Conveyancing disbursements are the payments your solicitor makes on your behalf to third parties when you’re buying, selling, or remortgaging your home. 

(Remember, conveyancing is the legal part of buying and selling a home, carried out by a specialist property lawyer called a conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor.)

Conveyancing disbursements: fast facts

Conveyancing disbursements are:

  • Added to your conveyancing bill. They’re typically not part of your solicitor’s fee. 
  • Usually discussed with you ahead of time. If you get a conveyancing quote that doesn’t include disbursements, it’s a good idea to bring this up with your conveyancer as soon as possible. 
  • Made to help you as a buyer. Disbursements will almost certainly be payments that are needed to progress your purchase or sale.
  • The exact amount your lawyer pays to the third party – your solicitor won’t add a fee on top, they’ll just ask you to refund the exact cost of whatever they paid.

So who might these third parties be – and more importantly, why do they want your money?

What are the different conveyancing disbursements?

1. Stamp duty

Stamp duty is the tax you pay when you buy property and/or land valued over a certain amount. At the moment in England, that amount is £125,000 for residential properties and £150,000 for non-residential properties. You don’t have to pay it if you’re selling.

You’ll need to pay stamp duty on both freehold and leasehold properties. Freehold is where you own the property and the land it’s built on. Leasehold is where you own the property for a specific period of time, and someone else owns the land.

If you’re a first time home buyer, there’s good news here. You’ll pay less or no tax if:

  • You and anyone you’re buying a home with is a first-time buyer (but be aware, if you’re buying with someone who isn’t a first time buyer then you don’t qualify for the discount either) AND 
  • The purchase price is £500,000 or less.

Read more about stamp duty here.

2. HM Land Registry fees

Every property in the UK has to be registered with the land registry, a government department that keeps tabs on who owns what and where. If a home changes ownership, you have to pay a fee to register that change.

How much it costs depends on the value of the property. Fees range from £45 for homes valued up to £80,000 to £1,105 for homes over £1,000,000.

If you’re registering a home that hasn’t been registered before, the Land Registry fees are a bit different but you’ll still have to pay one – all properties have to be registered.  

If you’re buying

If your home is already registered, you’ll need to register the change of ownership.

If it hasn’t been registered – which might be the case if the previous owner bought it before 1990 – you’ll have to register it. (You can check here to see if it’s been registered.)

You don’t have to register a leasehold property if the lease is for less than 7 years.  

If you’re selling

Your conveyancer will download up-to-date copies of the property title and plan so that they can prepare the contract and send over the pack to the buyer’s solicitors. There’s usually a cost of approximately £6 for this, but depending on what the title is like it can be a bit more. 

3. Local authority searches

Also called local land searches or local searches, local authority searches can be a very important part of your home-buying process. That’s because they’ll teach you all about your property and the land it's on and might reveal things that could be a deal-breaker for you.

Local authority searches are divided into two parts.

First, they’ll search the Local Land Charge Register. (The form for this is called the LLC1). This register will reveal restrictions that the land might have. Is it in a conservation and/or tree preservation area? A smoke control zone? Or is it a listed building of particular historical or cultural importance? 

The second part of the search (completed with a CON29 Enquiries of Land form) looks for the planning history and permissions, info on things like public highways, new roads or railways that might be coming to town, and what building regulations exist. 

This costs approximately  £50 and £250, depending on the local authority – but there’s no fixed price and it can be more.

4. Additional searches

Depending on the area and the specific home, your conveyancer might need to do some extra searches to check that you don’t have to deal with any bombshells down the line. 

  • Environmental searches. Flooding possibilities? Landslides? Contaminated land? Best to know before moving in.
  • Water and drainage. A check to make sure there’s water flowing into your property and sewerage flowing out. It will also tell you what sort of water bill you can expect.
  • Chancel Indemnity Insurance. This relates to an old law that goes all the way back to the time of Henry VIII. Some properties have to chip in for the maintenance and repairs of the local church. And it’s something you want to know because those church repairs can be expensive. 
  • Bankruptcy searches. This one’s to see that the buyer is not bankrupt or on the verge of bankruptcy, and it’s something your mortgage lender will typically want to know. You can do bankruptcy searches yourself here, or you can get your lawyer to do them for a small fee.

The fees for these will differ, but searches related to your property are typically in the region of £30 to £40 each. Your solicitor may offer a bundle package to conduct all local searches for a set fee (probably in the region of £200 to £250.)

5. Telegraphic transfer fee

When you buy a home, you’ll send the money through your solicitor to the seller’s solicitor. Bank transfers cost money and will probably be an additional item on your conveyancing bill. 

As the seller, you may also have to pay a bank fee to pay off your current mortgage.

Budget in the region of £20 + VAT for this.

To recap: conveyancing disbursements

Conveyancing disbursements are additional fees on top of what your solicitor charges as a fee. You’ll have to pay them whether you’re buying, selling or remortgaging a home. 

A buyer’s checklist:

✔️Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) 

✔️HM Land Registry fees

✔️Local authority searches

✔️Any additional searches that need to be conducted

✔️Telegraphic transfer fee

A seller’s checklist:

✔️Possible telegraphic transfer fee

✔️Land registry copies

If they’re not part of your conveyancing solicitor’s quote, speak up so you can avoid any nasty surprises down the line.

And if you need help, give us a shout. Habito's complete home-buying service includes conveyancing.