completion of the sale.


After exchange of contracts the conveyancing solicitors will get ready for the completion date. They will prepare a final completion statement setting out how much it will cost to finalise the transaction. The conveyancers will prepare a transfer deed: a formal legal document, signed in front of a witness, which transfers ownership of the property from one person to another.

The purchaser’s conveyancer will request the mortgage monies from the purchaser’s lender. On the day set for completion the purchaser’s conveyancer will arrange for the mortgage monies to be transferred to the vendor’s conveyancer.

House Conveyancing after Completion

Property conveyancing does not stop once completion has taken place. After the purchase has been completed the purchaser’s conveyancer will pay the stamp duty applicable to the sale and register the new owner’s title to the property with the Land Registry. Assuming that the property has been bought with a mortgage the conveyancing solicitor will then send the title deeds to the mortgage company.

Conveyancing Fees

Conveyancing fees are seen by many as a necessary evil – one of the many unavoidable expenses of buying or selling a house. Conveyancing fees will be made up of two elements:
  • the solicitor’s or conveyancer’s fee for the work they do; and,
  • the expenses, or disbursements, the conveyancing solicitors incur in carrying out the conveyancing.
The fees payable may be linked to the purchase price or to the amount of time spent doing the conveyancing. The expenses for most typical house sales should be fairly standard and therefore the conveyancer should be able to give a very accurate estimate of what these are likely to be at the outset. Conveyancing on the sale of a leasehold property is likely to be slightly more expensive than on a freehold property.

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