6 mins read
Choosing the right conveyancer or solicitor when you’re buying or selling a house is just as important as finding the right estate agent. They’ll be responsible for ensuring your exchange and completion go smoothly, so it’s vital to find a trustworthy legal representative with a strong track record of property expertise and communication.
How to find a conveyancer
When you first start looking for a conveyancer it’s a good idea to get quotes from a selection of different firms. As well as comparing their fee, take into account a few other things too. This will ensure you’re getting the best value for money, and not sacrificing on quality for a cheaper price.
Location: If possible, use a local solicitor or conveyancer. They’ll know about any developments or arrangements that are unique to your area, such as which location specific searches you need. This can help your sale progress without unnecessary complications.
Mortgage Provider:Some mortgage lenders have a preferred legal services provider. Make sure to ask your bank which professionals they recommend, and whether there’s a charge if you choose not to use this firm.
Experience: All solicitors are qualified to be a conveyancer, but only some have a track record in property transactions. Conveyancers, on the other hand, are property experts but lack a nuanced understanding of other legal areas. Before making your decision, ask for details of the recent cases they’ve worked on, and think about what extra legal expertise you might need. Are you buying a leasehold, or using a Help To Buy ISA? Cases like these may benefit from a greater level of legal understanding.
Accreditation: Look for a firm that holds a Conveyancing Quality Scheme certificate. This accreditation recognises exceptional service within the area of conveyancing practice. Another one to look out for is Lexcel. This Law Society accreditation rewards excellence in legal practice management and client care.
When requesting a quote make sure to discuss the service they’re able to provide. It’s important you’re confident the conveyancer has the experience and time to handle your case to the best of their ability. Asking the following questions is a good place to start:
How much will you charge and when is payment due?
It’s also worth checking what costs you’ll have to pay if the sale falls through. For example, if a conveyancer offers a ‘no sale, no fee’ option, you may not get a refund on any disbursements.
Who will handle my case?
It’s important to know the actual individual handling your case. Make sure you know which individual is handling your case, and their direct contact information. Having a clear line of communication with your lawyer will keep the process moving smoothly and promptly.
How often will I hear from you?
Have a frank conversation with the potential conveyancers about the level of communication you expect. Have you worked on other cases like mine? This question is particularly important if there are complexities to your transaction. For example, if you’re purchasing a leasehold flat above a shop, or if you’re splitting equity in a divorce. What’s your procedure for complaints? A lawyer’s response to this question will give you an insight into their level of customer service. If the firm doesn’t have a procedure, or they’re unsure, this is a warning sign. Which professional body are you a member of? All conveyancers and solicitors should be members of a professional body, regardless of whether they are self-employed conveyancer or a huge law firm.
Should I use Estate Agents conveyancing?
Many Estate Agents will recommend a particular conveyancing service to you. Take a judicious approach to their recommendation. Some advisory services suggest rejecting their proposal because the estate agent will receive a commission payment. The agent may simply recommend the solicitor offering the highest commission rather than the best services. On top of this, the referral payment may be added to the cost of their services.
Whilst this might be the case in some instances, it is certainly not always. Estate agents do want referral payments, but experienced agents also know that their recommendations reflect on their service and reputation. A poor legal representative can slow the conveyancing process down, delaying completion - and your estate agent’s payment.
There are grounds to suggest that local high street agents are more likely to make good recommendations than online agents. This is because online agents are paid before completion. They have less incentive to promote the most efficient conveyancer over the one paying the highest referral fee. Indeed, poor communication and delays are the main criticisms of Purplebrick’s recommended conveyancer: Premier Property Lawyers. In contrast, high street agents are paid on completion. This means they’re more likely to recommend a local conveyancer that they have a good working relationship with. They want the process to be as smooth and efficient as possible.
The best way to make the decision is to ask your estate agent for a full, written quote, including any disbursements and extras. Assess their offer with a critical eye in comparison with other providers. Don’t feel pressured to choose your estate agent’s recommended firm before you’ve compared the quotes and reviews of other providers first.
How to complain about a conveyancer
Your conveyancer has a legal obligation to act professionally on your behalf and to uphold the standards set by their regulatory body. If you’re unhappy with your conveyancer’s conduct, you’re within your rights to officially complain. Often a conveyancer will do what they can to quickly resolve any issues or problems.
Your first port of call is to make a complaint to your conveyancer’s firm directly. They will have a formal complaints procedure which you can follow and should have already provided you with details of their process. If not, they will give it to you on request.
Always set out your complaint in writing so that there’s a record. If you don’t feel comfortable writing a letter of complaint, the Legal Ombudsman website provides advice and some handy templates you can use.
If you feel the matter hasn’t been satisfactorily resolved you can then approach a higher body. If you have complaints about poor service, or your bill, you can go to the Legal Ombudsman. If you’re worried about negligence or dishonesty you can take your complaint to your lawyer’s relevant regulatory body. This will either be the Solicitors Regulation Authority or The Council of Licensed Conveyancers. They will investigate your complaint and issue the compensation and punishment they deem appropriate.
For more information on conveyancing, check out our handy guide here.
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