Top of main content

What is conveyancing and how does it work?

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

Conveyancing is a complicated process. You may have questions around what happens when and who does what. Here are some questions and answers to help you get started.

What does a solicitor or licensed conveyancer do?

When you buy or sell a property, a solicitor or licensed conveyancer will handle the legal side of things. Among other tasks, they’ll typically:

  • check the legal title to the property

  • provide legal advice

  • manage the chain (if there is one) for exchange of contracts and completion

  • collect and transfer money including Stamp Duty (if payable)

  • if acting for the buyer, carry out property searches to check for any issues that might affect the property’s value

What are property searches?

Property searches are enquiries made by your solicitor or licensed conveyancer, to find out more about the property you want to buy. These include:

  • land registry searches - to ensure the seller is in a position to sell

  • local authority searches - to check if there are any current or planned proposals or issues, for example, planning applications or proposals for road improvements, that may impact the property

Environment searches

If the land has previously been used for another purpose, your mortgage lender may ask whether there is any contamination risk or other environmental risk. If there is, your conveyancer may arrange for an environmental search which may disclose any remaining risks with the land.

How to choose a solicitor or licensed conveyancer

When you buy or sell a property, you’ll be responsible for choosing your own solicitor or licensed conveyancer. If you’re using a mortgage broker, they may recommend one to you. If you choose a solicitor, they will need to be a conveyancing specialist, whereas all licensed conveyancers are specialist property lawyers.

Make sure you check their credentials and availability and obtain and compare different quotes. You could also ask family and friends for recommendations.

If you’re taking out a mortgage with HSBC, your chosen solicitor or licensed conveyancer will need to meet the following basic criteria in order to be able to act for us, as well as you:

Mortgage amount
Number of partners in the firm*

< £350K

1 solicitor / licensed conveyancer / regulated managers
£350K - £2m
2 or 3 solicitors / licensed conveyancers / regulated managers
£2m+
4 or more solicitors / licensed conveyancers / regulated managers
Mortgage amount

< £350K

< £350K

Number of partners in the firm*
1 solicitor / licensed conveyancer / regulated managers
1 solicitor / licensed conveyancer / regulated managers
Mortgage amount
£350K - £2m
£350K - £2m
Number of partners in the firm*
2 or 3 solicitors / licensed conveyancers / regulated managers
2 or 3 solicitors / licensed conveyancers / regulated managers
Mortgage amount
£2m+
£2m+
Number of partners in the firm*
4 or more solicitors / licensed conveyancers / regulated managers
4 or more solicitors / licensed conveyancers / regulated managers

*The firm must be registered with one of the following: Solicitors Regulation Authority (and must be accredited to The Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme) or The Law Society of Scotland or The Law Society of Northern Ireland or the Council for Licenced Conveyancers. All firms must have a minimum professional indemnity insurance cover of £2 million and for lending over £2 million, they must have professional indemnity insurance of £5 million.

England and Wales:

  • Solicitor Regulations Authority (SRA) regulated firms must be Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) accredited

  • all Council of Licensed Conveyancer (CLC) regulated firms can act for HSBC

Scotland and Northern Ireland:

  • all Scottish and Northern Ireland solicitor regulated firms can act for HSBC

Additional checks and requirements also apply.

How does the conveyancing process work?

If you’re buying a property in England or Wales:

  1. It’s a good idea to choose a solicitor or licensed conveyancer in the early stages of buying your own home – as soon as you’re ready to make an offer.

  2. If you’re applying for a mortgage, your lender will ask for their contact details and make sure your chosen conveyancer meets their criteria.

  3. When your lender has approved your mortgage application, they’ll send your solicitor or licensed conveyancer a copy of the mortgage offer.

  4. Your solicitor or licensed conveyancer will then carry out the legal work, including property searches. They’ll liaise with the seller’s conveyancer to resolve any enquiries they may have.

  5. Signed contracts are exchanged and a completion date is set. Completion is when the purchase funds are transferred to the seller’s solicitor or licensed conveyancer and the sale is complete.

If you’re selling a property in England or Wales:

  1. Once you accept a buyer’s offer on your property, you’ll need to appoint a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to carry out the legal work. They'll request your property title deeds and obtain a copy of your legal title from the Land Registry. They’ll also ask you to complete several questionnaires about the property and the fixtures and fittings, that you wish to take with you when you move or leave, for your purchaser.

  2. Your solicitor or licensed conveyancer will liaise with the buyer’s legal representative and respond to any enquiries that they have.

  3. If you have a mortgage on the property, your solicitor or licensed conveyancer will request a redemption statement from your existing lender, confirming the amount owed.

  4. After completion, your solicitor or licensed conveyancer will then pay the estate agent (if one is used), repay any amount owed to your existing mortgage lender and take payment for their legal fees.

  5. Once all the payments have been made, the remaining money from the property sale will be transferred to you.

The conveyancing process in Scotland and Northern Ireland:

The conveyancing process in Scotland and Northern Ireland differs in a number of important respects from that in England and Wales. If you’re buying or selling a property in either Scotland or Northern Ireland, you need to take legal advice as early as possible when thinking of either buying or selling.

How much does conveyancing cost?

According to the Money Advice Service, legal fees can range from £850 - £1,500 including VAT. Local property searches are typically around £250 - £300, on top of the legal fees.

How long does conveyancing take?

In England and Wales, the conveyancing process takes between 6 to 12 weeks, on average, to complete.

Do you need a solicitor or licensed conveyancer when remortgaging?

If you remortgage to a new lender, a solicitor or licensed conveyancer is still required. They will often be appointed by the lender. When remortgaging, the conveyancing process is typically quicker than if you were to buy or sell a property.

How much does conveyancing cost when remortgaging?

Conveyancing fees can vary. However, most lenders will include free legal work when you remortgage to them. For example, at HSBC, we’ll appoint a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to act on our behalf and pay for the standard legal work undertaken by them.

Even if the legal fees for remortgaging are paid for by your lender, you may need to pay some legal fees yourself in certain circumstances. For example, if you want to add or remove someone from the mortgage.

What’s included in the standard costs (paid by HSBC)
Examples of what’s not included (additional fees will apply)
  • Legal processing fee
  • Search and Land registry fees
  • Telegraphic Transfer fee to repay your previous lender
  • Transfer of Title
  • Leasehold conveyancing
  • Land registry amendments
  • Shared ownership schemes
What’s included in the standard costs (paid by HSBC)
  • Legal processing fee
  • Search and Land registry fees
  • Telegraphic Transfer fee to repay your previous lender
  • Legal processing fee
  • Search and Land registry fees
  • Telegraphic Transfer fee to repay your previous lender
Examples of what’s not included (additional fees will apply)
  • Transfer of Title
  • Leasehold conveyancing
  • Land registry amendments
  • Shared ownership schemes
  • Transfer of Title
  • Leasehold conveyancing
  • Land registry amendments
  • Shared ownership schemes

What to expect in the remortgaging conveyancing process

If you’re remortgaging to HSBC, our solicitor or licensed conveyancer will:

  • contact you directly and ask you to complete a remortgage questionnaire

  • let you know if there is any additional legal work required, which may come as an additional charge to you

  • possibly ask you to provide proof of ID and address for regulation

As the solicitor or licensed conveyancer is working on our behalf, they’ll only contact you if they need more information from you, or to update you on progress with your remortgage.

Think carefully before securing other debts against your home.
Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.