DIY Conveyancing Risks

It is not the intention of this page, or indeed this site, to either attract people to or deter them from carrying out their own diy conveyancing transactions without instructing a solicitor. I merely wish on this page to give a balanced view, pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of diy conveyancing. 

Should you wish to proceed with your own conveyancing then depending on the nature of the transaction you may find our DIY Transfer of Equity Kit useful.

Situations Where DIY Conveyancing Is Not Possible

Before going any further I should point out that there are certain situations in which a person cannot do their own conveyancing.

Purchaser Buying With a Mortgage

If a purchaser is buying with the benefit of a mortgage, the mortgage lender will insist on representation. Normally the same solicitor acts for both purchaser and lender. The purchaser could advise the lender that he did not want to represented and the lender would then instruct its own solicitor but given that the purchaser would be responsible for the lender's legal fees, and these fees will not be much if any less than the solicitor would charge to act for both parties, there would be really no advantage to be gained by the purchaser carrying out his own conveyancing.

Seller With a Mortgage on the Property

If a seller has a mortgage on his property which is to be paid off from the sale proceeds then he will not have the DS1/END1 (the forms necessary to remove the lender's charge at H M Land Registry) to hand over on completion, because the lender will not issue the discharge document until after it has received the redemption funds. In this situation therefore the purchaser's solicitor has to rely on an undertaking from the seller's solicitor to repay the mortgage and to provide the discharge documents in due course. He can rely on an undertaking from the solicitor firstly because he risks being struck off for breaching it and secondly because if the seller's solicitor makes a mistake and cannot produce the discharge documents then he at least has insurance to cover the claim that the buyer would make. It is easy to see why an undertaking directly from the seller could not be relied upon.

In this situation there are two possibilities, either ask the purchaser's conveyancer to redeem the mortgage directly (he is perfectly entitled to refuse) or instruct a conveyancer to just deal with the redemption and the giving of the necessary undertaking. In either case a fee, which admittedly should be less than the fee for dealing with the whole transaction, will be charged, but it may still be more then expected. The purchaser's conveyancer may quote high to encourage the seller to instruct another solicitor and if another solicitor is instructed the fee has to be worth him opening a file. It may work out that the eventual saving is not worth the hassle and the risk.


There may be other situations, such as where there are obligations to be performed post-completion which affect the other party, or perhaps where buying from a builder or a housing association, when a solicitor must be instructed and diy conveyancing is not possible.

Situations When DIY Conveyancing is Not Recommended

Any transaction has the capacity to be complicated, but in general leasehold, commonhold, new build and unregistered purchases are the most difficult. Acting for the seller is not so much of a problem since it is the responsibility of the purchaser or his conveyancer to make the right pre-contract enquiries and carry out the right conveyancing searches etc.

It is not impossible for a layman to tackle a leasehold, commonhold or unregistered purchase but in my view it may be ill-advised. Even experienced conveyancers can have difficulty with the more complex leasehold arrangements, have limited knowledge of commonhold (which is very new) and have little experience of dealing with unregistered land (of which there is less and less). Whilst I will be covering these topics in detail on this site in due course, this is really to assist buyers, sellers, estate agents, mortgage brokers etc in following the course of a transaction, and perhaps even offer some guidance to fellow practitioners. If you do decide to tackle such a project then read everything very carefully, ask as many questions as possible (I will be happy to answer any questions you may have by e-mail (use the link on the right)) and keep in mind that you can choose to instruct a conveyancer at any point prior to exchange of contracts.

Serious thought should also be given before tackling any transaction where a tight deadline is set, such as new build, auction purchase or purchase of a repossessed property. Failure to meet the exchange deadlines can prove more costly than a conveyancer's fee.

Situations When DIY Conveyancing is Most Feasible

As I have said earlier, any transaction can become, often without prior warning, complicated, but DIY conveyancing lends itself best to sales of properties with no outstanding mortgages and cash purchases of registered freehold properties. Deeds of gift (as in transfers for no money) and transfers of equity with no mortgage involved are other possibilities. If doing your own conveyancing on such a transaction then you should read the appropriate tutorial from the options on the left in full before beginning. This will at least give you an idea of what is involved in DIY conveyancing and will hopefully avoid any nasty surprises.

Risks of DIY Conveyancing

Mistakes made during conveyancing transactions can be relatively trivial, for example carrying the wrong search and having to pay a search fee twice, or extremely serious, for example misinterpreting a search result and buying an un-saleable property or finding that following completion it is not possible to register the transaction. When acting in a sale, failure to understand your obligations and responsibilities can lead to giving information for which the buyer can later sue, or being conned by the buyer into parting with money or reducing the price.

There are basically two reasons for instructing a conveyancer to deal with your transaction. The first is that he will be much more experienced and less likely to make a mistake and the second is that, in the event that a mistake is made (and from time to time mistakes are of course inevitable) it will be the conveyancerr, and not you, that will be liable for any resulting loss, and crucially, the conveyancer will have insurance to cover that loss.

The Benefits of DIY Conveyancing

Thanks to national conveyancing protocol and registration of land many transactions are now relatively straightforward and doing your own conveyancing, as well as saving you money, can be rewarding in terms of the sense of achievement felt if it is completed successfully. It can also lead to a faster transaction. A conveyancer can have anything from  100 to 500 transactions, possibly more, on his caseload at any one time and it is not uncommon or unreasonable for him to not deal with a file on the same day that a piece of correspondence is received or some action becomes due. Indeed many firms will specify in their terms that they have up to 5 days to deal with correspondence. Provided you have the time however, you will most likely deal with any matters which arise on your own conveyancing transaction immediately and will chase anybody that is causing a delay vigorously. People who do their own conveyancing also often say that they like the fact that they feel much more in control of the transaction.

DIY Conveyancing Summary

DIY conveyancing can be rewarding both financially and in terms of the feeling of achievement it brings, but it can also be extremely costly when things go wrong, and can be surprisingly time consuming. It is not a task that should be undertaken lightly and if you have any doubts then I would suggest that perhaps it may not be for you. If you do decide to take the plunge then please read the relevant pages of my site before proceeding and try to establish what will need to be done and when. If at any time during the conveyancing transaction (prior to exchange) you feel that you are losing control or you are worried that you may be out of your depth then despite any delay that it might cause to the transaction you should instruct a conveyancer immediately.

I wish you well in your endeavours and if you have any queries about your diy conveyancing transaction, or comments on the material on this site, please do not hesitate to e-mail me using the contact form. I will respond to every e-mail I receive. If you do not receive a response then it may be that my reply has been caught by your spam filter. If this is the case then try e-mailing from an internet based address (such as a hotmail, yahoo or google account).