'Do It Yourself' Conveyancing – A Wise Idea? -

‘Do It Yourself’ Conveyancing –
A Wise Idea?
DIY Conveyancing

Contents

If you’re about to embark on the house sale process and wondering whether it would make sense to get it all done yourself (without a conveyancer), this post will help you make the right decision.

DIY conveyancing occasionally happens between friends or family, usually when there’s no major deadline.

Other times, self-conveyancers are solicitors, paralegals or legal executives themselves – often with a specialisation in another area of law (or they may have dabbled in conveyancing in the past).

Yet, there’s nothing legally stopping you from doing it yourself – even with little or no legal experience.

However, before you take the plunge, it’s worth going through some of the pros and cons…

Pros of DIY Conveyancing

  • The most obvious advantage is cost savings.  With conveyancing fees reaching as high £3,000, it’s easy to see why a do-it-yourself approach is tempting;
  • If you have more time on your hands and a genuine interest in property law, undertaking your own conveyancing can be a fun challenge;
  • You may be able to follow the process yourself and seek professional help as and when you need it;
  • It’s astonishing just how slow the conveyancing process is (and nothing is being done by the regulatory authorities to deal with the issue).  There’s an argument that certain DIY conveyancing procedures – particularly the administrative ones – can be done quicker;
  • Digital and online-based processes moving forward mean that many of the heavily bureaucratic legal processes can be overcome. Despite the reluctance of the conveyancing industry to move with the times, this is only likely to improve in the increasingly automated world we live in;
  • You won’t be waiting on conveyancers with big caseloads to get things done and prioritise your transaction;
  • Although nothing can substitute the extensive knowledge a qualified conveyancer, it’s getting easier to access the latest case / statute law online and via textbooks.  The Land Registry also has a number of free guides you can refer to;
  • Without underestimating the complexity, generally speaking, cash sale, registered freehold properties, deeds of gift and equity transfers are simpler and therefore more conducive to a DIY approach.  If your sale falls under one of these categories, things should be slightly more manageable.

Cons of DIY Conveyancing

  • If any mistakes are made, you’ll be personally held liable and could face costly legal and court fees.  Conveyancing professionals have professional indemnity (negligence) insurance to cover their backs against this (which you won’t be able to get);
  • Most mortgage lenders won’t accept a ‘DIY conveyancer’ dealing with their side of things.  Therefore, if you’re buying, you will have to pay their fees;
  • Conveyancing legislation, procedures and protocols often change.   You’ll need to make sure you’re on top of things to not get caught in any traps or potential legal wranglings;
  • There is no direct advice or ‘helpline’ at the Law Society, Solicitor’s Regulation Authority or Council for Licensed Conveyancers for you to call on if you’re having problems;
  • DIY conveyancing may end up being counter-productive and taking a lot longer than normal, especially if you do not have any experience;
  • You may have to resort to using a conveyancer to resolve things and the cost could end up being more;
  • If one party involved in the transaction is slow, there’s often not much you can do.  It may also be hard to chase things up;
  • You may struggle to be taken seriously by other professionals involved in the transaction;
  • There are many legal pitfalls that can appear during the conveyancing process.  Good conveyancers have many years of experience of dealing with a variety of problems quickly and efficiently;
  • You may struggle to handle key parts of processing the transaction with a rudimentary understanding of contract, property and land law;
  • When buying, you will still have to pay for conveyancing searches, other disbursements, the survey, mortgage arrangement fees and stamp duty;
  • Although rare (not to mention illegal), the other conveyancer could potentially take advantage of your inferior lack of legal knowledge;
  • If you’re representing yourself as the buyer, the sellers may not be patient enough if they found out you’re taking things into your own hands.  Any delays due to a lack of understanding could lead to the sale collapsing;
  • Transferring money without the supervision and oversight of a conveyancer is super-risky.  There are also Law Society protocols that state that exchange of contracts must be executed by a legal professional;
  • Also for buyers, the penalties for not meeting exchange deadlines are huge;
  • With so much industry competition, it’s entirely possible to find decent conveyancers at a reasonable price.

Still Want to Do Your Own Conveyancing?

Generally speaking, whether you’re buying or selling, we usually recommend that our estate agency clients use a suitably-qualified conveyancer.

However, if you’re determined to do it yourself (and the other side agrees to instruct a conveyancer), as well as following the step-by-step process, below are some extra tips…

House Sale Process (Pre Exchange / Completion)

  1. Before you get started, it would be wise to read the Law Society Conveyancing Protocol (downloadable here);
  2. The estate agent will draft a Memorandum of Sale.  However, if you’ve also managed the sale process yourself, you may need to put it together and forward to the other conveyancer (here’s a template);
  3. Contact the buyer or seller’s conveyancer to introduce yourself and explain you will be representing yourself.  If they comment that it’s not possible for you to act for yourself, you can point them to the Law Society guidance which states that it’s entirely possible.  Remember that they should not take advantage of the fact that you are legally unqualified;
  4. If you’re selling, you will need to complete the various property information forms, namely:
    • TA6: Property Information Form;
    • TA10: Fixtures & Contents Form;
    • TA7: Leasehold Information Form (where necessary);
    • LPE1: Leasehold Property Enquiries Form (where necessary);
    • TA8: New Home Information (where necessary).

    Click here to see specimens from the Law Society website.

  5. Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, you will need to do the relevant identification and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks.  If you’re selling, the estate agent should have done this already and you can use theirs.  If you’re buying (or the estate agent doesn’t forward their copy), Comply Advantage and Veriphy offer reasonably-priced services;
  6. A draft contract will need to be sent to the buyer’s conveyancer.  This should be accompanied by the official deeds, ID  / AML checks, the forms completed by the seller and any associated / relevant documentation (building / planning approval documents, gas / electricity / FENSA certificates etc.);
  7. If you’re buying, you will need to examine the details of the contract.  Here, you can compare the contract to the Law Society’s Standard Conditions of Sale (downloadable here) to make sure there’s nothing unusual.  The conditions govern the whole conveyancing process.  Remember, you can consult with an independent conveyancer should you need to;
  8. As a buyer, you’ll have to examine the Title Register and Plan.  The Title Register will show the financial charges held by the current mortgage lender(s).  It will be your job to clear these secured debts against the property.  It will also highlight restrictions, covenants (conditions related to the land), easements (rights of way) and other interests (see a sample here).  The Title Plan will show the demarcated borders of the building and plot of land for you to check through.  Again, we would suggest seeking legal advice if there any aspects that are not clear;
  9. Remember to cross-reference the details of the ID with what appears on the Title Register and the draft contract;
  10. At this juncture, if you’re buying, you will need to undertake a series of conveyancing searches.  These are made to the local council and other public bodies to make sure that there are no issues to be worried about.   You can either source each one directly or use third-party search providers (make sure they’re registered at the Council of Property Search Organisations).  Make sure you look at each search carefully and investigate any causes for concern;
  11. If the property is a leasehold, then leases and other management documents should be read with a fine-tooth comb;
  12. As a buyer, ask as many questions as you need to the seller’s conveyancer with regards to the draft contract, search results and any other legal aspects of the sale.  Note that any issues related to the survey should be dealt with through the estate agent or direct with the seller (not the conveyancer).

Exchange / Completion

  1. Once both sides are completely comfortable about moving forward, it’s time to agree on a date for exchange/completion;
  2. Both the buyer and seller’s sides will produce a copy of the sale contract to be ‘exchanged’ – i.e. both sides will sign and agree to the house swapping hands;
  3. If the seller has mortgage and/or secured debts, the sum will need to be cleared directly with the lender upon completion (see the Land Registry guidance here).  Here, you’ll need to use a conveyancer to redeem the loan and produce the undertaking.  Mortgage lenders will also have their own demands to be complied with;
  4. Upon the exchange of contracts, a deposit of 10% is usually paid to the seller’s conveyancer.  If, as a buyer, you decide to transfer this money directly to the seller, be sure to have a separate contract in place which will protect the funds should things go sour between exchange and completion.  Or you could write a cheque and request for the seller’s conveyancer to hold it (under the condition that it’s cashed only on completion).  Although exchange of contracts is legally binding, please be very careful if you go down this route;
  5. Note that Law Society guidelines require the exchange to be undertaken by legal professionals.  Either an independent conveyancer can be used here (who will probably charge an hourly or fixed-rate fee) or, whoever is managing themselves the sale can go to the other conveyancer’s office to sign;
  6. Make sure that both contracts are identical and cross-reference all the details with the information you’ve gathered during the transaction;
  7. A TA13 Completion Information Form will need to be completed alongside a draft HM Land Registry transfer (usually the TR1, downloadable here);
  8. Shortly prior to completion, Land Charges checks are undertaken to ensure there have been no changes since the beginning of the transaction.  These are a bankruptcy (K16), land charges (K15) and ‘official whole title with priority’ (OS1) searches;
  9. On completion day (usually a day or two after exchange), the remaining funds should be transferred over – usually by a CHAPS transfer.  Again, this needs to be executed in line with Anti-Money Laundering regulations and we would recommend an independent conveyancer or solicitor is contracted to make sure the transfer is clean;
  10. The keys can be change hands (usually managed by the estate agents).

Post Completion

  1. The buyer’s stamp duty payment should be transferred to the Inland Revenue in the first instance.  Payment should also be registered at the HMRC (using a Land Transaction Return);
  2. The mortgage lender will also need a copy of the updated deed, discharge form and may request other details regarding the sale;
  3. As the buyer, you must forward all the relevant documentation to HM Land Registry in order to confirm ownership.  This will consist of confirmation of payment of the SDLT, the signed transfer document, the mortgage discharge confirmation and change of register (AP1) form.
  4. The Land Registry may also request further information;
  5. The buyer’s name should also be entered onto any leases where applicable.

Conclusion… Should You Do Your Own Conveyancing?

Generally, we wouldn’t recommend a ‘do-it-yourself’ approach to conveyancing.  With this being one of the biggest transfers of money most people have to undertake, there are just too many risks.

What’s more, failure to undertake certain processes (that conveyancers are accustomed to) can lead to rather heavy financial penalties.

A simple cost-benefit analysis shows that the savings you’ll make are not huge – especially when you take the time you’ll have to spend on handling things.

In truth, the whole idea could end up being a false economy.

We would stress that DIY conveyancing should never be attempted when the sale is through auction, the property is unregistered, in divorce cases, for land sales (especially if there are planning / boundary issues) as well as when buying new builds, shared ownership or housing association properties.

If you do decide to go ahead, however, please seek out independent legal advice to review the transaction.

There are also firms that offer a ‘conveyancing repair’ service should things go wrong.  However, be careful that they do not take advantage of the position you find yourself in.

Alternatively, if you’re selling, you may want to consider using the Property Solvers We Buy Any House service.  Here, as well as a guaranteed quick completion and no estate agency commissions to pay, we’ll cover all your legal fees.