How are conveyancing fees calculated?
The cost of conveyancing can vary depending on the location and type of your property. It can also vary if you decide to work with a solicitor or a specialised conveyancer. Despite this, you can expect the average conveyancing quote to be in the range of £500 - £1,500 plus disbursements (and stamp duty if you're buying too).
Legal fees for buying a leasehold property are likely to cost about £50-£250 more. This reflects the extra work leaseholds need during the conveyancing process. Your lawyer will have to undertake investigations into more elements as part of the contract negotiations, including: the length of your lease, the service charge, and the management details. This will mean liaising with multiple parties, including the freeholder. If you're buying a leasehold, you may also need to pay for a Deed of Covenant. This is an agreement between the buyer and freeholder detailing things like who's responsibility it is to carry out repair work.
Property purchases involving a mortgage will also cost more if you're buyer. This is because your conveyancer will have to work with your mortgage lender too. If you’re taking out a mortgage to buy the property expect your legal fees to increase by about £50-£250.
On top of your fixed legal fee, you will also be required to pay for certain 'disbursements'. Disbursements are fees that your lawyer pays during the conveyancing process to access information or protect your rights during the property transfer. These are all fixed fee standard costs, so these amounts shouldn't vary too much. You should expect to see the following costs on your quote:
Anti-Money Laundering ChecksThis is a check to verify your identity.
Land Registry Office CopiesThese confirm you as the registered titleholder of your property.
|£4 - £8|
Land Registration FeeThis cost will depend upon the price of the property you’re buying.
|£40 - £700|
Telegraphic Transfer FeeThis charge will only apply if you have a mortgage with over £60,000 to redeem. You can redeem amounts less than this using BACS and not incur a transfer fee.
|£25 - £35|
Local Authority SearchesThe cost of these vary. Look for conveyancing quotes that ask you to provide the postcode of the property you’re buying; these will usually be more accurate.
|£100 - £200|
Drainage SearchThis search is to check that a property has connection to fresh and foul water sewers.
|£35 - £50|
Chancel Repair Liability SearchThis is to check whether you will need to pay a contribution to the upkeep of the local church.
Environmental SearchThis search will check for evidence of contamination on and around the land you’re purchasing. If contamination is found, you might be liable for the clean-up costs.
|£36 - £42|
Location Specific Local SearchesDepending on where the property is located, you may need to check for coal, limestone, clay, and tin mining.
|£40 - £250|
Property Fraud FeesThis check ensures that the lawyer you’re sending money to is a real company.
When you first start looking it’s a good idea to get quotes from a selection of different firms. When you receive their estimation make sure to check that they have included everything - even disbursement costs. This will help you compare companies directly, and ensure you aren't caught out by unexpected fees later on. Try to avoid a solicitor that charges an hourly rate, as it’s harder to estimate what the actual final cost will be.
Look out for conveyancers who add in ‘extras’ to their quotes and bills. Added charges you should avoid include: photocopying, telephone calls, postage, completing the Stamp Duty Land Tax form, and Professional Indemnity Insurance. These costs should be included as standard.
As well as comparing their fee, it's important to take into account their performance too. This will ensure you’re getting the best value for money, and not sacrificing on quality. For example,you might choose to work with a solicitor because of their ability to deal with more complex legal issues. But. a solicitor is more likely to cost more than a conveyancer. However, if you have a more difficult case, the legal expertise offered is probably worth the small difference in cost.
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or to challenge any charges you’re unsure about. Investing time into understanding conveyancing fees is worthwhile, as things like disbursements are standard across the board, and it may save you an extra charge.
Are solicitors more expensive than conveyancers?
You can use either a conveyancer or a solicitor to help with your property transaction, but there is a slight difference in their legal fees. Solicitors are likely to cost more than conveyancers.
All solicitors are qualified as conveyancers, but not all have a great deal of practical experience. They often work in a multi-disciplinary practice and have knowledge of other areas of the law, such as family law and tax regulations. In contrast, conveyancers are property specialists. They usually work in firms that just focus on property transactions.
Most of the time, the conveyancing process is pretty straightforward, and won’t need access to niche legal knowledge. However, if your sale is more complex, a solicitor’s expertise could be beneficial. A broader legal understanding could help if you’re splitting the equity from the sale during a divorce, or you have a boundary dispute with your neighbours.
There are a few other differences to consider when making your decision:
The main benefit of choosing a solicitor is their ability to deal with any complex legal issues. Although a solicitor generally costs slightly more than a conveyancer if you have a more difficult case, the legal expertise offered is likely worth the small difference in price.
When do you pay conveyancing fees?
The average conveyancing firm will only expect legal fees to be paid once the sale is complete. When your lawyers deals with the exchange of money, they will pay off any outstanding mortgage, your estate agent, and their own fees before returning the rest to you. If you are buying and not selling, you will also pay your conveyancer once the sale has gone through, along with any outstanding stamp duty.
Some conveyancers even offer a ‘no sale, no fee’ promise. This means you’ll only have to pay if your transaction successfully completes. However, this doesn't include any disbursement costs, which you'll usually have to pay, at least in part, up front. This is so your conveyancer can progress with surveys and checks without waiting for individual payment for each one. If your sale falls through you'll usually still have to pay this amount, even if you're on a 'no sale, no fee' agreement.
Top Tip: When getting your quotes, make sure to clarify upfront what is included in the 'no sale no fee' agreement to ensure you know which costs you will still have to pay if your sale falls through.
Are online conveyancers cheaper?
When you're researching which conveyancer to work with, you might come across some firms that work completely online. They'll usually offer online tracking, and the ability to get in touch with someone at the firm beyond the standard 9-5 office hours. Often these conveyancing companies claim to offer a more affordable and tech-driven alternative to a traditional conveyancer.
However, there are a few things you should bear in mind before deciding to work with an online conveyancer. And, especially if they are offering particularly low fees.
In many cases online firms will have a very attractive 'basic' price for their conveyancing service, but this will not include everything you need throughout the process. These companies then charge high fees for 'extras', which are actually services most conveyancers offer as standard. This is particularly the case if you have a more complex property transaction such as selling a leasehold flat. When getting quotes for conveyancing fees, make sure to ask for a full breakdown of all potential costs. Ask to see all the potential add-ons and disbursements, so that you're not caught out later on.
Many online conveyancing providers may also offer lots of tech tools, and the ability to contact the company 'out of hours'. Because of this you're unlikely to have a single point of contact at the conveyancing firm. You'll have to talk to different people each time. The majority of complaints about online conveyancing firms come from poor communication and lack of customer service. Many of this companies have much higher workloads than local conveyancers. They'll have less time to prioritise the legal work for your case or answer your questions than high street lawyers. Because of this you may find the process is actually no quicker online than offline.
If you're looking for consistent communication, with a single point of contact who you can contact by phone or email, an online conveyancing firm is probably not for you. However, if you're comfortable using tech to communicate, and aren't too worried about talking to the same person each time, online conveyancing could be an option to consider. There are some online conveyancers who are very good, and offer a top rate service at a reasonable price.
Getting quotes from at least three conveyancers, then researching their service is a good way to help you decide who to work with. Start by reading the reviews of each conveyance solicitor, and then have a chat with the firm directly to get a feel for their service and that you feel comfortable working with them.
Does my estate agent earn a referral fee if I choose to work with their solicitor?
It's common for estate agents partner with a particular conveyancing service, and recommend that you work with this company. This is a way for them to earn revenue and they're likely to receive commission from the conveyancer for recommendations. An agent should tell you whether they receive commission if you ask them directly.
Some advisory services might suggest rejecting an agent's recommended solicitor for conveyancing. The assumption is that the agent will recommend the conveyancers that offer the highest referral fee, rather than the highest quality service. Moreover, the referral payment may be added to your conveyancing costs.
Whilst this might be the case in some instances, it is certainly not always. Estate agents do want referral payments to supplement their income. But, experienced agents also know that their recommendations reflect on their own service and reputation. A bad lawyer can slow the conveyancing process down, which in turn delays or threatens the house sale - and your estate agent’s payment.
Local high street agents are more likely to make good recommendations than online agents. This is because online agents are paid a fixed fee before completion. They have less incentive to promote the most efficient conveyancer over the one paying the highest referral fee. They get paid their fixed fee and the referral fee either way. Purplebrick’s recommended conveyancer - Premier Property Lawyers - are consistently criticised for their poor communication and delays.
In contrast, high street agents are paid only when (and if) a sale is successful. This means they’re more likely to recommend a local conveyancer that they have a good working relationship with. They want the conveyancing 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 agent’s recommended firm before you’ve compared the quotes and reviews of other providers first. Once you have, choose the conveyancer you feel most confident working with.
Are there any other conveyancing costs I need to know about?
Occasionally you may need to pay other non-standard fees, but these will depend on the individual circumstances of your home sale. One example is not having the correct paperwork for any work you had done to the property whilst you lived there.
For example, a building regulation certificate, or insurance document for installing double glazing. In this case you and the buyer would need to agree how to split the cost of an insurance policy.
Conveyancing fees in Scotland
Selling a house in Scotland is slightly different to selling in England and Wales. In many cases your solicitor is also your estate agent, or 'selling agent'. You can choose to work with two separate companies or a single agent/lawyer hybrid. Whichever you decide, it's worth making sure that your conveyancer is a member of The Law Society of Scotland - the main professional body for solicitors and conveyancers in Scotland. This means that they are professionally regulated and have to abide by certain codes of conduct.
In Scotland the average conveyancing costs will be between £500 and £2,500, on top of the cost of estate agency services. This amount will vary depending on the purchase price of the property you are buying or selling, what specialist knowledge is required, and whether anything complicated comes up in the searches.
There are also likely to be some upfront costs (similar to disbursements) called 'outlays'. These are costs that your solicitor has to pay to progress the necessary legal work on your behalf. They should tell you about these costs at an early stage so that you can budget for them in advance. However it's worth making sure when you get your quotes that you ask for the details of all the potential outlays and extras so that you aren't caught out by unexpected fees later in the process.
Advance NoticeThis fee is payable to the Registers of Scotland (the Scottish equivalent of the Land Registry). Registering with the Scottish land registry on both sale and purchase transactions protects your rights to the property.
Registration FeesSimilarly to the Advance Notice, these fees are payable to the Registers of Scotland. This fee is required to register the new deeds in the land registry. These fees vary massively depending on the purchase price of the property involved in the transaction.
|£60 to £7,500|
SearchesLike in England and Wales, searches and surveys are a key element of the conveyancing process in Scotland - particularly if you need a mortgage.
|generally around £100 each|
Land and Buildings Transaction TaxThis is the Scottish equivalent of Stamp Duty, and is due if you are buying a property over £145,000. This stamp duty fee varies between 2% of the property's sale price, and 12%.
|between 2% and 12%|
Top tip: When comparing quotes, look out for selling agents charging a fixed fee rather than an hourly rate. This will help you properly budget for the cost of your legal fees.
For more information about selling a home in Scotland check out our blog.
Do I actually need to use a conveyancer?
In England and Wales, there is no legal obligation to use an official legal representative during the conveyancing process. So, in theory it is completely possible to take on the role of your own conveyancer. Doing so could save you money on legal fees. But, in most cases it really is worth the cost to have professional legal help.
Using a licensed conveyancer or solicitor will provide protection if there are any unexpected complications. If you decide to do your own conveyancing, you won't be insured if you make any errors. And, if you do make mistakes, you would be solely liable and could be sued, even several years after the property purchase has taken place.
Another major obstacle to doing your own conveyancing is arranging a mortgage. Most mortgage providers expect you to use a legal representative, and some will even specify that you use one of their recognised solicitors, in order to protect their interests.
Moreover, if you’ve not fully paid off the mortgage on the home you’re selling, you’ll also find it difficult to do your own conveyancing. A buyer’s solicitor is unlikely to accept any ‘undertaking’ (the promise that you will pay any remaining mortgage using the proceeds from your property’s sale) unless it’s supported by a licensed lawyer.
Therefore, while it's completely possible to act as your own conveyancer, and it could save you some money on legal fees, unless you have the proper legal training it is better to have a good solicitor work on your behalf. This saves you from the risk of having to pay out thousands of pounds in damages costs later on if you make any mistakes.