A Helpful Guide to Conveyancing

When a property is changing hands there is a certain level of legal work that has to be done before the sale can be closed, and the buyer becomes the owner.

What is Conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring the title of a property from one person to another.

What to Look for in a Conveyancer

Given that this is one of the most important decisions you are likely to make choosing the right solicitor for you is extremely important, get it wrong and it could cost you thousands of pounds to put right. Choosing a solicitor should not be about price, we recommend you look for the following attributes:

  • Transparent and open about their prices, nothing hidden away in the small print
  • Clear explanations on what's involved
  • Good levels of communication throughout the process
  • Access to your solicitor when you need it - including out of hours
  • Fully accredited by The Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme

Get a conveyancing quote by calling: 0800 206 1521

DIY Conveyancing

Though it is in theory possible to carry out your own conveyancing there are many pitfalls and legal liabilities that in practice would put most people off and we strongly recommend that people seek our advice before they consider this approach.

How Long Does Conveyancing Take?

Conveyancing, like homes, is not a one size fits all process, and can take from 6-10 weeks on average although this will depend on the level of work needed and any factors, which may delay completion, such as being part of a chain.

Simpson Millar will endeavour to complete your conveyancing in the most efficient time possible.

^ Back to top

The Conveyancing Process

The process is split into 3 stages:

Stage One:

Contact us early and we can start to get your file set up and prepare for when you are ready to make an offer. By contacting us early it will help to reduce the time taken to get things going. Our work really begins after you make your offer to the seller (vendor). Upon acceptance of your offer, we make contact with the vendor's solicitor to make pre-contract enquiries and negotiate a draft contact:

  • The draft contract will contain a comprehensive list of what is included in the sale including fixtures, fittings, and a contents form
  • It will also contain a property information form and, if applicable, copies of previous title deeds for us to check and approve
  • We will then undertake a series of conveyancing searches to ensure you are not exposed to any issues upon completion - These can include environmental issues, boundary disputes, planning constraints and permissions, rights of way, restrictive covenants, guarantees or insurance policies, and the proximity to railway lines
  • If applicable, we check the leasehold and obtain any relevant information needed

At this point, the contract is negotiated, agreed, and a completion date is set. You will now need to secure a formal mortgage offer from your provider, and not just an agreement in principle.

Stage Two:

Once you have your mortgage agreement and contracts are exchanged, the second stage of the conveyancing process will begin. It is at this point your finances will need to be in order, including the deposit, which will be required before we can proceed.

  • We will produce a transfer document and send this to the vendor's solicitor, for them to agree - Both you and the seller will need to sign this document
  • The next step will be signing of the official mortgage document and arranging for the money to be available on the completion date
  • Any final searches and enquiries are then made, such as Land Registry checks and Land Charges checks

N.B. You must pay Land Registry fees and stamp duty prior to completion

You should use this period of time to organise your plans for the big move, which will usually take place on your completion date.

Stage Three:

Once every step of stages 1 and 2 are fully carried out – it will then be time to get excited – as the move towards completion day gets closer.

^ Back to top

Completion Day

On completion day, expect everything to be arranged for midday. It may take longer due to the transfer of funds and any logistical issues (such as the seller not moving all of their belongings out before this time).

We will make this process as pain free as possible by:

  • Ensuring that we have the funds for the property from your lender (if applicable) and hold these until the formal completion of the sale
  • Confirming that you're happy to proceed and contact the vendor's conveyancer to finalise the transfer of funds
  • Informing you that the funds have been released, and your house keys can now be handed over, meaning you're free to move in to your new property

After you have moved into your home, we tie up any final administration issues, leaving you free to celebrate and enjoy the new space you now own!

^ Back to top

What Can Delay Completion?

Everyone wants a swift completion of their property purchase, and with many cases there are few, if any problems when conveyancing. Of course, there are always exceptions, these are some common factors that may influence the length of time it takes to get your keys:

  1. Gazumping - this is the term used when a seller accepts a verbal offer on a property but then accepts a higher offer from another buyer. It also relates to when a seller decided to up the asking price at the last minute. This can happen at any point up until written contracts are exchanged and can be an extremely unpleasant experience and expensive if surveys and other work has already commenced

    #Solution: We offer a no move no fee so you won't have to pay the legal fees associated with your transaction should this happen to you.

  2. Securing your mortgage - having a pre-approved mortgage in principle is not the same as having a mortgaged agreed and in place; there are many checks that lenders must carry out before giving an official offer to potential buyers, so it is worth factoring this into your time frame as it can sometimes take longer if you have complex financial history, or if there are problems with the property you wish to buy
  3. Issues with surveys - there are many issues that could arise as part of the surveying process: the house needs to be valued, and perhaps a full building survey carried out. If there are problems that come out of these surveys, it could push back completion date even more, as some lenders may ask these problems are rectified before they lend you any money
  4. Delayed documents - with any property sale, there is a high number of administrative duties that must be carried out. Enquiries must be made to the local council, but if this is not done electronically, it can take anything from one day to weeks to get the correct information. Likewise, if the property is being sold by a deceased person's family, the title may not have been made official with the Land Registry, or if title deeds have been lost, obtaining these documents can take time
  5. Breaking the chain - many people will have their house up for sale, but will not want to start looking for their next property until they secure a buyer themselves. When they do find another property to buy, they will likely need the money from the sale to complete their next purchase, creating a chain sequence of transactions. This can be difficult to arrange, and time consuming as every transaction must complete on the same day. The more people in the chain, the more likely that delays will occur
^ Back to top

How Much Does Conveyancing Cost?

Give us a call and ask us to quote! It will depend on the transaction you are undertaking but we’ll happily give you a quote over the phone.

What you pay will be made up of our fees, together with disbursements which cover other costs associated with the sale or purchase of a property, for example Stamp duty or Land Registration fees.

Our basic fees start at £420, including VAT.

^ Back to top

Your Conveyancing Quote - What's included?

There are a range of legal checks that we need to do during the residential conveyancing process on your behalf. Using the documents you provide to us, we can produce a conveyancing quote that will include:

  • A list of our conveyancing fees and costs that will be incurred based on your information and documents – and the work we intend to carry out
  • A list of any third party expenses that will need to be paid to external agencies as part of the process
  • A final cost to you, which is subject to value added tax (VAT)

For many of our clients, this will be the first time they have purchased a property, and will not understand the various different elements to the process and the costs incurred. If you are a first time buyer, or a seasoned property-purchaser, it is worth acquainting yourself with these costs.

Your conveyancing fees will be broken down as listed below:

Fixed-Fee Conveyancing

There will always be a basic fee that we charge for doing a standard residential conveyance.

This is a fixed-fee service, which covers

  1. The residential conveyancing work that we do
  2. The time we spend ensuring that your transaction proceeds smoothly
  3. Protecting your interests

Example Fixed Fee, Freehold Property

Please contact us on 0800 206 1521 for more information.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) Form Preparation

This form must be completed on every purchase of a home and must be completed within 30 days.

This is a complex form with 7 pages of information to provide, and if it is not completed and sent to the Inland Revenue within 30 days of completing the transaction, there is a penalty fee payable.

If you do this within 3 months after the filing date the penalty is £100, any longer, and the fee is £200.

It is a legal requirement that this form is completed on every purchase, even if there is no stamp duty payable.

Preparation of bank transfer/telegraphic transfer

When a transaction completes, money then moves between accounts usually in the form of an electronic or telegraphic transfer.

In order to ensure that the money is sent to the correct account, the transfer details are checked by 3 different people:

  1. The person handling your case and transaction will check the details
  2. They are then checked a second time by our accounts team
  3. Finally, before the money is actually sent, the details are checked for a third time by a partner or other senior member of staff at Simpson Millar

This charge will be applicable for every money transfer that is required.

Shared ownership and shared equity properties

Shared ownership and shared equity properties usually refer to property that you co-buy with a housing association. It also means that you pay rent on the equity share that the housing association retains.

Shared equity arrangements mean that you buy a given equity share of the property, while the developer and/or Government own the remaining share, and you do not pay rent on it.

If you are buying a shared ownership property there will be additional fees to pay to Simpson Millar as well as some additional third party costs.

New build properties

When a new build property is bought directly from a developer, the solicitors for the developer provide a substantially larger pack of documents which must be confirmed. This includes:

  • Legal information
  • Planning and building regulation documentation, and
  • Information regarding the layout of new roads and drainage.

Additional fees reflect the extra work involved in dealing with the documentation, and there may also be additional third party costs.

Help To Buy Scheme

Under this scheme, buyers of a new-build property with only a 5% deposit may be able to secure an equity loan through a Government backed scheme (this depends on whether your developer and mortgage lender are parties to the scheme).

Review and preparation of the equity loan documentation will incur an additional fee.

Leasehold Property Supplement

We charge a supplement for leasehold properties as there is considerably more work to do than for freeholds:

  1. The lease, which is often a 30-40 page document, must be reviewed and enquiries will usually have to be raised with the managing agent or landlord
  2. Responses to those enquiries must be considered and we will report to you on those responses to ensure that you are happy with them
  3. On completion of the transaction, we may also have to calculate ground rents and service charges as well as serving notices of transfer on the landlord or managing agent

These conveyancing fees are only applicable if you are purchasing a leasehold property, with the costs dependent on your property.

^ Back to top

Third party expenses

There are some fees that we handle for you that are paid to other sources during the residential conveyancing process. These are usually out of our control, but we do our best to keep costs down.

Office copies

Office copies contain details of the Land Registers and are required to be sent to the buyer's solicitors so that there is official proof that the seller owns the property.

The office copies will state the owners name along with any charges that may be registered against the house.

The only time that office copies are necessary is if you are selling your house.

Telegraphic/bank transfer

The bank will charge for transferring money electronically from one account to another. This charge will apply for each money transfer required.

Stamp duty

Stamp duty is a government tax that is paid on all properties over the value of £125,000 and is only payable on purchases. The amount of stamp duty that you will have to pay is based on the value of your house.

You can calculate your stamp duty here

Land Registry fee

The Land Registry requires that you pay a fee in order to register any property you purchase in your name. The amount you will need to pay will also depend on the value of the house.

You can view the registry fee scale here.

It's also a requirement that you register any new charges and to remove the existing owner and details of any existing charges.

Bankruptcy search fee

This is a safety measure to check whether a buyer has been, or is about to be declared bankrupt, and only has to be carried out if you are purchasing or remortgaging a property. A search is done for each of the names that will be on the mortgage.

The cost currently stands at £2.00 per name.

When do I need to pay?

All accounts are paid on the day of completion, when we request the funds from your lender and any balance for funds from you the day before to avoid any completion day delays.

^ Back to top

What About Joint Ownership (JOT) of a Residential Property?

Buying a property with another party – whether that's a partner, spouse, family member, or even a friend – is an exciting time. And, whilst you may never think that the relationship could break down, it is worth considering that any eventuality could happen, and it is worth protecting everyone's rights who are involved.

There are lots of options for sharing the ownership of a residential property, and Simpson Millar can help you decide on the best option for you.

Joint Tenants

This option is, as the name suggests – each co-owner holds an equal part of the property in their name, and should either pass away, the other co-owner will immediately become the sole owner, regardless of the deceased's wishes stated in a Will.

Both parties entering into home ownership together must be fully informed of the arrangements of joint tenancy should they pass away – this is a big decision, especially if there are other parties (such as children from previous marriages) to consider.

In most cases, married couples or those in civil partnerships will choose this option, but it is not uncommon for the alternative (Tenants in Common) to be chosen. It is less common, though not unheard of, for unmarried couples to choose the Joint Tenancy. If one owner wants to sell then the proceeds will be divided equally.

What is important to remember is that either party can sever the agreement, meaning the property will automatically become held as Tenants in Common, in which case, you can choose who you would like to leave your share to.

Tenants In Common

If you choose to pursue a Tenancy In Common, you can define the percentage of ownership that each person has – if you don't give specifics, the law will assume a 50% split each way.

A Tenancy in Common provides a safeguard for those involved, knowing their wishes will be fulfilled should they pass away; your share of the property will pass to the beneficiary named within your Will. This can be especially useful if you have children or grandchildren you would like to leave inheritance to.

It is wise for unmarried couples, those who have made unequal contributions to the property (when purchasing or running), or friends that are purchasing a property together to seek this agreement as it defines who owns what percentage.

If the property is ever sold, then you are legally bound to receive the percentage of the property outlined in the agreement; a 60% share means 60% of the sold value.

Declarations of Trust

If the share of a property is straightforward, then a simple Declaration of Trust is required to agree these shares. In a lot of cases, this is not a viable option, and a more complex Declaration must be made.

Each party is able to set out who inherits their share by making a Will . This way, if the owners wish to sell there can be no challenge to the share they receive.

  1. A Declaration of Trust can also set out what the financial contribution is going to be for each party during the time the property is owned (such as for repairs, the amount each contributes to the mortgage, and if one person decides to leave) – you could decide the share of the property based on this rather than the initial deposit input.
  2. If you do choose to sell, the Declaration can also set out the agreement about the deposit contributions (this is useful in cases where one person puts more towards the deposit). You may decide that each party gets their deposit money back, and then any remaining money is split equally.
  3. Another useful element of a Declaration of Trust is when a third party, such as a parent or grandparent assists with the deposit, but does not wish to be named on the title. Depending on whether the money is considered a gift or investment will mean different protections are put in place.
^ Back to top

Do I Need A Will If I Own Property?

In short – yes. It is important to have a Will in place when you own a sizeable asset such as a property. This is especially true if you have chosen to own a property with another party as Tenants in Common; you will need to outline who owns your share of the property should you pass away.

Wills and Probate

You may think that discussing the plans for your assets when you pass away is jumping the gun, but it is important to have this talk so you can be sure your wishes are followed when you are no longer here.

Having a Will allows you to protect the financial interests of your family and safeguard your estate so they are not left with any nasty surprises.

Simpson Millar can provide you with the legal help to produce a Will that caters to your specific needs.

^ Back to top

What makes Simpson Millar Stand out?

Simpson Millar has created this service to make the whole process of buying a residential property as stress-free and easy as it can be.

Our Awards

We were crowned Regional Conveyancing Firm of the Year for London and the South East in 2012-2013 and are an accredited member of the Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS), which is an industry-wide recognised standard for residential conveyancing practices.

Our membership ensures continued high-level of service, and cements our credibility for residential homebuyers, sellers, and other industry professionals alike

^ Back to top

Get a Quote Today

Our expert team of Conveyancers and Solicitors are on hand to offer you the quality assured Conveyancing service that you expect. We can advise on any aspect of the process and are happy to discuss how we can help make the process as swift and pain free as possible – we want to get you into your new home almost as much as you do!

Call us on 0800 206 1521 to obtain your quote or alternatively fill out our enquiry form and one of our friendly team will be able to start you on the path to your new home!

Latest News

Get A Quote

Nigel Tarrant | Partner, Head of Conveyancing | Simpson Millar LLP

Nigel Tarrant
Partner, Head of Conveyancing

View profile