How does online conveyancing work?

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What is conveyancing and how does online conveyancing work?

Conveyancing is the term used to describe the legal process of transferring ownership from one party to another. A high street solicitor can usually carry out conveyancing work as part of a wider range of legal transactions they provide. However, conveyancing transactions are the sole area of focus and expertise for online conveyancing companies. Their conveyancers are legal professionals or licensed conveyancers, who are experts in their field.

How does online conveyancing work if I don't visit my conveyancer? Online conveyancing works in the same way as traditional conveyancing, but as much as possible is done digitally instead. The online conveyancing process takes place over the phone and via email as opposed to face-to-face. Some firms also utilise electronic methods for handling signatures and documents.

There are many advantages to online conveyancing, such as faster processing times, it may be cheaper, and most online conveyancing companies provide a portal with trackable progress.

Many newcomers to online conveyancing can find themselves unsure of what to expect from the process, particularly as they are receiving a service from a conveyancer they never see. But principally, online conveyancing companies work in exactly the same way as high street firms do.

In line with statutory guidance, every conveyancer must carry out due diligence, legal checks, draft and review contracts and deal with mortgage providers, transfer titles, exchange contracts and complete.

How does the process of online conveyancing work?

Once you instruct an online conveyancing company, you will usually be given a dedicated conveyancer and an additional contact in case of absence. These details also tend to be included in online management tools which you can access at any time you chose, no matter what the time. Your appointed conveyancer will take you through the transaction from the beginning all the way through to completion. Some conveyancers will schedule regular calls with you to review your case and keep you up to date with progress.

You will also have access to your dedicated conveyancer via telephone and email. With most online companies providing secure web portals which enable you to access your case 24/7. You can also complete tasks, such as filling in forms, and view progress updates in real time.

The first thing your conveyancer will prepare is the contract pack, which, if you are selling, includes completion of the property information forms. They will also confirm you are the legal owner of the property. And if you are buying, they will order searches.

If you are buying a property and require a mortgage, your mortgage provider will require searches to be done. These check if there is anything you need to know about the property and there are no issues you should be concerned about. The most common searches are Local Authority searches, which give details about planning and building regulation applications, listed building and conservation area applications, environmental issues and road schemes, and a water and drainage search to confirm the property is connected to the sewerage system and water mains.

Environmental searches may also be carried out which provide details about the likelihood of the property being affected by contaminated land, and any subsidence or flooding risks, or any other environmental matters which may affect the property.

Searches are in place in order to protect the interests of the buyer and the mortgage provider, who will always require these to be carried out. They will highlight any flood plains, permitted planning requests, conservation areas, landslips, as well as proposals for new road schemes, contaminated land or building regulations.

Searches are optional for cash buyers, although most conveyancers recommend them to ensure buyers know the details of the property and local area, and to avoid any unpleasant surprises further along in the process. Most online conveyancing companies offer a search guarantee. This means that if your purchase falls through at no fault of your own, they will honour the searches free of charge on an alternative property if you decide to return to their services.

They will then draft the contract and transfer documentation on behalf of sellers and peruse the mortgage report for buyers. Whilst the buyer’s conveyancer will review the seller’s evidence of title and other legal information, they will continue until they are satisfied with all their investigations and enquiries. The seller’s conveyancer will then respond to the buyer’s inquiries about the legal aspects of ownership and any queries about the property.

Following this stage, an agreement will be made between advisers on both sides regarding a date for exchange of contracts and completion.

Online conveyancing companies rarely have offices you can visit with your documents. This is bypassed by using online case management systems, which allow you to take photographs of your documents and upload them onto the management system. Although there are a few documents that have to be sent via post because originals are required. The most notable examples include certifying ID documents and signing contracts. Your conveyancing will let you know about this as your case progresses.

Advantages 

  • They are likely to pass their lower overheads onto the customer in the form of more competitive pricing, which can be cheaper than traditional high street firms.
  • You will usually receive an instant quote, which lets you move forward quicker.
  • All necessary documentation and case notes are kept in one place, which minimises the risks of loss or misplacement.
  • The compulsory seller forms: TA6, TA10, and TA7 (for leasehold properties) can normally be completed online. Some of the fields are automatically populated for you, making things quicker and easier.
  • Most online conveyancing companies have case management systems which ensure customers are fully informed and kept up to date no matter where they are or what time of day it is.
  • Better performing firms will have key performance indicators ensuring each stage of the conveyancing process is executed in a timely manner.
  • Case management systems also flag up issues to be concerned about and send you other crucial reminders to fill forms, for example.
  • With 90% of the process being conducted online, you will not have to rely on things being posted and any related delay or potential for loss.
  • You will receive periodic emails and/or text alerts, which allow you to respond directly. Every message sent will also be available on the case management system.

Disadvantages 

  • Although the legal advice should be the same, if you prefer a more personal approach and want to be able to meet in person, an online company is probably not for you.
  • If your transaction has added complexities which may require specialist advice or involve other areas of law, you should make sure your online conveyancing company has the facilities to accommodate this, in order to ensure you do not need to switch to a private practice part way through the transaction.
  • Some online conveyancers have been known to ‘add on’ hidden costs, particularly towards completion. To avoid this, get a quote for the entire transaction from the outset, which sets out all costs from instruction to completion.
  • In all cases, you should take the time to discuss your transaction with the company you are considering to ensure everything is covered in your quote and they are able to handle the specifics of your transaction

 

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