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First-time Buyers Guide to Conveyancing

View profile for Alex Kilby
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Getting ready to take that first step onto the property ladder is a very exciting time. But if you’re new to buying property, it can often feel like there’s a lot to take in, and conveyancing can certainly seem like a bit of a mystery for some first-time buyers. At Devonalds, we like to make things transparent, so that’s why this week’s blog is a crash course in all things conveyancing for first-time buyers, with the key things you need to know and a jargon buster for conveyancing terms.

What is conveyancing?
In the simplest terms, conveyancing is the legal process by which property is transferred from the seller to the buyer.

Who can carry out conveyancing work?
There is a lot of legal work involved in a property transaction, and it can get complex. For these reasons you need a qualified professional to carry it out for you. This can either be:

  • A solicitor - Solicitors are fully trained in legal services, including conveyancing, and are regulated by the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority). Their higher level of training means if any legal complexities or issues arise during the process they will be able to deal with them.
  • A licensed conveyancer – licensed conveyancers are qualified to practice conveyancing law only, and must be members the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.

Whatever kind of property you are buying, the lawyer you choose will play a vital role in the process, so it’s important to choose carefully. It may be tempting to go with one of the “conveyancing factory” companies who advertise the very cheapest rates, but offers such as these can often give way to nasty surprises such as hidden costs and poor service, and you certainly don’t want anyone throwing a spanner in the works when there’s so much at stake.

Be sure to choose a reputable and communicative solicitor who is clear on pricing from the start and easily contactable. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to get a simple query answered and not being able to get through to someone willing to help!

When should you get a conveyancing solicitor involved?
It’s never too early to get a solicitor involved when you’re buying a property. In fact, choosing your solicitor before you make an offer on a property can sometimes give you an advantage as a buyer as it shows you’re serious about the property. Having more time to get the paperwork done can also help to ease the stress of getting everything in order and ensure your transaction completes successfully.

How long does it take?
The timings can of the conveyancing process can vary due to the very nature of housing transactions and the number of variable elements, but the average time is about 8-12 weeks. This is another reason it’s crucial to ensure you have a good solicitor at your side – an efficient, responsive solicitor will do all they can to make sure the sale goes through swiftly and hiccup-free.

What does the solicitor do?
Your solicitor will be the facilitator of the whole transaction. They will guide you through the process, carry out all the necessary paperwork and deal with the relevant authorities. This includes:

  • Drawing up contracts
  • Advising on and organising Property Searches
  • Dealing with the Land Registry
  • Arranging the transaction of funds for the house sale
  • Organising payment of Stamp Duty

Conveyancing terms explained
Many of the terms used in the conveyancing process aren’t the kind of thing you hear elsewhere, so we’ve listed some of the main terms you’re likely to come across during the conveyancing process (in alphabetical order).

  • Completion
    Completion is the official day your purchase is completed, and you become the new owner of the property. On this day the funds will be transferred and you’ll finally receive the keys!
  • Disbursements
    These are the costs involved in a property transaction that your solicitor will pay out on your behalf e.g. Stamp Duty Land Tax. These will need to be paid by you, and will be explained at the beginning of the process.
  • Equity
    Equity is the amount of the property value remaining when you take away the amount covered by a mortgage debt. It’s the value of your share of the property.
  • Exchange of Contracts
    Your solicitor will arrange the exchange of contracts. When this takes place, both parties involved are required to sign identical contracts, and once this has been done the agreement becomes legally binding.
  • Freehold
    When the property owner owns the building and the land it is on outright, and it is theirs to pass on or sell.
  • Land Registry
    The Land Registry stores information on every property in England and Wales. You have to register ownership of your property with them - your solicitor will do this for you on completion.
  • Leasehold
    When the property and the land it is on are owned separately, for example a flat in a block of flats.  The owner of a leasehold property is entitled to occupy the property for an agreed amount of time, and this can sometimes involve paying rent to the freeholder.
  • Property searches
    A report detailing any information about the property you would want to know about before going through with the purchase – digging up your property’s history, any future plans for the area, and more. Your solicitor will advise you on which property searches to get, and arrange them for you.
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)
    If you purchase any property with a value over £125,000, a percentage of its value has to be paid in tax. This is one of the biggest disbursements involved, and the amount you pay rises in increments depending on how expensive the property is.
  • Transfer Deed
    This is the legal document setting out the details of the property. Its purpose is to transfer ownership of the property from seller to buyer.


At Devonalds, our expert conveyancing solicitors have 30 years of experience and take pride in our commitment to supporting our clients every step of the way. We’ve also been awarded the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme Accreditation - you can be sure your transaction in safe hands with us. We’re clear on costs from the start and always on hand when you need help. If you have any questions about conveyancing, how we can help or need to talk through your options, get in touch today.