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New build conveyancing explained: How is it different?

With the government continuing to support the building of new homes, chances are that you might be interested in purchasing one.

It’s important to know how new build conveyancing impacts the purchase of your property, as it is different to purchasing an existing property that already has an address and postcode.

But don’t worry, we’re going to break down everything you need to know about buying a new build and how the conveyancing process works.


Buying a brand new home is an exciting milestone, but the conveyancing process can feel a bit daunting compared to purchasing an existing property. Instead of transferring ownership from previous owners, you'll be dealing directly with the developer who built your new home from the ground up.

Not to worry though, we're here to guide you through every step in this new build conveyancing checklist.

In this handy checklist, we'll break down the entire new build conveyancing journey into easy-to-understand chunks. We'll explain what's different, what extra checks need doing, and why certain steps are so important when buying a newly constructed property. We've also added a more condensed version of the new build conveyancing checklist at the end of the article.

How is conveyancing for a new build home different?

The new build conveyancing process is a little more complex and time-consuming when compared to conveyancing when purchasing an existing property. It’s nothing to worry about, but you do need to be organised and there are a few things you need to be aware of about the new build conveyancing process before purchasing one.

This is because unlike purchasing an existing property, you may be buying one that is in the middle of being built, or before construction has even started.

Here's a breakdown of how new builds impact the conveyancing process:

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Turnaround time: Housing developers often require a quick conveyancing turnaround time, usually to have access to funds quicker to progress development or to get an earlier return on investment.

Developers ask buyers of new build properties to complete within a shorter timeframe, usually just 28 days. However, given that there is more legal work up front and you may be in a property chain the developer will usually accept normal timescales if you can show that you are progressing your purchase or provide details of the chain.

Reservation fee: Buyers of new build properties are sometimes required to pay a reservation fee. This fee is separate from the deposit and is used to secure the plot/property, typically costing between £500 to £2000. It is often non-refundable, so even if you don’t end up buying the property, you won’t get this money back.

With new build purchases everything moves fast. It's important to be ready. Have your conveyancer lined up quickly so they can start work right away. Stay communicative, this helps ensure everything goes smoothly.

You are purchasing from a developer: Because you’re not purchasing from an individual, your developer holds a lot of bargaining power. This might mean less wiggle room for negotiations.

Handling developer sales is different to handling individual sales. You’ll need to make sure that your conveyancer has the skills and experience to handle your new build conveyancing.

Warranties: Like many new products you buy, your new build home will come with a warranty. The most common warranty provider is the National House-Building Council (NHBC).

Your conveyancer will need to review warranty terms, explain coverage to you, advise on filing for warranty, and may need to retain certain funds until warranty obligations are fulfilled by the developer.

Incentives: Developers often include incentives for new build buyers. This could include paying your stamp duty, covering of legal fees, or including custom fittings. Incentives are not limited to this, and often many of the incentives won’t impact your conveyancer too much but they will need to be disclosed to your lender.

Changes and delays: New build properties are often purchased off-plan before construction finishes, making delays or changes possible. Delays from various factors may lead to mortgage expiration or changing completion forecasts that your conveyancer must manage.

Even if you purchased based on a show home or 3D model, the final property is subject to change, potentially impacting mortgage valuation and slowing the buying process. While changes may not directly affect your conveyancer, they can hinder progress and introduce unpredictability.

Title deeds and planning permission: New build conveyancing often takes longer due to a more complicated legal process. For existing properties, conveyancers deal with documentation for just that home. But for new builds, they must investigate permissions and deeds for the entire development estate to determine what applies to your property specifically.

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Do I need a solicitor when buying a new house?

By law, you do not need a property lawyer to conduct new build conveyancing if you are a cash buyer you could do it yourself. However, due to the complicated process of new build conveyancing, it’s highly advised to instruct a qualified professional who has your best interests at heart. If you have a mortgage lender you will need to appoint legal representation.

It’s worth noting that not all professionals offer new build conveyancing services. Be sure to let your conveyancer know that you’re purchasing a new build to avoid any complications or disappointments.

What’s the difference between a conveyancer and a solicitor?

When it comes to new build conveyancing, you won’t find much of a difference between a licensed conveyancer and a solicitor. Both are required to be fully regulated and insured.

Both will adhere to the same processes and conveyancing practices. Here are the main differences between the two:

Licensed conveyancers are specialised property lawyers, mainly focusing on residential property. They handle transactions like sales, purchases, and re-mortgages daily.

A solicitor is qualified, with wider training that covers many aspects of law. They can advise on property transactions but can also advise on boundary disputes and property investment as well.

Eden is regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), and our property lawyers are accredited by both the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the CLC.

What is the conveyancing process for new build properties?

To simplify things, let’s go through a complete timeline of what the process of new build purchasing and conveyancing looks like.

Your conveyancer will have to conduct additional steps and conform to new build processes. This could vary depending on how far along the property development is. Here is the full new build conveyancing process timeline:

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1. Reserve the property: Your first step is to reserve your property. How you do this will be dependent upon the property developer.

Typically, developers allow you to make an offer before paying the reservation fee. However, in competitive markets, you may be asked to submit these simultaneously, or even pay the reservation before the offer.

As soon as you’ve reserved your property, the 28-day period in which you need to complete conveyancing starts.

2. Instruct a conveyancer: You need to instruct a conveyancer immediately so that they can complete their legal work for your new build purchase within the tight timeframe.

It’s important to engage with a conveyancer you trust and one that offers new build services of course.

3. New build conveyancing searches & checks commence: Your conveyancer will review contracts, terms, or other documents and arrange the relevant searches to verify the title and identify any restrictions or issues.

They will also check the planning permissions, building regulations, and that the development approvals meet requirements.

4. Secure your mortgage: Although this is step 4, you need to be doing this simultaneously with the previous steps. As soon as your offer is accepted, you can formally apply for a mortgage.

If your property is still in development, you’ll also need to ensure that your mortgage offer remains valid for when the property is set to be ready to complete. Most mortgages are valid for 6 months, take this into consideration.

5. Exchange of contracts: Once the above is complete, it is time for the exchange of contracts. This is the point where you’ll pay the deposit for your new build property. Depending on the terms of the contract, this may be released to the property developer, or it may be held by a property lawyer or solicitor.

Once contracts have been exchanged, your purchase is legally binding. This means both parties (buyer and seller) must complete the purchase as set out in the contract terms.

6. Completion day: Finally, you’ve made it to the day that you’ve been waiting for. Completion day is as busy as it is exciting. when buying a new build, completion day could be for a fixed date or it could be triggered when the build of the property is finished.

 When yours does roll around, the final funds transfer takes place, and you’ll get the keys to your new home.

7. Registration: Your conveyancer will handle the process of registering you as the legal owner of your property.

Whilst this sounds straightforward, you could be waiting a while for your property to be fully registered. This does not impact you moving in, but if you wish to rent, or sell the property you are likely to encounter some difficulties without legally being the registered owner.

8. Snagging: Snagging refers to identifying and resolving any faults or defects in your new build property. This step can either be done before or just after completion, depending on when your property is finished being built. Snagging won’t delay completion. You would still have to move in and get the developer to deal with any issues post-completion.


How much does new build conveyancing cost?

Compared to when conveyancing an existing property, new build conveyancing tends to cost a little more. There are a few reasons why this is the case, including:

  • Added legal work: New builds require more documentation reviews, consents, new titles and more, leading to an increased workload.
  • Tighter deadlines: Faster turnarounds mean conveyancers need to prioritise new builds and spend more intensive effort on them.
  • Delays: Changes during construction can add complexity and delays that the conveyancer must manage.
  • Earlier start: Conveyancing may start earlier in off-plan purchases, extending overall time spent.
  • Increased risks: Specialist legal skills are needed to navigate extra risks associated with new build properties.
  • Experience: Conveyancers specialising in new builds justify higher costs as increased support is often required.

When purchasing an existing property, you’ll be looking at average legal fees of £1200 to £1800. Whereas with a new build, you’ll likely be paying slightly more, with an average of £1500 to £2200.

You will have additional payments that your conveyancer will pay on your behalf. Including disbursements (searches, ID checks, bank transfers etc) and Stamp Duty or Land Transaction Tax.

Choosing a conveyancer when buying a new build property

When it comes to choosing a conveyancing for the purchase of a new build property, you need to make sure that you choose the right people for you. Your property developer may even recommend a solicitor or conveyancer to act on your behalf. But what should you do?

Using the developer’s recommended solicitors

Opting to go with the property developer’s recommended solicitor or conveyancers will save you time in your search. They will also be familiar with the developer’s processes and contracts. This could facilitate faster, and smoother transactions.

Your developer could also offer incentives, like cheaper or covered conveyancing fees. Although this can all be very attractive, you also need to consider the potential issues you may encounter.

There is a potential conflict of interest favouring the developer thanks to the relationship with their preferred partner.  This could Mean that they may not advocate fully for the buyer’s interest, with less independence and the potential of facing scrutiny from the developer.


Choosing your own conveyancer

Your chosen conveyancer will be completely independent, meaning their guidance will be focused on you, the buyer, with no overhanging pressure. They will act completely in your best interest and conduct more rigorous reviews of documentation.

To summarise, using the developer’s conveyancer will bring familiarity and cooperation benefits but choosing independently prioritises buyer empowerment, so you’ll always be forefront of mind.

Check out our guide on how to chose a conveyancer here.

New build conveyancing checklist

We appreciate that was a lot to take in, so here’s our new-build conveyancing checklist at a glance:

Section 1 - How new build conveyancing is different

  • Expect tighter deadlines for conveyancing (e.g., 28 days)
  • Prepare to pay a reservation fee upfront to secure your property
  • Understand you may have less negotiation power with your developer
  • Review warranties thoroughly and understand coverage
  • Build in contingencies for changes and delays during construction

Section 2 - Hiring a conveyancer

  • Research conveyancers with specific new build experience
  • Interview potential conveyancers and ask about new build process familiarity
  • Understand that both licensed conveyancers and solicitors can perform new build conveyancing
  • Compare fees and service offerings from a shortlist of qualified conveyancers
  • Instruct your chosen conveyancer as early in the process as possible

Section 3 - New build conveyancing process

  • Submit an offer and pay the reservation fee to secure the property
  • Immediately instruct a conveyancer and provide all documentation
  • Liaise with your conveyancer throughout the review of contracts, permissions etc.
  • Discuss mortgage application timing with your conveyancer
  • Arrange for deposit funds in preparation for contract exchange
  • Agree a schedule with your conveyancer to monitor construction timelines
  • Confirm completion date and have balance funds ready
  • Follow up with the conveyancer to complete registration formalities
  • Attend the pre or post-completion snagging inspection and report all defects

Section 4 - How much does new build conveyancing cost?

  • More legal work is involved than existing builds
  • Tighter deadlines require priority handling
  • Construction delays add complexity
  • Conveyancing starts earlier, increasing pressure
  • Higher risks mean specialist skills needed
  • Experience with new builds warrants higher fees
  • Expect average fees of £1800-£2500

Section 5 - Choosing your conveyancer

  • Consider the pros/cons of developer recommended vs. independent
  • Ask the developer about incentives for using their conveyancer
  • Identify experienced independent new build conveyancers
  • Discuss the approach for negotiating with your developer
  • Review fees and service offerings from both options
  • Make a formal appointment early on

Frequently asked questions

How long does new build conveyancing take?

The duration of the new build conveyancing process typically takes around 8-12 weeks from start to finish. However, this can vary considerably based on several factors:

Shorter timelines:

  • If the property is already built and ready to complete
  • If you are a cash buyer with no mortgage
  • If there is no onward chain of transactions

Longer timelines:

  • If the new build is still under construction
  • If you hit delays or revisions from the developer
  • If you are part of a chain of sales and purchases
  • If any issues arise during conveyancing searches

Developers often stipulate a tight timeframe of around 28 days from reservation to exchange of contracts. But this is often an ambitious goal.

What happens if my new build is delayed?

Depending on how long your new build is delayed by your conveyancer may need to take steps such as requesting a mortgage offer extension from your lender, renegotiating the contract exchange date with the developer, and potentially re-doing any expired legal work.

Significant delays may also require rescheduling your removal plans and temporary accommodations.

Is new-build conveyancing more difficult?

Yes, new-build conveyancing is generally more complex compared to purchasing an existing property.

This is because conveyancers must conduct additional checks on planning permissions, building regulations, and the full development title deeds.

They’ll also need to review special construction warranties and incentives offered by developers.

Dealing with developers rather than individual sellers can mean less flexibility.