Should I do my conveyancing online?
In your search for a conveyancer you may find that online conveyancing services come up cheaper. But are they right for you?
You may have come across online firms when you were comparing conveyancing quotes, and while they may be the most affordable option, there are some things you need to consider before you decide to instruct one.
Check the customer reviews
Whether your conveyancer operates online only or works from an office local to you, there will be some that offer a brilliant service at a great price while others will charge over the odds and leave a lot to be desired.
For that reason, it’s a good idea to check out the online reviews before making your choice. Even though it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether reviews are genuine, this is still a useful first step in your research.
Shop around online for quotes and make sure you compare like for like. See our guide on conveyancing fees to give you an idea of what conveyancers include in their fees and how much you should expect to pay. Once you have a few quotes, speak to the firms directly if you need clarification and to get a feel for their service. Here is a list of questions to ask your conveyancing solicitor before you decide on which firm to instruct.
If possible, investigate recommendations from friends who have had a good experience of using a particular firm – whether online or otherwise.
BUT do not automatically choose the firm recommended to you by your estate agent or mortgage broker without comparing quotes and checking their service first. They could be guided by which firm will pay them the highest referral fees rather than which provides the best service.
What level of support do I need?
One factor you need to consider before choosing the online or high street route is how you prefer to communicate. Are you comfortable with interacting digitally on your computer, smartphone or tablet and by telephone? Do you feel safer when you have face-to-face contact? Many online conveyancers operate a call centre-type approach. On the plus side, you can often contact them outside normal office hours and have an online system for progressing your case from the comfort of your own home. On the downside, you are unlikely to be given a single contact to deal with.
Conversely, if you use a local firm you will be able to pop into the office and check on progress or apply the pressure in person if things are taking too long. You are more likely to be assigned to an individual conveyancer or solicitor, but they may have strict 9-5 opening hours.
How important is local knowledge?
You are just as likely to find out about local developments or other factors that might impact your purchase through the searches that are carried out, so the necessity for local knowledge is probably overrated. The most important point is to make sure that you choose a well-reviewed conveyancer in the first place, as this will have much more of a bearing on the quality of advice they provide than their postcode.
Is online conveyancing cheaper?
In some cases, online conveyancing may be cheaper, but it’s important that you don’t fall into the budget airlines trap where the headline price looks great value but there are lots of add-ons that push up the cost of conveyancing considerably. Make sure you get a full list of all the charges upfront so you can make a fair comparison with other services. Also make sure you ask whether the company has indemnity insurance and what it will cover you for in case they make costly errors.
Beware the potential for leaseholder woes
Clearly it is the responsibility of any good conveyancer to explain what your lease means for you, and any restrictions and costs involved. If you are not buying your property freehold you need to be very careful about potential leaseholder problems. Make sure you grill your conveyancer and are comfortable they have looked closely at the lease for any unfavourable clauses that could cost you dearly in the future.
The best way to reassure yourself is to have a good understanding of the kind of difficulties that might arise so that you can ask the right questions. Read more about the differences between buying freehold and leasehold in our guide as well as the potential pitfalls and disputes over service charges. Forewarned is forearmed
The HomeOwners Alliance can provide members with guidance on leasehold issues. To see how we can help, find out more about becoming a member.
Keeping track of my case
Online conveyancers usually offer online case tracking, which helps you to keep an eye on progress and provides a degree of transparency. You can even respond to queries and scan documents via the system rather than posting documents back and forth. It can be useful if the firm is reliable and it is genuinely up-to-date. However, if the firm is remiss or juggling a heavy caseload then it might not be updated and it is no guarantee of your case proceeding any faster.
Before you appoint a conveyancer, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the conveyancing process so that you know what to expect.
Could I do it myself?
It is possible to do the conveyancing yourself, but beware there are risks and it could end up costing you more in the long run. Read more about DIY conveyancing to understand this further.
So, which is best?
As long as you’re comparing like-for-like when you get your quotes and have an indication of customer ratings and reviews, then there isn’t much in the decision between high street or online conveyancers. In our opinion it comes down to the quality of the conveyancer on your case and you being an informed and responsive client.