Whether you’re buying or selling a home, you need to find a suitable conveyancing solicitor to help with your transaction.
You can technically do your own conveyancing, but we recommend hiring a professional so you can be confident about what you’re buying in the eyes of the law.
Conveyancing involves all the legal components of transferring the ownership of a property from a seller to a buyer. Conveyancing, which typically takes between eight weeks and 12 weeks, includes:
Once you’ve decided on a conveyancing solicitor, they will send you a letter of engagement to confirm your agreement before starting the legal work. You also need to inform your estate agent the name of the conveyancer who will be working for you.
There are a number of ways to find a conveyancer:
Your estate agent’s recommendation. Some people like the option of using a conveyancer referred by their estate agent because it indicates a pre-existing relationship. However, bear in mind that these conveyancers may not be the most affordable option.
Your mortgage lender’s panel. Many lenders will only work for free with an approved list of conveyancers or solicitors. That doesn’t mean that you need to use one of these firms, but it generally means that you’ll pay a bit extra if you don’t.
Search online. A simple Google search will yield a massive number of results, but you can narrow it by your local area or the area you’re buying in. This also allows you to check online reviews for what other customers have said. Many property sites feature online comparison tools that allow users to see how different conveyancers compare.
Both licensed conveyancers and solicitors are fully regulated and qualified to assist your property transaction, though each offers a slightly different service. Whether you go with a solicitor or conveyancer depends on what you need.
Solicitors, of course, are qualified lawyers whose experience with conveyancing may vary considerably. They can, however, offer a full range of legal services on top of their conveyancing duties.
Licenced conveyancers, on the other hand, are property specialists but cannot offer legal advice. Conveyancers may have deeper, though narrower, knowledge on the specifics of home buying and selling compared to solicitors.
A little forward planning that takes into account your personal circumstances will help frame your decision and ensure you find the right solution to your conveyancing needs.
Some home buyers prize efficiency, in which case you may want a small firm that handles very few cases. If you prioritise technology, you may choose a company with a robust online presence.
Regardless of whether you choose a solicitor or conveyancer to help you with your sale, be sure they have a good reputation and strong track record for customer service. There’s nothing more frustrating or damaging to a sale than unreliable communication.
The best way to protect yourself in case of any legal problems after the completion of sale is to choose a regulated and insured conveyancer.
Many people feel more comfortable meeting their conveyancers in person rather than hiring them over the phone or email, but does it matter where your conveyancing solicitor is based? The simple answer is no, it isn’t necessary to meet them to obtain their services; conveyancing can all be done online. But regardless of whether it’s in person, over the phone or email, you should feel at ease with how your conveyancing solicitor communicates.
Why communication is important
Clear communication can help relieve the anxiety that often accompanies buying or selling a home.
As a result, you may want to prioritise maintaining a clear line of communication with your conveyancing solicitor. To that end, you should:
Make sure you ask the conveyancer any questions you have -- after all, it’s their job to make you happy with the service they’re providing.
It’s a good idea to compare conveyancing quotes from at least a few different conveyancing firms.
If you shop around, you’ll find considerable variability among the legal fees charged by conveyancing firms. The cheapest option rarely provides the most comprehensive service, but more expensive doesn’t always mean better. Be inquisitive when talking to conveyancing firms about their services: you’re hiring them, after all, so it’s in their interest to appeal to your needs.
Conveyancing solicitors come up with their fee structures in different ways, so ask for a comprehensive breakdown of charges, they should fully itemise their prices so there are no hidden fees. This information will help you fairly compare prices.
The costs should be listed individually to give you points of comparison. A typical conveyancing quote consists of two parts:
Check what conveyancing fees you’ll have to pay if the sale falls through. Some - though not all - firms offer a ‘no completion, no fee’ guarantee, which means you would not pay if the property transaction isn’t ‘completed’ and the deal falls apart before contracts are exchanged. Conveyancing services will typically be charged as a fixed fee but some firms may charge an hourly rate.
The basic fee is where you’re liable to see significant variability between firms, so pay close attention to it.
The usefulness of a ‘no move, no fee’ conveyancer
An estimated one in three property transactions fall apart, so you need to protect yourself. Sometimes referred to as ‘no completion, no fee,’ this policy refers to whether you’ll still pay the solicitor if the sale collapses. Many disbursements require payment up front and are occasionally non-refundable, so get the facts about whether you’ll face a loss if the sale doesn’t happen.
For more information on conveyancer’s fees, read our guide for a full breakdown of what to expect.
This is easy to forget amid the whirl of decisions you need to make when you’re in the middle of a property transaction.
Estate agents will recommend their preferred solicitors for a few reasons, including:
However, because of these reasons, the solicitors recommended by estate agents are sometimes more expensive than if you shop around on your own for a better deal.
The important thing to remember is that the solicitor/conveyancer is working on your behalf, not your estate agent’s. You must choose a person or firm that you trust and that offers the service right for your needs.
The best way to assess a conveyancer’s performance is their past customer feedback. Google reviews are a great way to check how happy other homesellers and buyers are with the agency’s standard of service. Using the advice here will help you make an informed decision.
So, is it better to use a local solicitor for conveyancing? Not really - there is no real difference between a local and an online conveyancer. Nowadays, the entire conveyancing process can be completed online and over the phone.
Local firms can sometimes have better in-depth local knowledge about area issues, though they can be more expensive than online options. The online conveyancing market is expanding rapidly and offers another option. Most, if not all, of your contact with an online firm will be by phone or email. Indeed, many online firms use free apps to provide 24/7 coverage of the conveyancing process.
Regardless, the most important thing to check is whether they’re capable of representing you in the appropriate part of the UK. Scotland’s buying process, for instance, is slightly different from that in England and Wales.
While there’s no hard and fast rule to this, we recommend that you instruct a conveyancer as soon as you begin considering buying or selling.
Property transactions require a massive amount of paperwork, so it’s in your interest to get started quickly.
If you’re concerned that bringing a conveyancer onboard early will become prohibitively expensive, then look for the ‘no move, no fee’ option.
All conveyancers are not equal, unfortunately. If your provider turns out to be slow, uncommunicative or simply incompetent, there are options to register your displeasure and complain.
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