Hiring a good conveyancer is one of the surest ways to help make your property transaction as smooth as possible.
Before choosing your conveyancer, it’s critical to prepare probing questions about their background, costs and procedures. Remember, conveyancing is a significant, and legally required, part of all residential property transactions. You should only choose a firm that you feel comfortable with.
In this guide, we explain what questions to ask prospective conveyancing solicitors and how their answers can help you make an informed decision about who to hire for your transaction.
Finding the right conveyancer for the job can be difficult without a lot of knowledge about the industry. That’s why you should ask these key questions to separate the good from the bad.
This may seem like an obvious question to ask a conveyancing solicitor, but it’s a useful one to get the ball rolling. In answering this question, the conveyancer will really lay out what you can expect every step of the way. Any conveyancer who obfuscates by only telling you in vague terms that their help is necessary for legal and administrative issues isn’t particularly helpful. Instead, ask them precisely what steps they will take on your behalf.
The conveyancing solicitor may not give you a precise figure, which is fine. However, a number will help you get a general sense of their level of experience. More significantly, this question will reveal whether the conveyancer will be active and helpful. They should be willing to provide ample information about how long they have been in business, the types of cases they’ve handled, and what their chief areas of expertise are.
Be specific about the type of property you’re buying, too. Are you buying a leasehold property? A new build? Is the building listed? Whatever the specifics of your transaction, ask if they’ve handled similar cases before.
Working with a regulated conveyancing solicitor or a licensed conveyancer will give you peace of mind that your transaction is handled properly. All licenced conveyancers are regulated by the Council of Licenced Conveyancers (CLS). On the other hand, all solicitors practising in England and Wales must be registered with the Law Society and are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Check to ensure your conveyancer is a member of either of those professional bodies before choosing them.
Many mortgage lenders won’t work with conveyancers they’ve not approved, so it’s important to get an answer to this question. Working with a conveyancer not approved by your lender is usually possible, but you will almost certainly have to pay extra fees.
Ask if they have testimonials online that you can read through. There’s no better way to check the quality of a company’s service than to read what previous customers have said. People tend to offer reviews only if the service has stood out in some way, either positively or negatively. Reading them will give you a cumulative understanding of the conveyancer’s performance.
For more information on choosing a conveyancer, check out our guide article, ‘How should I choose my conveyancer?’.
You don’t want to pay any hidden fees, so it’s essential that you know exactly what’s included in their conveyancing package.
For obvious reasons, this may be the fundamental question to ask any conveyancer you’re considering hiring. Conveyancing fees can run as high as £2,000, so it’s not exactly small change.
You should ask specifically for an itemised list of what’s included in the conveyancer’s fee. Most quotes are broken into different parts, including legal fees, disbursements (upfront fees the conveyancer will handle such as Land Registry fees and the Stamp Duty Land Tax) and additional expenses. Examine the quotes carefully and shop around for a deal that’s right for your budget. Read more about how much conveyancing should cost here.
This varies by firm. For example, final payment may be required at exchange of contracts or at the completion of sale. Some conveyancers ask customers to pay an upfront deposit, and you may need to cover disbursements and other fees that crop up during the transaction. It’s best to get clarity on the timings during your initial conversations with prospective conveyancers.
Your property sale should go smoothly, but you should also be prepared for any contingency. One option is to choose a ‘no sale no fee’ conveyancing service, which is growing more common.
‘No sale no fee’ means you only pay once your property transaction is successful. But what happens if ‘no sale no fee’ isn’t an option? In those cases, will you get your deposit or any other upfront fees back if the deal falls apart? Will you need to pay disbursements even if you don’t end up moving? Can you purchase insurance that covers you in case the sale falls through - and can the conveyancer recommend a plan? Know your options before you sign on to a conveyancer.
These questions are useful for working out the logistics. It’s important that you get a conveyancer who is open to communication and updates. You don’t want to be left in the dark during this stressful part of a property transaction.
This is one of the most important questions to ask because you should work on developing a rapport with your conveyancer from the beginning. Ideally, you’ll be able to work with one person throughout the process. That way, you won’t need to repeat yourself too often and you’ll always have a point of contact to reach out to if any questions arise.
You will probably discover that the person giving you the quote is one of the most senior people in the firm, but the actual conveyancing duties will fall to a more junior colleague. As long as your property transaction is straightforward, this shouldn’t be a problem. If, however, your sale is liable to get complicated - for instance, if you are purchasing a leasehold and want to discuss specific costs and restrictions - you may prefer a more experienced conveyancer. Asking who will handle your case is the first step to getting the right conveyancer for your sale.
For guidance on whether you need a local conveyancer, check out our blog ‘Does my conveyancer need to be local?’ for more details.
It’s vital to clarify how your conveyancer will update you with details of your case. In most instances, these updates will come via phone or email, though occasionally hard copies could be sent through the post.
There are few things more frustrating than being left in the dark, so you should also seek a commitment from your conveyancer on how often they’ll update you on your transaction. Most firms prefer to focus on the transaction itself rather than endlessly updating clients on a process they already feel is going smoothly. As a result, if you feel the need to receive frequent updates, tell the conveyancer directly, so you both know what to expect of the other.
Conveyancing fraud and hacking is on the rise, so ask the firm what steps they’ve taken to protect your data and money. To that end, clarify if and when the conveyancing firm will seek information or payments from you via email or other web application. Never transfer money or personal information to a new or unknown account, and always confirm by phone or in person the firm’s account details before making an online transaction.
As the saying goes, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. It’s important to learn the firm’s procedure for filing grievances in case the service is flawed. Most reliable and reputable conveyancing firms will outline their procedure for escalating grievances in their client care letter, which you should receive just before you formally engage them.
At any rate, a company that’s willing to hear from its clients over charges of unsatisfactory service demonstrates a good level of professionalism. On the other hand, a firm that isn’t ready or willing to hear a client’s complaint about the service probably isn’t a company you want to hire.
This is one of the most common questions that conveyancers hear. It can, however, be a challenging question to answer. How long it will take depends entirely on the situation.
The typical conveyancing process takes between 8 and 12 weeks. You may only get a rough estimation, but posing this question to the conveyancing firm shows them that you’re serious, you’d like to move in sooner rather than later and you won’t tolerate unnecessary delays.
One follow-up question to ask is whether the conveyancer working your case has any holidays booked in the near future. This is obviously a major issue in the summer, while many conveyancing firms also shut over the Christmas and New Year’s period.
This question again demonstrates your keenness, so it’s a natural question to ask a potential conveyancing solicitor. You will probably find that the main things you can do relate to promptly filling in and returning forms, contracts and other paperwork. But your conveyancer can let you know whether there are particular documents that you should locate and have at hand during the transaction to prevent unnecessary delays.
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