DIY Conveyancing: Can You Handle The Risks Of Doing It Yourself?

DIY Conveyancing: Can You Handle The Risks Of Doing It Yourself?
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Buying, or selling, a property is a massive milestone. But, it’s also an expensive one, and it’s only natural to try and keep costs down and save yourself some much-needed pennies along the way.

As conveyancing fees can be as high as £3000, you might wonder if DIY conveyancing is a smart decision to save money, or if this process should be strictly kept to the professionals.

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of DIY conveyancing, exploring the benefits of going it alone and the risks ahead. And if you want to go down the DIY conveyancing route, we’ll also guide you through the process from start to finish. 

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring property ownership from one party to another. It covers all key tasks to make sure any property sale is legal and above board, such as: 

  • Confirming that the seller actually owns the property 
  • Conforming details about the property, such as checking property deeds or the lease of a leasehold property and ensuring that there are no surprises
  • Preparing and checking the legal contract of sale 
  • Dealing with mortgages if there are any
  • Exchanging contracts and completion 
  • Registering the sale with the land registry 
  • Paying any taxes involved in the sale 

In short, conveyancing involves a lot of forms and checking that everything involved is legal and exactly how it should be so the sale can be completed. It’s a very important process that should not be taken lightly. 

DIY conveyancing: is it possible? 

There is no legal requirement to hire a conveyancer, which means completing the conveyancing process yourself is possible.

However, you might find that if you buy a property with a mortgage, the lender will only issue the mortgage if you use a solicitor or conveyancer on their approved panel. This means you won’t be able to choose DIY conveyancing in this case.

For any other sales, doing your own conveyancing is still an option. Whether it’s the right one or not, you’ll have to read on to decide… 

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Risks of doing your own conveyancing

Before you decide to do your conveyancing, it’s important to understand the risks and potential pitfalls. After all, this is an important legal process. The last thing you need is to fumble your way through it blindly. 

The conveyancing process is more than just filling out forms. Crucial searches and inquiries are essential to uncover potential problems with the property, like outstanding claims from others. Without expertise, navigating these complexities can be overwhelming and could lead to costly mistakes down the line. 

As you don’t have indemnity insurance, errors could result in hefty legal fees if they lead to lawsuits or delays in the process. 

If anything goes wrong with conveyancing, you could pay a lot more and make the process take twice as long. That’s why many people leave conveyancing to the professionals, so they’re not pressured to navigate this difficult world and left footing the bill in the process. 

The pros and cons of going it alone

To DIY or not to DIY? To answer this question, let’s recap the pros and cons of handling your own conveyancing.

On the pro side, not hiring a solicitor for your conveyancing can save money as you won’t pay any solicitor fees.

Doing it yourself could save an average of £300-£600. In addition, you could speed up the entire sale process as you won’t have to wait for a solicitor to be free. You can complete the conveyancing process in your own time – and if it’s your only property, you can dedicate the time and resources to it. 

However, there are some considerable downsides to doing your own conveyancing: 

  • If any errors are made, the amount you’ll spend in legal fees will outweigh any potential savings
  • It’s a big time commitment, which you might not have room for
  • It’s a lot of work and requires a very fine attention to detail 
  • You don’t have a safety net to help you catch mistakes or guide you along the way 

If you think you might want to leave it to the professionals, look at our top-reviewed conveyancers and get a quote today. Alternatively, if you’re ready to tackle the world of DIY conveyancing, read on to find out how to carry out the entire process step-by-step. 

DIY conveyancing: buying vs selling 

Take note of the key differences between selling and buying when conducting a DIY conveyancing.

The conveying process is slightly different depending on whether you are buying or selling the property. 

If you’re selling a property, the process will look like this: 

Gather documents

You’ll need various documents for the sale, including the TA6 form.

Draft the contract

Use the information from questionnaires to create a draft contract for the buyer’s approval. Negotiations are likely to happen during this stage. 

Exchange and completion

This is where both parties exchange contracts, commit to legally buying the property, and finally hand over the keys. 

If you’re buying the property, the process changes to the following: 

Review documents

Carefully examine the draft contract and supporting documents provided by the seller’s solicitor and ask any questions you have.

Property searches

Conduct essential property searches, including local authority searches, to uncover any potential issues.

Exchange and completion

As above, this is where both parties exchange contracts, you commit to legally buying the property, and finally receive the keys to your new property. 

Post-completion, registering the property purchase with the Land Registry and paying any required stamp duty are also part of the conveyancing process. Ready to continue? Let’s explore these stages in a little more depth. 

The step-by-step guide to DIY conveyancing

DIY conveyancing starts with a conversation between the buyer's and seller's respective solicitors. It ends when the sale is registered and taxes are paid.

The conveyancing process can be broken down into small steps, which makes it easier. Rather than getting overwhelmed by the legal documents, we’ll walk you through each stage at a time. 

1. The instruction stage 

The instruction stage is when the buyer’s and seller’s solicitors contact each other to confirm the details of the sale. The seller’s solicitor will then put the information down on a memorandum of sale.

This document sounds very official, but it’s basically a way to state the agreed price of the sale, declare the intention of both buyer and seller and record details such as: 

  • The name and address of both the buyer and the seller
  • Details of the solicitors that will be handling the transaction
  • Important details about the property the offer has been agreed on
  • Which mortgage lender will finance the purchase (if applicable)

If you are doing your own conveyancing, you must inform the other party that you will do so during this stage. 

2. Confirm identities 

All identities must be confirmed from a very early stage in the conveyancing process. Solicitors (as well as banks, building societies, and mortgage brokers) are also required to obtain satisfactory evidence of their clients’ identities to comply with Money Laundering Regulations.

If someone isn’t who they say they are, the sale cannot go through, so this is a very early step to ensure smooth sailing (and ensure you don’t waste work!). 

If you’re using a legal professional, they can do this for you by submitting a photo ID (such as a driver’s licence or passport) and proof of home address (such as bills, bank statements, or HMRC letters). 

However, you must complete an ID1 form if you’re doing this yourself. This form can be downloaded from the gov.uk website, where you must make an appointment at an HM Land Registry office.

Alternatively, you could also see a solicitor, notary, licensed conveyancer, barrister, or chartered legal executive to notarise this document. 

3. Preparing contract papers 

Selling a property during a DIY conveyancing entails the seller the draft their own contracts.

If you’re selling, this is where you draft a contract outlining the terms of the sale. This will be provided to the buyer’s side, along with official ownership proof (title deeds) and property details including any lease information, as well as the fixtures and fittings which are or aren’t included.

Templated versions of these forms are available at The Law Society’s website: 

  • Standard Conditions of Sale
  • TA6 Property Information Form
  • TA7 Leasehold Information Form
  • TA10 Fittings and Contents Form

If you’re buying the property, you will need to draft a legal deed of transfer which will be used later on to register the sale with HM Land Registry. 

4. Pre-contract enquiries 

This is the stage where the above paperwork and forms are inspected. It’s also a chance to raise any questions about the property, the title or the contract itself.

5. Searches 

If you’re buying the property, this is where you will have to order local searches on the property.

These searches are essential for uncovering information connected to your property. This may include details on property access, planning and development issues, what utilities it’s connected to, checks on environmental issues such as flood risk, and a mining report if the property is in a former mining location.

If anything turns up in this search, you will then raise the issues with the seller. 

6. Surveys and mortgages

If you’re buying the property, then you will also conduct any needed surveys on the property (again raising any issues with the seller if found!). 

You will also need to conduct surveys and talk to any mortgage lenders involved in the process. 

If you’re selling the property and are currently paying a mortgage, you will need to obtain a settlement balance and arrange to redeem the mortgage when the sale is completed. You will also provide the buyer with an guarantee that this will be done.

7. Exchanging contracts

If everything has gone well so far, it’s time to exchange contracts. This is where both sides legally agree and commit to buying/selling the property. During this stage, both buyer and seller sign a copy of the contract documents and then exchange their copy with the other party.

If you’re acting as your own conveyancer, you will be in charge of exchanging this contract and agreeing on a completion date.

A deposit is paid during this stage, which you must also confirm. 

8. Completion

On the agreed completion date, the buyer pays the remaining amount for the property to the seller, who then hands over the title deeds along with a signed deed of transfer to the buyer.

The keys are handed over, and the sale is legally completed. 

9. Registering the purchase with HM Land Registry & paying any due tax

Once the sale is completed, there’s only one final task as a DIY conveyancer: registering the property purchase with HM Land Registry and paying any outstanding tax.

If you’ve purchased the property, you will need to register the sale by completing an Application to Change the Register form (AP1) and a Transfer of Whole of Registered Title form (TR1) (along with your completed ID1 form!).

You will also need to ensure that any Stamp Duty Tax is also paid, (due within 14 days of the transaction date) which will depend on the property value and exemptions. 

If you’re the seller, you may also be liable to pay Capital Gains Tax, also dependent on the property value and exemptions.

Is DIY conveyancing worth the headache?

Do-it-yourself conveyancing can save money and time when buying or selling a property. And if that’s the path you want, our guide above will give you all the information you need to get started. 

However, you must go through many steps (and forms!) for conveyancing, and any mistake could result in legal fees and delays that will set back the sale. Generally, the potential saving of £300-£600 is not worth the hassle and stress of handling all these legal files yourself. 

For better peace of mind and confidence that the conveyancing process will move forward smoothly, we recommend trusting the professionals. And, of course, we’ll help you find the best conveyancing solicitor for the job here. 

Author

  • Property Road

    Founded in 2017, Property Road is one of the UK’s leading independent property websites for consumers, focused on educating buyers, sellers, investors, and homeowners on all things property related. It's run by a team of experienced property owners, investors, and a former estate agent.

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