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What Does a Conveyancing Solicitor Do?

By Fraser Gregory  //  Mon 20th June 2022
It's beneficial to know what a solicitor does for you when buying and/or selling a house. This is called the conveyancing process. In this article we take you step by step through the procedure.
What Does a Conveyancing Solicitor Do?

In recent years, there has been a tendency for some people to do their own conveyancing. However, as buying or selling a property can be fraught with legal pitfalls and is very time consuming, most people will use the services of a conveyancing solicitor. As solicitors will charge for this service, it is only fair to ask what they do for their fees.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal process to transfer the ownership of property titles from one person to another. The conveyancing process begins once you have accepted a property, through to the exchange of contracts and ends once the contracts have been signed and the money transferred to complete the sale.

Who does my conveyancing?

You can hire a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to undertake the conveyancing process for you. All solicitors are qualified to carry out this type of work, but it is a good idea to hire someone who specialises in residential property transactions.

Some mortgage lenders have an approved list of conveyancers for you to choose from.

What exactly will a solicitor/conveyancer do?

1. Request your details

The very first thing a conveyancer will do is request your basic details including your contact information, date of birth and national insurance number. They will also require details of your estate agent, whether you need a mortgage for the purchase and – if you do – which lender you are using and where the deposit is coming from. You will also need to submit photo ID such as passport or driving licence.

Conveyancers must check your identity and your source of funds (beyond any mortgage) because they are under stringent rules to prevent money laundering and other types of fraud.

2. Searches

Property searches are enquiries made on your behalf by your solicitor to find out information about the property you are about to purchase.

The three main searches are:

  • Local authority search will tell you if any building control regulations affect your property, for example, its listed status and whether it is located in a conservation area. This search also identifies planning proposals for buildings or roads in the area surrounding your property.
  • Environmental search will identify whether the property is built on land with ecological risks such as flooding, subsidence, landslips, or contamination from an old landfill or waste site.
  • Water and drainage search is made to the local water company to confirm that the property is connected to the public water supply and sewage system. If it is,  enquiries are made to check who owns them and establish responsibility for maintenance. This search will also tell you if you need permission from the water company to extend the property.

3. Draw up paperwork and carry out checks (and more checks)

Your solicitor will be the main point of contact with the seller’s solicitor and in continual communication with them. The seller's solicitor will draw up a draft contract and send this, together with the title deeds and the following protocol forms to your solicitor.

  • Sellers Property Information Form (SPIF) – questionnaire complete by the seller disclosing all kinds of information from disputes with neighbours to whether the property has ever been flooded.
  • Fittings and Contents Form – completed by the seller listing all the items they will leave behind or take from the property following completion.
  • Leasehold Information Form – requests information from the seller specific to leasehold properties.

Your solicitor will carefully review each of these documents and the results of the searches and raise any concerns they have with the seller's solicitor.

4. Send you paperwork to sign

Once they are satisfied, you will receive a pack with all the checked documents and a summary of the searches.  You are required to sign and return each document.

5. Request your deposit

Next, your solicitor will ask you for the deposit. This usually is 10% of the purchase price.

Most buyers choose to make the payment via a CHAPS transfer because there is no maximum payment limit, and the payment clears on the same day. There is a fee for making a CHAPS payment, usually around £25.

6. Line up all parties for exchange of contracts and completion

Your solicitor will agree on a completion date with your seller’s solicitor and any other parties further down the chain. This is the date on which the seller must vacate the property, and you will receive the keys to move in.

7. Exchange of contracts

Typically, you will exchange contracts two to four weeks before the completion date.  At this point, the sale becomes legally binding, and the completion date is set in stone.

On the day of exchange, the solicitor at the bottom of the chain contacts their client's seller's solicitor (usually by telephone) and verifies they have a signed sale contract, deposit funds, and confirms the completion date. The next conveyancer in the chain does the same thing until the top of the chain is reached. The exchange then needs to come back down the chain to reach the first solicitor.

As the completion date is now confirmed, you can book your removals company.

8. Completion

Completion is the final stage of buying a house. Before completion, you will need to send the purchase price balance to your solicitor's account.

On the day of completion, your solicitor will send the total purchase funds to the seller's solicitor, who will confirm they are in receipt of the money and authorise the estate agent to release the keys.

9. Register change of ownership

Once you have moved in, the conveyancer will coordinate paying any stamp duty due to the Inland Revenue and register your ownership with the Land Registry.

How much will it cost?

The price you pay for the conveyancing process will vary depending on factors including location, and whether some additional searches are required – because the property is close to a river, for example. Legal fees for leasehold properties are likely to be more.

However, costs can also vary from one solicitor to another, so it's advisable to shop around and get quotes. Solicitors in England and Wales must now publish their conveyancing fees on their websites, making it is easy to compare costs.

Typically, solicitors' fees for conveyancing are around £850 to £1,000, which is a small proportion of the overall buying and selling costs.

How long does the conveyancing process take?

On average, it can take around 12-16 weeks to complete the conveyancing process, depending on whether any issues arise.

It's important to keep in communication with your conveyancer to speed up the process.

Does a chain affect the conveyancing process?

A housing chain is when your buyer is also selling their house, or your seller is also buying a house. The conveyancing process can take longer, depending on the length of the housing chain.

If a problem arises with one link of the chain, then it can have a knock-on effect and delay everyone else in the chain.

How can I avoid delays in the conveyancing process?

You can assist in speeding up the conveyancing process by instructing your conveyancing solicitor as soon as your offer has been accepted. Make sure you have done your research and chosen a good conveyancer, as an unresponsive solicitor can delay the process further.

Ensure all involved in the process have the most recent contact details for you and respond to paperwork and questions promptly.

Communicate with your solicitor and estate agent at least once a week to check on progress and to ensure they aren’t waiting for any details from your side.

Can I do my own conveyancing?

DIY conveyancing is possible, however, like many complicated transactions, the devil is in the detail and buying or selling a property is no exception to this rule. The conveyancing process is an extremely time-consuming and complicated process which could end in disaster if mistakes are made.

If you are taking out a mortgage to purchase the property DIY conveyancing will not be an option as your mortgage lender will insist on employing a professional conveyancer.

Buying a house can be very stressful, so it's important to choose a good conveyancer to make your house purchase easier.

We can help

Plaza Estates have over 40 years of experience helping clients buy and sell properties in central London. We will work with your conveyancing solicitor to ensure that your move is as problem-free as possible. If you want a stress-free home move, contact us today.

Offices at

Marble Arch
29 Edgware Road
W2 2JE
f: 020-7258-3090
34 Beauchamp Place
f: 020-7581-7005