Conveyancer vs solicitor — what's the difference?

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

What is a Conveyancer?
A specialist property lawyer regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers focusing largely on residential property transactions.

What is a Solicitor?
Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority solicitors offer a much broader legal service. Their knowledge goes beyond property conveyancing law and they are able to deal with more complex legal issues, which is necessary when dealing with boundary disputes or if the sellers are separating and using more than one solicitor.

How much does conveyancing cost?

The cost of conveyancing is split into two categories: legal fees and disbursements. Before you instruct your solicitor, they will provide you with a quote that breakdowns their legal fees and disbursements. You can always get a couple of quotes from different practices so you can make a direct comparison.

Legal fees The work carried out by the solicitor/conveyancer £800 – £1500
Disbursements Checks and reports undertaken on your behalf £250 – £1500 

Disbursements
How many checks, surveys and reports carried out will depend on the type of property, its age, location and value. Standard checks include things like Anti-Money Laundering checks, local authority searches and flood reports all incur a cost to obtain.

Anti-money laundering checks
With over £4 billion of fraud in conveyancing each year, this is a crucial step of the conveyancing process. Solicitors are legally obligated to scrutinise client funds to prove that everything is above board. You can expect your solicitor to request proof of ID, bank statements and further information on how you have acquired the money you are using towards the property.

How long does conveyancing take?

The conveyancing process starts after an offer on a house is accepted and the solicitor has been instructed. It will usually take between eight and 12 weeks, however, not all transactions run smoothly and can be held up for all sorts of reasons, from issues with missing paperwork to problems with surveys.

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Choosing a conveyancer or solicitor

Have they been recommended?
Recommendations from friends or family are a great starting point. Most estate agents and financial advisors will also be able to recommend a local solicitor or conveyancer if you’re struggling to find one. Customer review websites like TrustPilot or Feefo can be especially helpful when searching for a reputable company with honest customer feedback.

What's their communication like?
Property transfers are complicated and will often be time-consuming, so a solicitor or conveyancer who 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 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. 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 purchase by a couple of weeks.


Alison Roberts
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. Alison Roberts, Legal and Compliance Director at Countrywide Conveyancing gives her advice on what to look out for when choosing a legal professional. 

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 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's 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 cybersecurity. They may have more resources 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.  


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