How to find the right solicitor or conveyancer
Once you have agreed on an offer, you need to choose a solicitor or conveyancer to transfer the legal ownership of the property from the seller to yourself - a process called conveyancing. But which legal professional should you choose?
What is the difference between a solicitor and conveyancer?
Both solicitors (who are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority) and Licensed Conveyancers (who are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers) are fully regulated and insured. In terms of handling your property transaction they will operate to almost identical conveyancing practices and procedures. However it is worth noting the main differences:
- Licensed conveyancers are specialist property lawyers, focusing largely on residential property, progressing transactions like yours everyday.
- A solicitor is a qualified lawyer, with extensive training in many aspects of law, and can offer full legal services such as divorce proceedings or taking someone to court
- Engaging a solicitor to undertake conveyancing rather than a conveyancer may therefore cost more.
Working with your conveyancer or solicitor
Here are some of the main reasons homebuyers and sellers get frustrated with their conveyancer or solicitor:
- Conveyancing involves a lot of paperwork and it is vital that all aspects are correctly completed. If the solicitor or conveyancer is not diligent and efficient in sending off the right bits of paper at the right time, they can cause considerable delays to the process. To help smooth the process, modern conveyancing practices operate with online case tracking facilities allowing you to access up to date information on your transactions 24 hours a day.
- Some solicitors and conveyancers can be difficult to get hold of, making it hard to track how your case is going, or to get any questions answered. This can be particularly the case with solicitors who undertake other work outside of conveyancing which may mean they are in Court or in and out of the office which can hinder client communication. Conveyancers are often office based which can enable better client communication.
- Check that cheap quotes are not missing hidden costs. Do your research and make sure you are aware of what the final bill will be. Read our guide on conveyancing fees. And whatever you do, avoid solicitors/conveyancers who charge an hourly rate, and be wary of any quote that does not fully itemise all charges
When should I use a solicitor rather than conveyancer?
There are times when you are dealing with particularly difficult transactions when you should use a fully qualified solicitor. For example, if there is a dispute over the boundary or if the sellers are getting divorced and are using more than one solicitor with knowledge beyond the property conveyancing law would be necessary. But in most cases, a conveyancer will be able to handle your transaction from beginning to end
What are the downsides of using a solicitor?
- They are almost always more expensive. Make sure you get full quotes from a solicitor so you can make a direct comparison in price with alternatives, as prices can vary massively
- They might also be distracted – they will usually be handling many other more complex cases with urgent deadlines which can push your ordinary conveyancing to the bottom of the in-tray
- Solicitors often insist on seeing you in person to verify who you are. This is clearly inconvenient and means you should not use a solicitor whose office you are not prepared to visit
- Some solicitors work in tiny practices and have trouble providing continuity of service if they go on holiday. If they are a small practice, ask what holiday cover they have
- Most solicitors are highly specialised, but some are generalists who do the occasional bit of conveyancing. If you do opt for a solicitor ensure they are a property specialist, able to deal with freehold or leasehold purchases.
If you are getting a mortgage:
- Mortgage lenders will only deal with certain conveyancers and solicitors – those on their “panel” – who in turn usually pay the lender for the privilege
- If you do not use a conveyancer or solicitor on their panel you will usually have to pay for the bank’s representation fees. This is usually around £200 but varies from bank to bank
- Ask your conveyancer/solicitor what panels they are on and set out what lender you are considering for your mortgage
Should I go with the estate agent’s recommendation?
- Estate agents will often recommend a local solicitor or conveyancer. But they often do so because they get a hefty commission that can add several hundred pounds to your bill. The risk is that they recommend the person that pays the highest commission rather than the one that offers the best service to you.
- More importantly it can work to your detriment that the estate agent knows the ins and outs of your transaction. Read Should I Use My Estate Agents Solicitor for more information on why it’s a bad idea.
How else can I find a conveyancer or solicitor?
- Homeowners Alliance has a panel of over 150 quality assured firms. You can compare quotes to find the cheapest, best rated or nearest conveyancer for you. Compare conveyancing quotes now from our panel of 150 quality assured firms
- Members of the HomeOwners Alliance get a 10% discount on conveyancing, saving on average twice the membership fee. Find out more about becoming a member and start saving today