Conveyancing Fees Explained

Know what you’re paying for

Buying and selling a home can be an exciting as well as a stressful experience. It’s also a pretty expensive one. And some of those costs relate to conveyancing fees. 

But what exactly is conveyancing? What are you getting for your money? And how can you make sure that you’re not being ripped off?

We’re going to answer all those questions and more. Let’s dive in.

What is the conveyancing fee?

Conveyancing is the legal work that’s needed to handle the sale or purchase of a property. That’s usually done by a solicitor or licensed conveyancer (a specialist property lawyer), and they charge a conveyancing fee for the service.

There are two main parts to conveyancing costs:

  • The costs of the solicitor or conveyancer’s legal work.
  • Costs paid to third parties for checks required as part of the process. These are known as disbursements.

There are a number of different costs within those categories. You’ll need to pay some of them only if you’re buying a property, and some only if you’re selling. And some apply to both buyers and sellers.

Is conveyancing a fixed fee?

Different conveyancers calculate their fees in different ways:

  • Fixed fees calculated in advance
  • Charges per hour of work
  • A sliding scale linked to the price of the property

Fixed fees are less common, and they’ll usually apply only to the conveyancer’s legal services. Standard disbursements should be included in the quote, but double-check. 

It’s especially important to check what’s included if the price is much lower than you’ve been quoted elsewhere. Sometimes quotes don’t include these basic services in an effort to look more competitive than they really are.

And even if all the expected checks are included, you may find that more are needed. If a local authority search identifies contaminated land in the area, for example, your lender may also require an environmental report. That will carry an extra cost.

It’s impossible to predict all of this in advance. So, even with fixed fee conveyancing, disbursement costs can increase during the buying or selling process.

What is the average cost of conveyancing fees in the UK?

So how much does conveyancing cost? That depends on a number of different factors:

  • Whether the property is leasehold or freehold. Conveyancing is cheaper for a freehold property. (Freehold is when you own the property and the land it’s built on. Leasehold is when you own the property for a set amount of time, but not the land it’s built on).
  • The complexity of the sale. Anything that requires more time makes conveyancing more expensive. Buying through Shared Ownership, Help to Buy or Right to Buy schemes will all add complexity and lead to higher conveyancing fees.
  • The location of the conveyancer. Generally speaking, you’ll pay less for a conveyancer in the north of England, for example, than in the south.
  • Whether the work is being done by a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer. Licensed conveyancers are usually less expensive.
  • The price of the property. Many conveyancers charge on the basis of a sliding scale linked to the value of the property.

So how much are conveyancing fees? All those variables mean that average conveyancing fees aren’t always a helpful guide to your specific circumstances. A reasonable range can be anything from around £600 to £1,800. Disbursements will add to that total.

What are disbursements and how much do they cost?

Disbursements are the costs paid to third parties for specific checks. They vary from just a few pounds to more significant sums. Here are the standard things that will be included in your overall costs.

Stamp Duty Land Tax

Stamp Duty Land Tax (often called simply “stamp duty”) is a tax payable by buyers. The amount to be paid depends on the value of the property you’re buying and whether you’re a first-time buyer.

There’s no stamp duty to be paid on properties priced up to £250,000 (or up to £425,000 if you’re a first-time buyer). Above that, you’ll pay a proportion of the property price, ranging from 5% to 12%. (You can find out more about stamp duty and how it’s calculated here.)

Local authority searches

These are in two parts. The first (called the LLC1) searches the Local Land Charge Register. It will highlight any charges or restrictions on the land or property. This could include whether it’s a listed building, in a conservation area, or subject to a Tree Protection Order.

(This process is changing, with all local authority registers being transferred to the Land Registry. So this part of conveyancing will soon become cheaper and easier.)

The second part of the search (called the CON29) provides information on other issues that could affect the property. That could include plans for new roads, a breach of building regulations, or even that the property is subject to a Compulsory Purchase Order.

Fees for local authority searches can be anything from £250 to £450. These fall to the buyer to pay.

Transfer of ownership

Sellers have to apply to the Land Registry to transfer ownership from them to the person buying the property. The cost for this is on a sliding scale, from £45 to £305, depending on the value of the property. 

Anti-money laundering checks

These are checks to confirm the identity of the parties to the sale. Both buyers and sellers need them, and they cost between £6 and £20. If you’re a foreign national or live outside the UK, the cost will be higher.

Property fraud checks

These checks make sure that the entity you’re sending money to is a real company. They cost £10.

Title deeds

If you’re selling a property, you’ll need a copy of the title deeds listing you as the owner. Most deeds are held by the Land Registry and getting an official copy will cost you £7.

If your property isn’t registered with the Land Registry, the conveyancer will have to track the deeds down. That typically costs between £120 and £140.

Bank transfers

If you’re a buyer transferring more than £60,000, this needs to be done by something called a Telegraphic Transfer (TT). This will guarantee that the funds arrive on the correct date. 

The bank will charge a fee for this, and your conveyancer will add their own fee for arranging it. Fees are usually £20 to £30.

Indemnity insurance

This is only needed in certain circumstances — for example, if the property has had work that doesn’t have a building regulations certificate. There’s no rule about who pays for this. But sellers may be prepared to meet the costs to keep the sale on track.

Other fees

Buyers may have to pay a range of other fees, depending on their circumstances. These include:

  • Help to Buy supplement (£200 to £300) — to cover the extra costs if you’re buying your home through a Help to Buy Scheme
  • Gifted Deposit fee (up to £100) — if you’ve been gifted money to pay the deposit, the conveyancer may charge you to check that it’s from a legitimate source
  • Using a Lifetime or Help to Buy ISA (up to £50) — if you’re redeeming your Lifetime ISA, your conveyancer can charge you for the extra work. But the fee is capped at £50

There can be other fees if you’re buying or selling a leasehold property:

  • Deed of Covenant (£150 to £200) — if you’re buying a leasehold property, you may need a Deed of Covenant. This is a legally binding document setting out your responsibilities and those of the landlord or management company.
  • Leasehold Management Pack (£300 to £800) — this has to be provided by sellers, and sets out service charges and other important information. 
  • Notice of Assignment (up to £300) — also known as a Notice of Transfer, this informs the landlord that you’re the new owner. Some conveyancers will do this without charge.

Is a conveyancer cheaper than a solicitor?  

A conveyancer is usually cheaper than a solicitor. They specialise in the conveyancing process too. But they won’t have the broader legal expertise of a solicitor. So if you think your sale or purchase may be more complex, a solicitor might have some advantages.

Online conveyancing firms can offer competitive rates too. Just make sure you understand if there are any restrictions on the service they offer.

How do you choose a good conveyancer?

Conveyancers need to be members of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. And the Law Society runs a Conveyancing Quality Scheme that offers reassurance that your conveyancer knows what they’re doing.

Whoever you choose, ask for a written breakdown of what their fees cover before you sign on the dotted line.

The bottom line on conveyancing fees

Conveyancing fees include both the costs of your conveyancer’s time and third-party charges. It’s very difficult to pin down an exact cost in advance because every sale and purchase is different. And even “fixed” fees can vary if unexpected checks are required.

Check the conveyancer is a member of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers before you engage them. Choosing a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme can also give you confidence that you’ll be getting a good service.

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