handshake

How to Choose a Conveyancer or Solicitor

If you're buying or selling a home, there will come a time when you will need to choose a solicitor or a conveyancer to help with the legal transfer of the property.

Legal professionals are extremely important in keeping the buying and selling process on track and on time - they handle your contracts, carry out local authority searches, deal with the Land Registry and transfer funds when it is finally completion day. So, with so much to do, it’s important to pick one that’s right for you

What’s the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer?

Both conveyancers and solicitors are fully regulated and insured professionals, and when it comes to handling your property transaction, will operate in a very similar way. However, it is worth noting the differences between the two before you get started.

Conveyancers are specialist property lawyers who are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, and who focus largely on residential property transactions.

Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and offer a much broader legal service and are able to deal with more complex legal issues. Their knowledge beyond property conveyancing law is necessary when dealing with the likes of boundary disputes or if the sellers are separating and using more than one solicitor.

Have they been recommended?

Recommendations from friends or family are a great starting point, but most estate agents will be able to recommend a local solicitor or conveyancer if you’re struggling to find one. Your mortgage broker or financial adviser might also be able to recommend a firm.

Customer review websites like TrustPilot or Feefo can also be really helpful when searching for reputable companies with honest customer feedback. 

What’s their communication like?

phone call

Property transfers are complicated and can often be time-consuming, so a solicitor or conveyancer who communicates well and gives you regular updates will make the whole process less stressful.

Having a key contact is essential, so find out if you will have a named individual looking after you and your sale. Ask if there are specific times when you can contact them and if they have a system that allows you to track how the purchase is progressing.

Also, don’t forget to check if they have any annual leave booked that could impact the transfer and ask who will step in if they're away. If holiday or sickness cover isn’t available, it could delay your house sale or purcahse by a couple of weeks.

Understand and compare conveyancing fees

There are three different types of fees when it comes to conveyancing:

  • Hourly rate
  • Fixed fee
  • Percentage cost

It’s advisable to get a couple of quotes first and ask for a full break down so that you can make a direct comparison. Make sure you check whether the total cost will be a fixed or if it could vary according to the workload.

And the final price should be inclusive of everything necessary to complete the sale, including searches, monetary transfers, stamp duty or land tax costs and Land Registry fees.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

Alison Roberts

Here’s what Alison Roberts, Countrywide Conveyancing’s Legal and Compliance Director, had to say about what to look out for when choosing a legal professional to deal with your property transaction:

Transparency – services should be clearly advertised. How much is it going to cost? Will it cost more if there are complications? Will there be charges if it falls through? Make sure to read all quotes carefully, if two are charging for an extra product and service, check that the third isn’t hiding it in the small print.  

Value honesty – yes, you want to move as soon as possible, however be wary of anyone who guarantees you a six-week moving date (the average is 12-14 weeks). Whilst it might be possible, much of the moving process is outside the conveyancer’s control so you could be left feeling disappointed that it is taking much longer than expected.

Clarity – it might all be plain sailing, but if there are problems you want someone who will give you clear options and advice. Your solicitor or conveyancer should be able to explain complex or unfamiliar things in a straightforward way without jargon so that you understand exactly what’s going on. They should also make it clear what is expected from you in terms of providing information, reviewing and returning documentation, and paying deposits.

Experience – don’t be afraid to ask them about their level of experience. How many property transactions does the firm carry out every year? What is their local knowledge like for the area you want to buy in?

Reassurance – has your lawyer been rewarded for customer satisfaction? Do you feel comfortable asking questions and seeking information? No one can take all the stress away, but it is important you feel like you are in the loop. If nothing seems to be happening will they still keep in touch and will they tell you quickly if there is a problem while being creative in resolving it?

Trust your first impressions - if you call for a quote and it isn’t instant will you have to ring back, or will they get back to you? If you ask for the quote in writing, is it emailed it to you immediately, do you get it in the post a week later or not at all? Do they take the time to explain the service to you or just give you the costs? Your first experience is likely to reflect the service you will get throughout the process.

Does size matter? It might do - small firms may not be on all lender panels which might be a problem if you are getting a mortgage, but they may offer a more bespoke traditional service which could be a good choice if you prefer to meet face to face to go through the paperwork. Larger firms are more likely to have made more significant investments in their technology and cyber security. They may have more resource to offer extended office hours and use online communication tools and portals so you know where your transaction is 24/7. The systems and processes they provide are often in-line with the level of service and protection lenders and customers expect and require.  

Ultimately, do your research, ask the right questions and trust your instincts.

At the start of your search it might be just about getting a good price, but by the time you are in your dream home, it’s always about what you get in return for your money.   

Back

RELATED ARTICLES

Contract

Estate Agency Terms Explained

When it comes to buying a house, there can be a lot to get your head around, so here is a list of common estate agency terms to will help you beat the jargon. Read more...

Moving House

Speeding Up Your Property Purchase or Sale

There are often several points in the house buying and selling process that can cause a delay but what can you do to try and prevent these delays or ensure they have minimal impact?  Read more...

Find an Expert

Find an Expert

Search for a Propertymark Protected expert to ensure your property is in safe and reliable hands. More info...