A solicitor or conveyancer is the person who handles the legal aspects of buying or selling a property. They should keep you updated on the progress and be a point of contact when going through what can be a stressful process. Here is our advice on choosing a solicitor, the fees you are likely to face and the questions we think you should ask.
First things first
When you have had an offer accepted on a property, or you have had an offer accepted on a property you are selling, the estate agent will want to know the name and contact details of your solicitor or conveyancer. This is because it is he or she that will:
- handle the exchange of contracts</li
- offer legal advice
- initiate local authority searches
- communicate with the Land Registry
- Organise the wire transfer of funds between the parties involved.
Choosing the right conveyancing solicitor is important. Actual solicitors are usually more expensive than licenced conveyancers as they are qualified in several areas of law and can offer a fuller range of legal services. Licenced conveyancers specialise only in property and cannot deal with more complex legal issues.
Before making a choice as to who will carry out your conveyancing work, you should find out the likely cost. It is important to compare several solicitors or licensed conveyancers as there is no set scale of fees and they can vary a great deal. You should:
- Ask whether the figure you are quoted is a fixed fee or if it will vary if more work is required.
- check that the figure includes expenses and VAT and get a breakdown of these costs. VAT should be added as standard now due to price transparency laws.
- find out what further charges, if any, will be made if the sale falls through before contracts are exchanged.
Most conveyancing quotes will include third party costs (or disbursements). These include local authority searches and Stamp Duty. If a quote seems suspiciously low, it could be that third party costs haven’t been included in the quote. Ask for an itemised quote so you can see what the conveyancer charges for their time actually.
When choosing your Conveyancing Solicitor you should compare both conveyancing fees and the quality of service. Whether buying, selling or remortgaging your home, the legal process is of utmost importance and should be managed as professionally as possible. Quality of service comes before cheap, low cost fees. It is easy to compare conveyancing solicitors with our conveyancing solicitor comparison tool.
Here are some of the questions we think you should ask when choosing a conveyancing solicitor:
Who will handle my case?
If there are several solicitors in the firm/s you approach, ask which of them will be dealing with your case. You might initially deal with the most experienced solicitor there but later find it is a junior team member who works directly on your case. This, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing. For straightforward cases the conveyancing process should be pretty standard. It’s just good to know who your ‘go to’ is a the outset.
If your case is likely to present more complexities, say you are buying a leasehold property or buying with the help of a government help to buy scheme, you may prefer a more experienced solicitor.
How often will you make contact?
When appointing a solicitor ask them how often you are likely to hear from them with updates. Some firms have online portals which you can check as you like but this is not always the case. Sometimes you won’t hear from your solicitor for extended periods of inactivity, such as when waiting for the searches to come back. You can always contact them if there has been a particularly concerning radio silence. However, it is reasonable to ask at the outset how often they are likely to be in contact.
What are your accreditations?
Your conveyancer must be a member of the Law Society of England and Wales which Covers conveyancing protocol and provides the latest advice and information on all matters relating to buying and selling property. In Scotland this is the Law Society of Scotland. They should be a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) which provides a recognised quality standard for residential conveyancing practices. Conveyancers must be members of the Council for Licenced Conveyancers (CLC) who set the regulations for the industry.
What will I have to pay if the sale falls through?
You should ask your conveyancing solicitor what you would need to pay should the transaction fall through. A few firms offer a ‘no move, no fee’ but double check what that really means before you commit. It could mean that you still need to pay third party costs, or for time already spent on your case. Ask if you need to pay for insurance to be eligible for this and how much will the premiums will be. It’s common for disbursements (third party costs) to be excluded from ‘no sale no fee’ quotes.
Are you mortgage lender approved?
In many cases, mortgage lenders will only work with conveyancing solicitors on their own approved lenders panel. Double check this before appointing a conveyancer because if they are not approved, you could face extra charges. In some cases your mortgage lender might even withdraw their offer.
What is your grievance procedure?
Hopefully you won’t need to embark upon a grievance procedure. But if you find the service you received was unsatisfactory, you will want to follow it up with the firm. If you get no joy from communicating your problems with a senior partner, you will need to know exactly how to escalate a complaint through the proper channels. Reputable firms will provide an outline of their grievance policies in their initial communications with you. You should be made aware of the procedure before you give formal instruction.
Other things to consider:
Should I take an estate agent’s recommendation?
Many Estate agents have an affiliation with a particular solicitors firm. These are the firms that the agent will recommend you use for your conveyancing. This recommendation can be financially motivated, ie: they have a financial agreement for every client they refer. This can, but not always, lead to you to choose a conveyancing solicitor not best suited for your case or to receiving a poorer service than if you had compared services and chosen your own solicitor.
Should I hire a local conveyancing solicitor?
Online conveyancing is becoming quite popular and offer competitive rates and conveyancing can be done fro any location. There could be an arguement that hiring a conveyancer from your local area, you are using the services of someone who knows the area and of any potential issues that might arise. A local conveyancer will be aware of any proposed local developments that could potentially impact your property purchase. They will have dealt with the local authority numerous times and know the process inside out. However, instructing a solicitor out of area is perfectly normal and acceptable for conveyancing.
Word of mouth is one of the most reliable methods of ensuring you get a good service. This applies in any kind of trade and conveyancing is no exception. Ask friends and colleagues who have recently bought or sold property if they would be happy to recommend their solicitor or licensed conveyancer. All our quotes are from highly trusted and experienced conveyancing solicitors.