Home Selling Guide: Conveyancing

The whole legal and administrative process is probably the main reason why property purchases take such a long time.

Although as a house seller there are less administrative issues you have to bother about, it is still recommended that you hire a professional solicitor or conveyancer. The legal aspect is highly important, and you should not run the risk of inaccuracies that might cost you dear later on. Since conveyancing takes on average 2 to 3 months, it is safe to get a solicitor as soon as you decide to sell your house. It will not cost you any more to instruct him early, so you can avoid serious delays by getting him to set up legal documents like the contract when you start advertising.

The Tasks

As a seller, your administrative duties are not as extensive as the buyer's. Still, you will need to get a solicitor as soon as you accept an offer in order to take care of the following tasks:

  • Sale agreement. The solicitors will exchange contact details and letters specifying the particulars of the sale.
  • Title deeds. Your solicitor will have to obtain the property title deeds for the lender. They will be sent back to your solicitor at a later stage.
  • Property information form. List of all the details to be included in the draft contract. Have to be checked and approved both by you and the buyer's solicitor.
  • Answer buyer inquiries. The buyer's solicitor will send a list with questions concerning property details, tenure, utilities, items to be included in the sale etc. to your solicitor. This should erase any ambiguities as early as possible.
  • Draft contract. Your solicitor might have done this as soon as you instructed him. This is not a standard contract and will probably be changed quite a lot before you sign it. The draft consists of two parts:
    • The Particulars of Sale spell out property details and items to be included in the sale.
    • The Conditions of Sale concern the proposed completion date and deposit required on exchange of contracts.
    As soon as the title deeds are returned, your solicitor will send the draft contract to the buyer's solicitor. When the completion date and the terms of the draft contract have been agreed by the solicitors, it will be sent to you for approval. As soon as approved, the standard contracts will be set up and sent to you for signature.
  • Sign contract. After signing it, send the contract back to your solicitor. Remember that until contracts have been exchanged, the whole thing is not legally binding!
  • Exchange of contracts. Now there is no way back. Each party signs all the contracts and sends them back. It is done.
  • Receive deposit.You will now receive the buyer's deposit, if there is one.
  • Transfer of money. The buyer's mortgage lender will send the money to your solicitor by electronic transfer.
  • Transfer of deeds. Now you are no longer the owner of the house.

The Costs

Solicitors either charge a fixed fee (usually between £250 and £750), or a percentage of your house's sales price (usually 0.5%). Make sure you get some quotes before choosing a solicitor and agree on his fee, in writing, before instruction.

The good thing about selling a property is that there are virtually no expenses that you have to cover for local authority searches, stamp duties and the like. All you will have to pay is a £8 Land Registry fee.

How to Find a Good Solicitor

It is generally advisable to instruct a solicitor on recommendation. Talk to friends, family, or your Estate Agent, or your mortgage lender - someone will have dealt with a solicitor before and know who to trust. The family solicitor is usually the best choice.

Also see our Competitive Conveyancing Quotes service and directory of Conveyancing Services.

Another factor to take into account when choosing a solicitor is the cost. This does not mean that you should go for the cheapest quote you get, but that you stay within your means. There may be different reasons why one solicitor is cheaper than another, but find out about the service they provide. Also, it is important that you get on well with your solicitor, so have a chat and see what they are like.

Make sure your solicitor is a member of one of the following organisations. They can also help you to find a good solicitor for your purposes; furthermore, the Solicitors Regulatory Authority deals with complaints about solicitors and conveyancers, as does the Legal Services Ombudsman.

DIY Conveyancing

If you prefer to save yourself the expenses of a solicitor you can also do the conveyancing yourself. This is not such a good idea when buying a house, since the work load is much heavier, but as a seller the tasks to be performed are much simpler.

Still, you should spend some time in a local library and get up-to-date on legal terms and proceedings. Our list of conveyancing tasks above provides a good overview of what you will have to do, so you can prepare yourself adequately.

But please remember, if you have no background knowledge of legal and administrative matters there is a risk that you will end up spending more money on legal proceedings because you messed up some boundary issues, than you would have spent on a solicitor. Conveyancing is not all easy and pleasant, and maybe a professional solicitor is well worth the money. You will also be unable to do your own conveyancing if you have a mortgage.