Conveyancing: Everything you need to know

Buying a house is a big step, so it’s understandable that the process contains a lot of paperwork. There’s no need to panic, though, as there are trained professionals who can help you through the …

Buying a house is a big step, so it’s understandable that the process contains a lot of paperwork. There’s no need to panic, though, as there are trained professionals who can help you through the process.

Conveyancers can help you make sure that you are completely happy with the property before you sign anything legally binding. They can also help you with the various documents and contracts that need to be filed and signed.

You’ll start the conveyancing process as soon as you make an offer on a property, so it’s a good idea to know what to expect beforehand.

In this guide, we’ll look at what is offered by conveyancing services, why they are essential and how much you are likely to pay.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is when the legal title of a property gets transferred from one person to another. The term refers to the legal and administrative documents that are exchanged and processed during the sale or purchase of a property or piece of land. The conveyancing process starts when an offer is accepted on the sale of a property and ends once the final contracts have been signed. At the conclusion of the conveyancing process, the property will be fully transferred to the new owner.

You will go through the conveyancing process whether you are buying or selling a house, a first-time buyer or an experienced buyer. A conveyancer can also act on your behalf if you are remortgaging your property with a new lender. The process ensures that all parties involved in the sale and purchase journey have complied with the legal aspects of transferring property ownership.

What are the stages of conveyancing?

There are two main phases of the conveyancing process: exchange and competition. The first refers to the exchange of contracts, where the details of contracts are agreed upon. The latter is when the legal title for a property is passed over to the new owner. However, before these phases are completed, there are several steps that must be completed at each stage of the conveyancing process.

Instruct the solicitor

After you’ve found the property that you want to buy and have had your offer accepted, you will need to call upon the services of a conveyancer or solicitor to complete the purchase. You will also need a conveyance if you are selling a property, although you can use the same conveyancer or solicitor if you are simultaneously selling and buying property.

The estate agent you are working with may suggest a conveyancer or solicitor, but it’s a good idea to collect and compare different solicitor quotes. Once you’ve selected a conveyancer or a solicitor, they will draft a contract that features their responsibilities and what they will charge.

Order a property survey

Next, you may wish to arrange a property survey. It isn’t a legal requirement to arrange an independent survey, but it will identify whether there are any major issues with the property. This will help you calculate the cost of necessary repairs upon moving into the property. It will also give you the opportunity to negotiate the asking price if you think it needs to be lowered due to the highlighted faults with the property.

Although it’s a recommended expense for any buyer, ordering a property survey is especially important if you are buying a listed property as the repairs will usually be higher. You should also consider arranging a property survey if the property is in poor condition or has been unused for an extended period of time.

Arrange property searches

Your conveyancer will arrange a local authority search to identify important information about the property, as well as any potential risks. They will consult the local authority during the property search. There are various different types of searches, which will largely depend on the location of the property you hope to buy. These include the following:

  • potential flood risks
  • drainage
  • environmental search (including landslips and subsidence)
  • planning issues

The property search results will be reviewed by your conveyance, who will act on the behalf of you and your mortgage provider. They will make sure that there are no major issues with the property or surrounding area, as well as advise you on how any highlighted issues can be remedied.

Exchange and sign contracts

Before you sign the contract, your conveyancer or solicitor will look through the document with you to make sure that you are happy with it. This is an important step to ensure that you agree with everything in the contract before you are legally bound to it. When you are both satisfied, you will need to sign a completion statement, as well as a transfer and mortgage deed.

Your conveyancer will conduct a final Land Registry check to confirm that no further work has been done to the property. Once the checks have been completed, the transfer deed will be sent to the seller’s conveyancer. The property contracts will be exchanged between yourself and the seller, and you will need to send a deposit to the seller’s solicitor. You are now legally obliged to purchase the property in full.

Post completion

After both parties have signed the contract, your conveyancer or solicitor will pay the required Stamp Duty Land Tax to Revenue and Customs on your behalf. They will also send documents to HM Land Registry that list you as the new owner of the property. This has to be done within 30 days of the purchase.

If you have bought the property using a mortgage, HM Land Registry will pass the title deeds onto your conveyancer or solicitor, who will then send them to your lender. If you bought the property without a mortgage, the title deeds will be passed directly onto you.

How much does conveyancing cost?

The total cost of conveyancing can be anywhere between £300 and £1,500 if you are buying a property. This is in addition to the cost of disbursements, which could be an additional £700. If you are leasing a property, you may have to pay an additional £300 in conveyancing fees.

There are two types of conveyancing fees: legal and disbursements. The legal fees are paid to the conveyancer (or solicitor) for sorting out the conveyancing of the property purchase. The disbursements are fees that third parties charge for property searches and other services. Other types of fees will only apply to buyers, while some fees will only apply to property sellers.

Solicitor and conveyancer fees

The solicitor or conveyancing fees vary, depending on who you hire. There are also various other factors that can influence the conveyancing fee, such as:

  • location where the property and solicitor are based
  • if you use a solicitor or licensed conveyancer (some solicitors are more expensive than conveyancers and vice versa)
  • price of the property
  • type of purchase (Right To Buy, Shared Ownership, Help To Buy)
  • if additional searches are needed (as the property is near a river or mine)


There are various disbursement fees that will be paid to third parties, such as:

  • Title deeds, paid to Land Registry – costs £6
  • Local authority searches, such as drainage and environmental – £250 to £450
  • Transferring ownership, paid to Land Registry – £200 to £300
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax – depends on the value of your property
  • Property fraud checks – £10
  • Telegraphic transfer or bank transfer fee, to guarantee funds reach an account on an allocated day – £20 to £30

You may also have to pay additional fees depending on how you are purchasing the property, for example:

  • Help To Buy supplement – you may be charged extra due to the extra legal work involved (between £200 and £300)
  • Lifetime or Help to Buy ISA – you may be charged extra due to the extra legal work involved (charges are capped at £50 plus VAT)

How long does the conveyancing process take?

The conveyancing process usually takes between nine to 16 weeks, although it is possible for the process to be completed within a month if there are no delays. Conveyancing begins when you, as the buyer, place an offer on a property, or you, as the seller, accept an offer on your property. It will continue until Completion Day, when the legal ownership of the property passes over to the buyer.

Pre-contract work – approximately two weeks

This stage can take around two weeks to complete. You need to source a conveyancer or solicitor as quickly as you can so that they can begin the whole process. They will collect and review the required legal documents so that they can advise you on the purchase of the property. The conveyancer will also correspond with the solicitor who represents the other party (other the buyer or seller, depending on your position).

The local searches can take around 10 days to complete, although it’s not uncommon for local authorities to miss the requested deadline. In some instances, the local searches can take between 21 and 36 days to complete. During this period, you may also want to conduct a survey of the house. The survey report will usually be ready within a couple of days, although it could take up to a month if there are delays.

Mortgage offer – approximately four weeks

It can take around four weeks for a mortgage offer to be made after you have applied. You should try to get a Mortgage Agreement in Principle before you make an offer on the property. This will help speed up the process because you will already know how much the mortgage lender is likely to offer you.

Draft the contracts – between two to ten weeks

It can take your conveyancer or solicitor between two to ten weeks to draft a contract on your behalf. The contract will contain the information that has been passed on by the seller (or buyer) and their conveyancer, as well as the information from the Land Registry.

Any issues that were raised from the searches and surveys will also be raised at this point. If there are no issues, the process could be completed within a fortnight, whereas any set-backs could extend the process to ten weeks.

Exchange of contracts – approximately one week

After the previous steps have been completed, you are ready to exchange the contracts and set a completion date. The period between these two steps can take around a week, although it can take up to two weeks. It’s up to both parties to arrange a completion date that works for their individual timeline. This step is usually handled by estate agents in collaboration with conveyancers.

On Completion Day, you will exchange the property keys. The conveyancers for both parties will arrange for the agreed funds to be transferred.

What is checked during conveyancing?

Below are some of the common checks that conveyancing solicitors conduct as part of the legal process:

Local Authority Search

This search will reveal whether a property is a listed building, subject to planning permissions, or located in a conservation area, amongst other things. In a nutshell, the search is to check whether the local area will influence your property or if there are any restrictions due to the structure of the property.

Environmental search

This search will tell you whether the land that the property sits on has previously been used for industrial activities. The information will tell you if past activities may have contaminated the land or nearby water supply.

Water and drainage search

This search checks whether the property is supplied with water and connected to the nearby sewer systems. The collected information should tell you if any water mains runs through the property and whether the water company or council could require access in the future. This could restrict what modifications you make to the property.

Flood report

This report will highlight whether there are any flooding concerns to the property. Flood risks can make it harder for a property to get mortgaged and home insurance, as well as devalue the house.


Who does the conveyancing?

Conveyancing can be conducted by a solicitor, licensed conveyancer or a property lawyer. Although all solicitors are qualified to conduct conveyancing work, they may not all be experienced in it. If you want to opt for a solicitor, you should try to choose one who has specialist knowledge in residential property transactions. A licensed conveyancer will only work in this area of legal work. Mortgage lenders are often able to provide applicants with a list of approved conveyancers.

Can I do my own conveyancing?

While it is possible to do your own conveyancing, it isn’t recommended. In addition to the various documents, there are also multiple searches that need to be conducted. If the forms and searches aren’t done correctly, you could end up legally tied to a property that has major issues.

A qualified conveyancing solicitor will know how to fill out the necessary forms, as well as conduct searches and surveys so that you can make an informed decision before you purchase the property.


The conveyancing process can last anywhere from four weeks to around 16 weeks, depending on how smoothly everything runs. You can hire a solicitor, conveyancer or property lawyer to help you through the process. They will act on your behalf to conduct property surveys and searches so that they can make sure there aren’t any hidden issues with the house. The conveyancer can also make sure that you are satisfied with the terms of the contract before you sign them.

The buyer’s solicitor will work with the seller’s solicitor to help with the contract exchange. Your conveyancer will also help you to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax and send the relevant documents to HM Land Registry within 30 days of the property purchase.