Local Solicitor

If you are buying or selling a home, there is a certain amount of legal work that needs to be done. This is called conveyancing. Find out how to choose an experienced professional to do this for you, and what the advantages and disadvantages are of doing the conveyancing yourself.

Hiring a solicitor or conveyancer

You can hire a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to do the conveyancing for you and give you advice. Telling the solicitor or licensed conveyancer that you want them to work for you on the transaction is called ‘instructing’ them.

Before you decide to instruct a particular solicitor or licensed conveyancer, you should ask how they will charge you and what the total is likely to be. Different firms have different ways of charging for conveyancing, so it’s a good idea to compare several.

When to hire someone to do the conveyancing

If you are buying a home, you should contact the solicitor or conveyancer you have chosen, once you have found a property to buy. If you are selling a home, it may be useful to identify a solicitor or licensed conveyancer as soon as you know you want to sell. However, you will not normally need to instruct them until you have found a buyer.

Using a licensed conveyancer

Licensed conveyancers are lawyers who specialise in property law, and are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) in England and Wales.

Licensed conveyancers must:
  1. have training and pass exams to gain their licences
  2. work to a code of conduct
  3. have insurance in order to cover costs if something goes wrong
Using a solicitor

If you choose a solicitor, use one who specialises in conveyancing. You can find a solicitor who specialises in conveyancing on the Law Society website.

Doing the conveyancing yourself

Legally, you don’t have to use a licensed conveyancer or solicitor, so you could do the work yourself. If you do choose to do the conveyancing yourself, it will save you paying fees to a professional, however:

if you don’t have any experience in this area, there is more chance of missing important details, like where boundaries lie

you will not receive any legal advice, for instance on other people’s rights over the property or the meaning of terms in a lease

if something goes wrong you will be personally responsible, and may have to pay compensation to the other party and their legal costs

you will have to pay for your lender to hire a conveyancer (lenders usually agree to use your conveyancer to save money)

the other party may not want to buy or sell if they are not confident of your conveyancing experience

you will not be able to give 'undertakings' (professional promises) that solicitors and

Conveyancing for buyers

Conveyancing is the process of legally transferring ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer. Conveyancing also includes the various searches and checks and any final tasks following the sale. Find out what happens at each stage and what you need to do as a buyer.

Conveyancing: transferring the ownership of property

There are five main stages of conveyancing for a buyer:

  1. Pre-contractual stage
  2. Exchange of contracts
  3. Between exchange and completion
  4. Completion
  5. After completion
Making payments through your conveyancer

You will need to make payments to the seller during the conveyancing process. If you hire a solicitor or licensed conveyancer, they may ask you for the money in advance so payments can be made without delay.

1. Pre-contractual stage

Once you have made an offer to buy a property, legal documents need to be prepared to transfer ownership from the seller to you. The seller draws up a contract for your agreement – you can negotiate its terms if necessary. If you have instructed a solicitor or licensed conveyancer, they will carry out this work and advise you on the contents of the contract.

The contract contains details including:
  1. what the boundaries of the property are
  2. what fixtures and fittings, like carpets and kitchen units, are included in the sale
  3. how much the property is being sold for
  4. any legal restrictions or rights on the property, like any public footpaths or rules about use of the property
  5. any planning restrictions in place
  6. a description of the services to the property, eg drainage and gas
  7. the date for completing the purchase (called ‘completion’)

Other tasks to be done at this stage are explained below.

Researching the property

Before you sign and exchange the contract, both you and your solicitor or conveyancer should find out as much as possible about the property.

The seller does not have to voluntarily tell you about problems there might be with the property or neighbourhood. The seller should, however, reply truthfully to enquiries. Your solicitor or licensed conveyancer will do a number of searches and checks including:

checking the ‘title’ – the legal document that proves the seller’s ownership asking the local authority about any planned works like roadworks or new developments that might affect the property

enquiries to the seller’s solicitor or licensed conveyancer about the details of the contract

Your solicitor or conveyancer may need to carry out additional searches depending on the type of property involved. For example, if your property is in an area where there have been mines, your solicitor or licensed conveyancer will need to do a mining check on the land.

Getting home insurance for the property

You will also need to consider insurance cover for the property – you will usually be responsible for insuring the property as soon as contracts are exchanged.

Getting a property survey

You should also get a property survey before the exchange of contracts, to uncover any problems with the building like dry rot. To find out about the different types of survey

Getting your mortgage in place

If you are using a mortgage to buy your property, you will need a need a formal mortgage offer from your lender before you sign the contract. The lender will send documents for you or your solicitor or conveyancer to sign. To find out more about applying for a mortgage, see ‘Mortgage application process’.

2. Exchange of contracts

When the buyer and seller are happy with its contents, they sign final copies of the contract and send them to each other. This is called the exchange of contracts. Once contracts are exchanged, the agreement to sell and buy is legally binding and usually neither party can pull out without paying compensation. Buyers will usually pay the seller a deposit (usually 10 per cent of the purchase price of the property) at the exchange of contracts stage.

3. Between exchange and completion

In many cases, there are a few further checks to be done at this stage. After the exchange of contracts (if not dealt with already) your solicitor or conveyancer will:

  1. prepare the legal documents to transfer ownership
  2. check mortgage documents
  3. make sure that they have all the necessary funds – which may include payment of their own fees
  4. arrange for the transfer of funds to the seller
  5. do final Land Registry checks
  6. check all agreed tasks set out in the contract have been done, like agreed repairs
  7. check that fixtures and fittings have been left as agreed
4. Completion

Once all matters between exchange and completion have been dealt with, the money for the property is transferred from buyer to seller. The sale is now completed and the keys are handed over. The property now belongs to the buyer.

At this stage, you will:
  1. receive the keys to the property on the agreed date
  2. pay the seller the remainder of the cost of the property through your solicitor or licensed conveyancer
  3. receive the legal documents that prove ownership of the property
  4. pay your solicitor’s or licensed conveyancer’s fees, if not already done
5. After completion

At this stage you will need to:

  1. register the change of ownership of the property with Land Registry
  2. pay Stamp Duty Land Tax (Stamp Duty)
  3. tell your insurers that completion has taken place

Your solicitor or licensed conveyancer can advise you on how to pay the Land Registry fees and Stamp Duty

What is Stamp Duty Land Tax?

SDLT replaced Stamp Duty in December 2003 and is a tax on the purchase price of land and buildings. When you buy a property or take on a lease you may have to pay SDLT.

Paying SDLT

If you buy either a freehold or a leasehold property and the purchase price is more than £125,000, you pay SDLT of between one and fifteen per cent of the whole purchase price.

If the purchase price is £125,000 or less you don't pay any SDLT. The £125,000 threshold for when you start to pay SDLT was introduced again on 1 January 2010. The previous starting rate was £175,000 - for purchases made between 3 September 2008 and 31 December 2009.

You can check current rates of SDLT on the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) website at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/sdlt/intro/rates-thresholds.htm

Conveyancing for sellers

Conveyancing is the process of legally transferring ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer. Conveyancing also includes the various searches and enquiries and any final tasks following the sale. Find out what you need to do and where to find a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to help you.

Conveyancing: transferring the ownership of property

There are three main stages of conveyancing for sellers, with tasks that need to be done at each point:

  1. Pre-contractual stage
  2. Exchange of contracts
  3. Completion
1. Pre-contractual stage

Once you have accepted an offer for your property, legal documents need to be prepared to transfer ownership from you to the buyer. As the seller, you are responsible for drawing up a legal contract. If you have hired a solicitor or licensed conveyancer, they will do this work for you. The buyer then checks the draft contract and may wish to negotiate its contents.

The contract contains details including:
  1. what the boundaries of the property are
  2. which fixtures and fittings, like carpets and kitchen units, are included in the sale
  3. how much the property is being sold for
  4. any legal restrictions or rights on the property, like any public footpaths or rules about use of the property
  5. any planning restrictions in place
  6. a description of the services to the property, eg drainage and gas
  7. the date for completing the sale (called completion)
  8. Your solicitor or licensed conveyancer will do the following on your behalf:
  9. draft the initial contract
  10. answer questions from the buyer’s solicitor or licensed conveyancer – they will need your assistance for many of the answers
  11. negotiate the details of the contract if necessary
Providing an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

You will need to have an EPC ready for potential buyers from the first day your property is on the market

2. Exchange of contracts

When the seller and buyer are happy with its contents, they sign final copies of the contract and send them to each other - this is the ‘exchange of contracts’. Once contracts are exchanged, the agreement to sell and buy is legally binding and usually neither party can pull out without paying compensation.

Your solicitor or conveyancer will answer any further queries from the buyer’s solicitor or licensed conveyancer. The buyer’s solicitor or licensed conveyancer will prepare the legal documents to transfer ownership. You will need to check with the buyer who will be responsible for insurance of the property once contracts are exchanged.

3. Completion

Once contracts have been exchanged and any remaining checks by the buyer have been dealt with:

  1. the money is transferred from the buyer to you
  2. the legal documents needed to transfer ownership are handed over to the buyer
  3. you move out and leave the property in the state agreed in the contract
  4. you hand over the keys to the property to the buyer

The property now belongs to the buyer.

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