What is Conveyancing?


When you buy a house or flat you will need to go through a legal process called Conveyancing. Very few people know exactly what this means. In this short article we look at the origins of conveyancing and help you to understand what conveyancing means in practice.

Applying for a Mortgage and arranging for a survey of the property to be undertaken are for the Buyer to do and are not part of the Conveyancing process. However, your solicitor will be sent a copy of your mortgage offer by the lender (and then be able to liaise with your mortgage lender regarding the release of funds) and will consider any legal matters arising from the survey if requested.

What does Conveyancing mean?

Conveyancing is the transfer of legal title of property from one person to another.

The Origins of Conveyancing Law

Conveyancing law is the law that governs the purchase and sale of land. In England and Wales modern day conveyancing was introduced by two Acts of Parliament, the Law of Property Act 1925 and the Land Registration Act 1925. The Land Registration Act wasmore recently replaced by the Land Registration Act 2002.

These Acts created the Land Registry, a central registerof information on land and home ownership and made registration of land ownership compulsory. Surprisingly it took until 1998 for all land in England and Wales to become registerable.

What happens during the Conveyancing process?

When a buyer has found a house or flat that they wish to buy an offer is made to the existing owners of the property. There may then be a period of negotiation before the final purchase price is agreed between the two parties. Solicitors are then instructed. Your solicitor will send you an engagement letter detailing the work that they will undertake and the cost.

In England and Wales a contract to buy a property is not legally binding until contracts are “exchanged”. Until that time either party can pull out of the transaction for any reason with no legal obligation to the other.

If you are the buyer, your solicitor will write to the seller’s solicitor, indicating that they are acting for you. The seller’s solicitor will then send the draft contract to your solicitor (the legal contract that commits the parties to the transfer of ownership of the property) with details of the title, the lease (if a flat) and other information.

Matters that will be dealt with by the solicitors include:

  • the sale price
  • the property boundaries
  • which fixtures and fittings are to be included in the sale
  • lease obligations (for a flat)
  • any legal restrictions or rights, like public footpaths or rules about using the property
  • any planning restrictions
  • details about gas, electricity, water and sewerage services to the property.

Your solicitor will go through the contract and will seek clarification and request additional details until you are both happy with everything. He or she will also make enquiries about the property (known as “searches”) with organisations such as local and water authorities to find out whether there are any planned developments that may affect the property, whether the property might be at risk of flooding, the location of water mains and sewers, the presence of any contaminated land etc.

Once you and the seller are happy with the contract it is signed and then “exchanged” - you and the seller each get the contract signed by the other. At this point in the process a deposit is normally paid by the buyer to the seller and the completion date is agreed. The contract for purchase/sale is now legally binding and compensation will have to be paid if either party decides to pull out of the transaction.

Completion, when the purchase/sale is finalised, normally takes place shortly after the exchange of contracts, typically within 7 to 28 days. The time lapse is often dictated by how long the mortgage lender needs to transfer the funds to the buyer’s solicitor and the practical arrangements of the seller and buyer.

Just before completion, the buyer’s solicitor will send a ‘Certificate of Title’ to the mortgage lender. This confirms to the mortgage lender that the property is a good security for the loan. Once it is received your mortgage lender will send the funds to the solicitor who in turn sends the money to the seller’s solicitor. The house purchase/sale is now complete and the keys will be released to you so that you can move into your new home.

After completion the seller’s solicitor discharges any mortgage on the property of the seller and the buyer’s solicitor deals with the payment of stamp duty land tax and registration at the Land Registry.

If you would like confidential help and advice on any of the matters mentioned above or on any other areas of Property Law call your nearest office in Uxbridge (01895 256151), Ruislip (01895 636037) or Greenford (020 8578 6936), email info@bird-lovibond.co.uk or fill in the Conveyancing Enquiry Form.

Back to the Library