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Conveyancing and property searches: what you need to know

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer. It is typically carried out by a solicitor or licensed conveyancer.

What does a conveyancer do?

Conveyancers carry out all the legal work involved in buying a property, including a number of vital property searches. They also:

  • check the legal title to the property
  • provide legal advice
  • draw up contracts
  • deal with payment of Stamp Duty Land Tax (Land and Buildings Transaction Tax in Scotland and Land Transaction Tax in Wales) if payable
  • collect and transfer money 

What are property searches?

There are a number of different types of property searches, all of which carry an additional fee on top of the conveyancer’s fee.

Land registry searches

Your conveyancer will apply to the appropriate land registry for a copy of the legal title to  the property you are buying and carry out searches to ensure that the seller is in a position to sell.  

Local authority searches

Your conveyancer will arrange for a search to be carried out with the local authority for the property. Local authority property searches include questions such as:

  • are there any current planning proposals?
  • is the property classed as a listed building?
  • is it in a conservation area?
  • are there any plans for the local area which may affect the property and/or a CPO (compulsory purchase order) in place which directly impacts the property, such as a regeneration project?
  • are there any enforcement notices relating to the property?

Local authority property searches typically cost £250-£450.1 This figure may be higher if you are buying an atypical property or one that’s in a location where there may be issues. For example, a property in an area of flood risk, or one with potential access issues.

Environmental searches

If your mortgage lender has any additional questions, your conveyancer will handle those. For example, 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.

How do you find a solicitor or licensed conveyancer?

When buying a property, many people ask their friends and family for their conveyancer recommendations.

If you decide to use a solicitor rather than a licensed conveyancer, you may want to check the Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) for one that follows the CQS Client Service Charter and Conveyancing Protocol.

While it’s possible to do conveyancing yourself, it can be very risky and is generally not recommended. Plus, most mortgage lenders will not allow you to act for them.

What do you need to know about the conveyancing process?

The conveyancing process can be broken down roughly as follows:

  1. You choose a licensed conveyancer or solicitor and instruct them to begin the process
  2. Your conveyancer drafts terms of engagement which you read, sign and return
  3. Your conveyancer requests some money towards search fees, etc
  4. Property searches begin and your conveyancer sends a long list of enquiries to the seller’s conveyancer or solicitor
  5. Your conveyancer checks the legal title to the property
  6. All queries are resolved, usually over a number of weeks
  7. Contracts are signed and exchanged
  8. The exchange is completed

How much does it cost to have a solicitor or licensed conveyancer?

Legal fees for conveyancing are around £850-£1,500, including VAT at 20%.1 The fees for buying a leasehold property are often higher than for a freehold.

Some conveyancers offer a 'no sale, no fee' service. It’s worth checking the small print if you go with this type of conveyancer service.

How long does conveyancing take?

Expect the conveyancing process to take around 12 weeks. For straightforward sales it can take less time, and for complicated sales, more.  


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