Residential Property Lawyers: A Guide to Buying & Selling Property

30 September 2017

Overview: What is a Residential Property Lawyer?

Residential property lawyers, also known as conveyancing lawyers, are legal professionals who specialise in property law. They facilitate the legal transfer of home ownership, from seller to buyer. This may already be familiar to you, but even if you’ve had business with them before, you’re probably not aware of what specifically goes into securing a property transaction.

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a veteran property mogul, we hope this article will clearly breakdown what residential property lawyers do, the stages they must go through, and how the conveyancing process differs between buyer and seller.

When you might need a Residential Property Lawyer

You cannot buy a property without going through the conveyancing process. Whether you hire a qualified property lawyer or a licensed conveyancer, you need to be sure they are experienced in this particular field.

Make sure to do your research first. For further tips and tricks, you can check out our Solicitor’s Guide to Conveyancing infographic.

The repertoire of a Residential property lawyers is not just limited to conveyancing. They will be able to assist with all aspects of residential property to include:

Icons: Auction sales - Development land - Re-mortgaging - Boundary disputes (+ short description).

Where you can find a Residential Property Lawyer

There are now a plethora of comparison sites with dedicated searches for conveyancing quotes to get you started. Our recommendation is to focus on legal firms that are based within your area or within the proximity to your property/purchase. Chances are they will have much more comprehensive knowledge of the location, closer ties to local authorities, and more experience with the estate agents and mortgage brokers.

In England and Wales all practising residential property lawyers are registered with the Law Society and the profession is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Buying & Selling: The Role of Residential Property Lawyers

Learning about what stages a residential property lawyer goes through to secure a sale or purchase can be very useful. It gives you the advantage of understanding the legal processes involved, and makes it easier to follow what stage of the exchange you're in.

We break down these stages below:

Stage 1: Terms of Instruction

Contracts: Seller’s Conveyancing Lawyer

Contracts: Buyer’s Conveyancing Lawyer

Your lawyer creates a ‘contract pack’ which comprises of:

    ·A contract allowing the sale of said property to the buyer

    ·All title information from the Land Registry + any included deeds

    ·A property information form that lays out the seller’s complete knowledge of the property

    ·A fittings and contents list that compliments the property info form

    ·Copies of any relevant planning documents and guarantees

    ·Any other information relevant to the property which the lawyer thinks might help speed up the transaction

On receiving the ‘contract pack’ from the seller a three-step process is enacted:

    1.Enquires: Time to ask the seller’s property lawyer questions regarding the contract pack, such as:

    -Disputes and clarification of boundaries / access rights.

    -details of alterations made by the seller or previous owners

    -Any history of flooding or subsidence

    -Property restrictions or obligations evident from the Title documents

    -Utility and service details

    2.Searches: to establish things the buyer should be aware of concerning the property, such as:

    -Planning permissions or consents from your Local Authority

    -The existence of footpaths, public rights of way

    -Water and drainage provisions in place

    -Environmental issues that may affect the property

    -Proposed nearby development

    3.Mortgages: the lawyer will carry out the same due diligence eon the property for the lenders benefit and then:

    -Ensures any conditions of the mortgage offer can be met by the buyer.

    -checks the final valuation report of the property

    -Finalises the mortgage deedand arranges for the buyer to sign

Following these steps the residential property lawyer will prepare a report on the title for the buyer, which means highlighting anything of concern regarding the property. In some instances, matters may need to be referred to the mortgage lender and their permission sought, before proceeding further.

DEPOSIT & DOCUMENTATION: The buyer’s lawyer then obtains the buyer’s funds to pay the deposit, typically 10% of the purchase price and arranges for the buyer to for the signthe ContractTransfer document, Stamp Duty Land Tax Return and the Mortgage deed.

Stage 2: The Exchange

Both residential property lawyers will now agree on a completion date, which must be agreed to by all buyers and sellers in the property chain.

Both lawyers are required to agree by telephone that they each hold a signed contract of approved terms, including final completion date. They then send each other their clients respective signed contracts and the buyer’s lawyer will send the seller’s lawyer the deposit monies.

The transaction becomes legally binding for both buyer and seller at the point of exchange, meaning neither can back out of the contract without financial penalties.

Stage 3: Before Completion

The buyer’s residential property lawyer is then responsible for the following:

    ·The Completion Statement: Prepared by the solicitor, this statement will refer to the mortgage funds, fees and charges payable, any funds coming from a related sale, and the final balance due from the buyer.

    ·Fund request: The arrangement of mortgage funds to be sent to them for completion.

    ·Final Searches: One last check into bankruptcy history and land registry examinations

The seller’s residential property lawyer is then responsible for the following:

    ·Outstanding Mortgages & Bills: Retrieving current financial figures to repay any existing mortgage(s) and the estate agent costs.

    ·The Completion Statement: Prepared by the seller’s solicitor, this shows the sale proceeds’ broken down into divisions of cost e.g. Existing mortgage(s), fees/charges, and remaining balance of any other related purchases.


At this point the seller moves out of the property, ownership transfers over to the buyer and they can officially move in. The residential property lawyers now move on to handle the final aspects of the completion process.

Completion: Buyer’s Conveyancing Lawyer

Completion: Seller’s Conveyancing Lawyer

Fund Checks:Makes sure the mortgage and all other monies required to pay the balance of purchase price has been received.

Pays Purchase Price: Minus deposit paid on exchange.

Funds Received: Financial transfer from buyer’s conveyancing lawyer using CHAPS (See graphic for classification).

House Keys: The estate agent is authorised to release keys to the buyer once funds have been confirmed

Balances: Settles existing mortgage (if any) using CHAPS and sends final balance of funds to seller or other related purchase.

CHAPS: Small infographic – breakdown the system.

CHAPS stands for ‘Clearing House Automated Payment System’. It's a computerised payment program used to make payments on the same day in the U.K. in pounds’ sterling, as long as payment instruction is received on time. Some banks have specific same-day deadlines, meaning any requests made after a certain time will usually be processed the next working day.

CHAPS payments are used by both companies and individuals making requests for high value payments. For example, a residential property lawyer will use a CHAPS payment to transfer the purchase funds of a house between the buyer and seller. People often use it to make same day payments when making a high value purchase.

Stage 4: After Completion

Following completion, both residential property lawyers collaborate to ensure that the transfer of ownership and any new mortgage(s) are correctly registered with Land Registry. They will also make sure any old mortgages on the property are cleared, and that the Stamp Duty Land Tax on the purchase is paid in full.

Final Conveyancing Task Breakdown for Seller’s solicitor:

    ·Confirm removal of old mortgage(s) from lender and Land Registry

    ·Send signed Transfer and title information document from Land Registry to buyer’s solicitor

    ·Finally, the residential property lawyer pays their own fee and estate agent’s commission

Final Conveyancing Task Breakdown for Buyer’s solicitor:

    ·Pays the SDLT (Stamp Duty Land Tax)

    ·Ensures receipt of signed Transfer and title documents from seller’s solicitor

    ·Registers change of ownership / new mortgage with Land Registry, and pays fee

    ·Finally, the residential property lawyer pays their own fee for conveyancing charges

Residential Property Lawyers: Recap

This article provides a summary of how residential property lawyers, for both buyers and sellers, conduct their business and the conveyancing processes.If you’d like some extra advice on selling property or buying , you can read our 5 Top Tips for selling your home.

At Barlow Robbins transparency and trust is incredibly important to us. Wefeel that by offering a clearer understanding of our services allows for not only a smoother process, but enhances the relationships we have with our clients and other parties involved in the process.

BR Quote by Clare Andrews: Partner & head of Residential Property. Woking Office.

01483 748638 –

Further Information

Barlow Robbins operates throughout Surrey and nationally in the UK, they have offices in Guildford andWoking

For further information on their residential property lawyers, you can view and download their dedicated residential property brochure, here.

Contact Details

If you would like to know more or are seeking a residential property lawyer for your next transaction, please get in touch. You can reach us via our contact page or the telephone number and email address below.

Tel: 01483 543210