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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. Choose the wrong one and it could add hundreds of pounds to your bill - or even derail the whole buying and selling process.

What is the difference between a solicitor and conveyancer?

  • A solicitor is a qualified lawyer, with extensive training in many aspects of law, and can offer full legal services such as taking someone to court
  • A licensed conveyancer has less training, but is specialised in property
  • Solicitors are almost always more expensive than conveyancers
  • Solicitors must be members of the Law Society
  • Conveyancers must be members of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers
  • Many larger solicitors practices employ in-house conveyancers, to do their conveyancing for them

What can go wrong with them?

Some homebuyers get frustrated with their solicitors or conveyancers:

  • Conveyancing involves a lot of paperwork and it is vital that all aspects are correctly completed. If they are not diligent and efficient in sending off the right bits of paper at the right time, they can cause considerable delays to the process – even to the extent of causing the sale to fall through.
  • Some can be difficult to get hold of, meaning it is difficult to track how your case is going, or to get any questions answered
  • An efficient and communicative solicitor or conveyancer will make the whole process a lot less stressful.
  • It is also important that the buyer or seller communicate properly with the conveyancer; disorganised customers can cause just as many delays and problems
  • They can give you low quotes but then reveal lots of hidden costs. Do your research and make sure you are aware of what the final bill will be.
  • Whatever you do, avoid solicitors/conveyancers which 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 a lease extension is part of the purchase or if there is a dispute over the boundary, or if the sellers are getting divorced and are using more than one solicitor
  • If there are any legal issues outside property law, then a conveyancer would have to refer you to a solicitor in any case
  • But in most cases, an ordinary conveyancer will be able to handle it from beginning to end

What are the downsides of 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, especially for working people, and means you should not use a solicitor whose office you are not prepared to visit
  • Many solicitors have very antiquated working practices, and refuse to use emails to conduct business. Some also 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. Ensure your solicitor is a property specialist

If you are getting a mortgage:

  • Mortgage lenders will only deal with certain solicitors and conveyancers – those on their “panel” – who in turn usually pay the lender for the privilege
  • If you do not use a 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. For example, if you use HSBC you pay the bank, but if you use Halifax you have to make your own arrangements
  • Ask your solicitor/conveyancer what panels they are on; or ask your mortgage lender to recommend a solicitor, or what they do if you use a solicitor or conveyancer who isn’t on their panel

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.
  • If your estate agent does recommend someone, ask if they are getting paid commission to do so. If they won’t tell you how much, it’s probably a lot.

How else can I find a conveyancer or solicitor?


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27 Comments

  1. Hi Nicola,

    Do consider joining us a member and one of our property experts would be more than happy to look into your query. Joining is easy and only costs £45 for the year. Sign up easily here.

    Kind regards,

    Sophie
    HomeOwners Alliance Team

    Comment by Sophie Khan — August 24, 2016 @ 11:23 am

  2. Property deeds information needed. Thanks

    Comment by Nicola Hitchen — August 23, 2016 @ 12:45 pm

  3. Remember to always use a solicitor on your lenders panel otherwise certain aspects of conveyancing work will have to be contracted out which could result in extra costs. The Lender panel was created because borrowers were often finding out their solicitor was not approved when they applied for a mortgage – by which point those who are selling as well as buying are likely to have instructed someone and incurred costs.

    Comment by Martin — August 9, 2016 @ 9:13 am

  4. This site is generally good but some important points are not accurate. Your solicitor should be happy to speak to you to explain the whole buying or selling process. Do not deal with a property lawyer be they ‘conveyancer’ or solicitor who you cannot get hold of personally. Buying and selling is stressful enough without not getting simple enquiries answered.
    As some one said, the SRA compels law firms to state referral fees they pay and the firm pays these, not the client or the agent however, if the estate agent ‘recommends’ a solicitor or conveyancer ask if they are on a ‘panel’; some agents pay their negotiators a bonus for getting buyers or sellers to sign up to their panel firms. Webbers in the West Country are one of the worst for this and they also take a big cut from the solicitors fees which mean the solicitor actually gets peanuts for the work whilst carrying all the risk etc.
    Good agents will recommend a solicitor and if they don’t take a referral fee then it’s probable they are recommending because the solicitor is good – the agent doesn’t get paid until the sale completes so they prefer clients to use solicitors that do a good job.
    If any one needs a good highly communicative specialist property solicitor I can recommend!

    Comment by Sarah — April 4, 2016 @ 9:54 pm

  5. Please, I am just about to purchase a brand new lease hold property from a known developer who have bad reviews impacting on the quality of previous homes they developed and their after sale customer service. I am using their broker and it looks like I have to buy from this developer since they seem to be able to sought out my mortgage in my personal circumstance.
    The developer is recommending solicitor for me to use, is it advisable to go with their recommended solicitor or find another one.
    I am most concerned to ensure that the legal aspect of the transaction effectively covers the issues that may arise with the property and allow me to work on and fix these issues and get reimbursement from the seller if their customer services go unresponsive or unhelpful.

    Thanks.

    Comment by Eby — March 21, 2016 @ 11:44 pm

  6. Reading through the comments it seems like the ‘cheap’ package options all but offer the same in the Legal side, cheap legal advice which drags down the end result. As an alternative which is gaining huge positive feedback local property law offer only hand picked ‘local’ solicitors. This allows Local Property Law to expedite the Conveyancing experience with a quick legal turnaround all for a Fixed Fee without the nasty surprises.

    Comment by Local Property Law — January 7, 2016 @ 1:35 pm

  7. I sold my property in scotland around 15 years ago. My experience was really bad with my Lawyers Robert Thomas and Caplan on victoria road glasgow G42 8yz. I was dealing with Robert . When the property sold and the lawyer got the balance after paying the outstanding mortgage . he added all these ”extra costs” that never added up! you have costs like coal mine report etc which the lawyer takes out the bill. but he added an extra £800 on the bill. when i tried to ask him regarding all these extra costs. he was telling his secretary to tell me he was out of office or he was on holiday. weeks later i had to wait outside his office i seen him and questioned him. then he finally admitted it was ”red herring” and told me he would refund £600 to myself . just be careful when selling property. the lawyers do it all the time!

    Comment by Asif Nawaz — January 3, 2016 @ 12:10 am

  8. the comments in this blog about referral fees being hidden are a bit of a nonsense – SRA rules require that any referral fees to be paid by the solicitor to any referrer, be they estate agent or mortgage broker, are detailed in the client care letter to you at the outset and you should note that they are paid by the firm to the referrer not by you and not by the estate agent.
    I also endorse what was posted by Bryan in that as a solicitor, my heart sinks when the memorandum of sale informs me that I have a ‘bucket shop’ conveyancing organisation on the other side of a transaction as they are inflexible and hard to communicate with causing delays and holdups. I have had transactions fall through because of the delay caused by online conveyancing ‘services’ and on more than one occasion, when some legal technicality has arisen the online service didn’t have the expertise to deal with, the party on the other side has then had to go to a proper solicitor causing the transaction to start again. be warned, although this site refers to ‘ordinary conveyancing’, very few properties don’t have something out of the ordinary to be dealt with and in case you’re wondering, new builds are the worse! use a solicitor and stay local as local knowledge goes a long way in property transactions even if it is just a box on an estate.

    Comment by Serena Glanville — December 8, 2015 @ 7:06 am

  9. Hi Barry,

    You said you had a good experience with a Solicitor in Manchester. I am currently I need of a solicitor for a house sale in the Manchester area, please can you tell me who your solicitors were?

    Comment by Paul Anumudu — November 27, 2015 @ 1:50 pm

  10. To Ashley, avoid Shoosmiths. They will do the minimum work they can. They will not make additional enquiries on my behalf. Poor value for money.

    Comment by Ryan — September 25, 2015 @ 7:02 pm

  11. Looking for solicitor/conveyancing that is on the panel for Cheshire Mortgage Corporation asap! i’m in the middle of a purchase and need someone quick. Would prefer Local (London) but if it has good reviews for any online companies ill take it.

    Many thanks.

    Comment by Ashley — September 15, 2015 @ 12:23 pm

  12. Looking for a competitive solicitor to help with a ‘right to buy’ purchase from the council. Local would be preferred, I’m in Birmingham. Any helpful information really appreciated

    Comment by Patrick Harte — September 14, 2015 @ 9:31 am

  13. Hi
    We are trying to locate a solicitor for mr Richard fredrick gee who was a director of companies house
    Norman court leading post Scarborough
    Any information regarding a solicitor would be appreciated

    Thank you sandra

    Comment by Sandra — September 8, 2015 @ 5:29 pm

  14. I sold my home using a solicitor I found on a website. I was sceptical at first because the prices on the website were very competitive if not some of the cheapest around!

    I chose a quote from a firm of solicitors in Manchester and I have to say I was very impressed with their service. Very helpful on the phone, very efficient with my sale and best of all no hidden extras at the end. The price I was quoted online, was the price I paid.

    Highly recommended.

    Comment by Barry — August 25, 2015 @ 8:41 pm

  15. Hello Everybody,

    I was wondering if someone could help me on the terms and conditions for Payment Arrangements I received form the current solicitors. It has mentioned that “We disclaim any liability for client money lost through the default of our bank”.

    Is it common with all the solicitor and they will not take any responsibility for the money they hold in there bank?

    I sounds very odd to me!!

    Please help!

    thank you

    Comment by Damo — August 10, 2015 @ 10:41 pm

  16. Bird and Co ,Solicitors , Newark office

    Very efficient and personable people to work with. At all stages of the project they highlighted potential issues and did their best to safeguard my interests.
    I am very pleased to recommend Bird & Co for any conveyancing job in the UK.

    Comment by Amelia Fedor — July 31, 2015 @ 8:06 am

  17. I was wondering can anybody recommend a good and relatively cheap conveyancing solicitor. I live in Wigan.

    Comment by Susan mapson — June 30, 2015 @ 10:38 am

  18. there is no such thing as a conveyancing solicitor. All solicitors are solicitors but some do conveyancing , some specialise in conveyancing.

    This article is correct in some respects, but factory online conveyancers based in warehouses do not generally give a better service than high street solicitors and you will also find local solicitors are likely to be cheaper-£100s in a lot of cases. As a solicitor who has been doing conveyancing for many years I can attest to that. Nothing is worse than having to deal with a faceless organisation on the other side of a conveyancing transaction-it means frustration and delays, but when I’m dealing with another local firm, I know I can pick up the phone and discuss the case on first name terms with someone I know and will be competent.

    Also, you will find local solicitors generally will have knowledge of the locality they work in.

    All of this adds up to make it more efficient and cost effective to instruct a good local conveyancer or solicitor rather than a faceless call centre type operation

    Comment by Bryan — May 23, 2015 @ 6:44 pm

  19. Just what would be the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer? I remember hearing about a conveyancing solicitor from someone in my construction project. It was quite new for me to hear about them since my co workers and I are used to saying solicitor.

    Comment by Correy Smith — May 1, 2015 @ 2:57 am

  20. I’m scared to just settle with my local firm but really cant bring myself to spend the time contacting a bunch of bigger firms. Surely there is someone out there that will be on the ball and mess up. Just a matter of finding them. I’ve had a look online like some others have, but I dont know if it will be mostly automated or not. I also came across some comparison style websites that were free to use and I am considering as a start. ‘Compare the law’ seemed the better one. Glad i found this article though, some good insider things I dont think would have been brought to my attention otherwise. Thanks!

    Comment by Jackon — April 30, 2015 @ 11:54 am

  21. I have just had a puzzling experience whilst taking the first steps towards selling a house to our daughter and her family. We are gifting them 20% of the equity as a deposit to allow them to get on to the property ladder asap.
    Having done a search, I contacted a conveyancing company that proudly displays its status as an award winner.

    I spoke to them by phone, was put on hold whilst “something was checked” and then was told that would not act for me as I was selling the house at less than market value.
    Our daughter’s mortgage provider is entirely happy with the arrangement so wherein lies the problem?
    Presumably, if I were to loan my daughter the 20% deposit in cash, then charged the full valuation, the conveyancer would have been happy to have taken my business.

    Odd, very odd.

    Comment by Chris curran — April 14, 2015 @ 3:57 pm

  22. Excellent piece of advice. Thanks HOA!

    Comment by Cherron — March 29, 2015 @ 5:24 pm

  23. When I was selling my house the estate agent offered to refer to me a solicitor. As I didn’t have one I accepted. When I got the paperwork to sign from the solicitor I noticed in the list of disbursements a ‘Sort Refer Fee’, then underneath ‘VAT on Sort Refer Fee’. Before I signed I contacted the solicitor who informed me that this as a fee they paid, not me. I queried this and asked why it was listed under disbursements the client was to pay if they were paying it. They couldn’t answer that. Then I received a call from someone at Sort Refer to tried to explain how they earned their referral fee. He said to me ‘if you have a car and take it to a garage and tell them you want to sell it and buy a new one, but don’t know which new one you want, they can’t give you a price for your car’. I told him that was a rubbish analogy. He got quite rude with me, telling me I HAD to pay and said he would put the phone down on me if I continued to be rude to him . I said no I wasn’t paying for someone else for doing basically nothing and I hadn’t signed the paperwork anyway, and then I put the phone down on him.
    So basically the lesson to be learnt here is – read the paperwork carefully. You could be paying more than you need to.

    Comment by mary — March 23, 2015 @ 8:58 pm

  24. works both ways, i used online conveyancers who quoted a low price but then everything slowed down and when i git my bill so many extras had been added on it was double the quote i had from my local solicitor. next time im staying local

    Comment by sally edwards — August 20, 2014 @ 8:42 pm

  25. Can you tell us who they are please, so that others can benefit from a good recommendation?

    Thanks

    Comment by Neal — July 17, 2014 @ 1:06 pm

  26. Very Useful information

    Comment by Mukesh Bansal — July 14, 2014 @ 7:52 am

  27. I bought a house 2 years ago through a well established firm of local solicitors. They let me down very badly, resulting in the Legal Ombudsman finding in my favour in 5 areas, for which they had to pay me compensation.

    I am now selling a house and using an on-line firm of conveyancers, apart from a small glitch, everything has gone fine (all done by email/post), so I would use them again and recommend this procedure, even tough they are 250 miles from me ! AND they are cheaper too !

    Comment by Dennis Butcher — April 6, 2014 @ 8:20 am

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