Top tips on DIY conveyancing

We've rounded up some core tips to get you comfortable with conveyancing if you're selling your own home, taken from Evening Standard property and business journalist Anthea Masey's bestselling 'Sell Your Own Home Kit'.

Conveyancing is the term given for legally transferring your property across to a new owner - in other words, selling your own house.

Regardless of whether you're a first-time buyer or established on the property ladder, the intricacies of conveyancing can change each time. It's worthwhile equipping yourself with the know-how so things can stay in your control as much as possible. Selling your own home and legally passing it across to its new owners can be an emotional time, so it's important to be clear on how things work.

What's best for me - a solicitor or a property expert?

Choosing between a solicitor and a property expert to sell your own home may not appear an issue from the outset, but the time and money leading to that final exchange in contracts can vary significantly. Strictly speaking, if your case is likely to be more complex, it's a safer bet to be covered on every legal loophole. But if it's not, then a licensed conveyancer can offer a more streamlined and less lengthy service.

Service over expertise is the main consideration when looking at solicitors or licensed conveyancers to sell your own house. Legal intricacies may mean that you are better placed to play safe with a solicitor but because conveyancers work exclusively in this area, they are in a better position to make things happen quicker.

You can find names of both practitioners in your local Yellow Pages, or for solicitors in England and Wales log on to www.solicitors-online.com; in Scotland the website address is www.lawscot.org.uk; and for licensed conveyancers try www.conveyancer.org.uk.

Alternatively, Lawpack has arranged a special discount with property experts, enact, for their online conveyancing service entitling you to £50 off the cost of conveyancing.

You are selling your home - it's official

Nine steps to making it legal

Initially, be prepared for things not to go to plan as buyers can pull out right up until the final exchange of contracts. We've compiled an essential plan on how the process of selling your own home works, preparing you for the pitfalls if or when they occur.

  1. It's a good tip to ask your solicitor or conveyancer to draft a contract before you put your property on the market as it saves time when the sale has been agreed.

  2. You agree the price in writing with the buyer 'subject to contract'. This provides a starting point but it's not legally binding at this stage for you or the buyer. It just sets the wheels in motion and minimises the risk of misunderstanding later down the line. If you're using an agent to sell your home, they will issue a 'Memorandum of Sale', giving details of the agreed price and the parties' solicitors.

  3. The buyer's solicitor/conveyancer will undertake searches with the local council, planning organisations and the Environment Agency that could impact on your property value. Be forewarned that your own research could help you negotiate a price in your favour, as the buyer will receive results of any current/future building, road or transport changes that could affect the value of your property.

  4. Records from the Land Registry will verify that you legally own your property and these will be sent to your solicitor/conveyancer via the buyer's solicitor/conveyancer. Typically, this document will detail any planning permissions, restrictive covenants or rights of way over the property, building regulation consents or party wall agreements covering work that has been carried out at the property to date. Also included will be a list of fixtures and fittings, gas and electrical certificates, and damp and wood work guarantees. At this stage, the buyer's solicitor will arrange with the mortgage lender to have the property valued.

  5. You will receive a set of questions entitled 'pre-contractual enquiries' sent via the buyer's solicitor/conveyancer to yours. How you answer these questions is very important, as it could leave you exposed to setbacks with the buyer later on. Be honest and correct, and if you're not sure, seek advice from your solicitor on answering unclear questions. Typically, the solicitor will focus on any ownership boundaries, rights of way or disputes with neighbours that could impact the sale of your own house going through. Keep in close contact with your solicitor over the completion of this questionnaire to minimise delays.

  6. Both parties are now ready to exchange contracts. Each party's solicitor will have an identical copy of the contract. Both solicitors will exchange contracts and the buyer will hand over a deposit - typically five or ten per cent of the purchase price. At this stage, it becomes legally binding and if the buyer decides to pull out, they lose their deposit. Equally, if the seller gets less than the agreed selling price, they are legally within their rights to sue the buyer for the difference. A date is then set for the formal completion of the sale of your own home.

  7. Don't take it for granted that the buyer won't pull out, even if they are at risk of losing their deposit. If they maintain that they were given misleading information to encourage them into entering into the contract, you could lose your sale, even after exchange.

  8. On the completion date the buyer gets the keys and pays the Stamp Duty Land Tax. Any outstanding mortgage payments on the property will be accounted for by your solicitor, along with their fees, of which the balance will be paid to the seller. They will forward a notification of discharge of the mortgage to the buyer's solicitor. The buyer will then pay the outstanding bill on the sale and the legal fees for the solicitor.

  9. The sale is registered with the Land Registry by removing the seller's mortgage from the title and the property now belongs to its rightful new owner/s.

More information

  • Find out how you can save &&&s by selling your own home

Published on: May 28, 2008

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