What is a Conveyancer / Conveyance Solicitor?
A Conveyancer and/or Conveyance solicitor handles all the legal paperwork which is required for any property purchase or sale. Both buyer and seller will need one.
What is Conveyancing?
Conveyancing is the process of legally transferring ownership of a property from seller to buyer.
There are five main steps of conveyancing for a buyer:
- Pre-contractual stage– this is the stage where documents are prepared to transfer ownership, once an offer has been agreed buy the buyer and seller. The documents will include boundaries of the property, any fixtures and fittings that come with the property, the sale price of the property, any planning restrictions, the completion date, and any legal restrictions on the property.
- Exchange of contracts– when both parties are happy with the contents of the pre-contractual stage, they sign final copies of the contract and send them to each other. Once contracts are exchanged, the agreement is legally binding and usually neither party can pull out without paying a penality.
- Between exchange and completion– after the contracts are exchanged, the following is usually done at this stage: preparing documents to transfer ownership, check mortgage documents, land registry checks, arrange transfer of funds, and check to see if all agreed tasks set out in the contract have been completed e.g. any agreed repairs.
- Completion– this is the stage where all matters between exchange and completion have been completed, the money for the property is transferred from buyer to seller. The sale is now completed and the keys are handed over. The property now belongs to the buyer.
- After completion– once the exchange is completed and the property has a new owner, the property needs to be registered with the new owner with the Land Registry, pay stamp duty and tell the insurers that the exchange has completed.
The differences between a Conveyancer and Conveyance Solicitor
Conveyancing can be done by either a Conveyancer or a Conveyancing Solicitor. While both can fulfil the job perfectly fine, they are qualified differently. Here are a few keynotes regarding their differences:
- A solicitor is a qualified lawyer, with a background and education in law. For that reason, solicitors are typically more expensive than Conveyancers
- Conveyancers must be members of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers
- Solicitors must be members of the Law Society
- To re-clarify, both can handle the transaction for you. In rare cases where it’s a particularly complicated transcation (i.e. complex lease issues), a specialised property solicitor maybe more suitable, and in which case a conveyancer should advise you accordingly to see one if you approach a conveyancer first.
How much does a Conveyance Solicitor cost?
While gathering quotes, I quickly began to realise how conveyancing fees can drastically vary, especially the fees between solicitors and conveyancers. Two things became very apparent:
- 1) Prices can drastically vary for the same service.
- 2) Many of them unnecessarily add on extra fees for services you don’t even need. There’s generally mandatory steps that need be taken, everything else was just rubbish they’re up-selling.
Some conveyancing firms stipulated that they would charge extra if a deal wasn’t completed with in a certain time scale. I found that pretty unappealing, because it means that even if they weren’t necessarily going to do extra work, they would still charge more because of possible delays i.e. there could be an unforeseen delay on the other end of the chain. What if a delay occurs through no fault of my own, would I have to pay extra for that? Seemed unreasonable.
The average conveyancing fee for buying a straightforward freehold property is approximately £850, but there are definitely bargains to be found. The cheapest quote I received was by a firm I found online on the other side of the country (which was by a ‘volume firm’, more explained below). It’s also worth noting that leasehold properties will cost more to conveyance than freehold properties as they involve additional paper work and checks.
You can get some competitive quotes from licensed conveyancers by following the link below…
Should I use the Conveyancer recommended by my Estate Agents?
If you’re dealing with an estate agent, more often than not they will recommend using their own in-house or local conveyancer. While this may seem appealing because of the convenience factor, it’s most often the most expensive option, because estate agents usually put a handsome commission on top, which can easily add a significant amount to your final bill.
For the most competitive and reasonable rates it’s usually always best to find your own conveyancer. But to be sure, compare the cost of your estate agent’s recommended conveyancer with your own independent quotes.
Tips on choosing a good Conveyancer / Solicitor
From personal experience, I can tell you that conveyancers, whether they be a licensed conveyancer or a qualified solicitor, drastically vary in quality, so it’s crucial to to do your due diligence when choosing one. A bad conveyancer has the potential to slow down a transaction to the point of collapse!
It’s important to get a FULL quote before agreeing or signing up for any service. For the best deal shop around and get multiple quotes from different conveyancers.
Your quote should be itemised so you know exactly what you are paying for- make sure they are ALL required, and not just thrown onto the pile so your solicitor makes a little extra cash at your naive expense.
- Use a ‘fixed fee’ service
I would recommend using a firm that offers a ‘fixed fee’, so you’re not hit with any escalating costs. Avoid solicitors/conveyancers who charge an hourly rate.
- “No completion, no fee”
Always go with a company that offers a “no completion, no fee” insurance policy
- ‘High street’ Vs ‘Volume’ Conveyancing Solicitors
There are basically 2 types of conveyancers, ‘High street’ and ‘volume’, and this crosses over with what I discussed earlier in regards to the differences between conveyancers and Solicitors:
When you Google around for the ‘cheapest’ conveyancers (which is what most people naturally do), the most competitively priced probably won’t be local to you, and they’ll be a ‘volume’ conveyancing firm. That’s not really a problem, because they don’t need to be local; you can post the documents they require, and talk to them on the phone for support. I’ve done it before, because a conveyancing firm on the other side of the country was £400 cheaper than my local options.
However, it’s still something to bear in mind, because you may prefer working with a local company, so you have the option to walk into their office and sign documents and talk to someone in person etc. Completely understandable. After all, selling a house isn’t exactly like shifting a vase on eBay.
High street – these will be your local solicitor with one or two offices, offering 1 on 1 advice. Unfortunately to make ends meet a lot of high street firms have to multi discipline i.e. your solicitor may be drafting someone’s will or representing someone in court so may not always be available to speak to. High Street firms also tend to be more expensive. Finding the right high street firm is best done by word-of-mouth.
Volume firms – these include the big multi office firms, which generally don’t have a high-street presence. A lot of people refer to these as ‘conveyancing factories’ because they churn out hundreds of transactions a month. They have teams of people doing nothing but conveyancing transactions, typically overseen by conveyancers (not conveyancing solicitors). These are big firms that invest heavily in hi-tech systems to make your transaction faster, so it takes up less of their time, which means they can charge less than a high street conveyancer. However, you may not speak to the same person every time you ring and you probably won’t have the option of seeing them face-to-face.
A conveyancing expert once told me the following: if you have a simple purchase i.e freehold property, straightforward mortgage etc go for the volume firm and save some cash. Their hi-tech systems will deal with a simple case in next to no time. If you are buying a complex new-build leasehold, then you may want to instruct a high street firm. That way you can sit down with your conveyancer face to face so they can explain all the complexities of the property to you.
Ask your friends and family if they can recommend any conveyancer they have personally used.
Whoever you decide to use, or shortlist, make sure you do research! A simple Google should unearth a lot of information. I’ve read A LOT of bad reviews about some pretty notoriously bad solicitors, but they continue to get business because some people simply don’t bother doing research. Baffling.
- Licensed Conveyancers
If you go down the conveyancer route, only use licensed conveyancers, regulated by the CLC (Council For Licensed Conveyancers), which means they are qualified specialist property lawyers.
- Conveyancing Solictor
Most solicitors are highly trained and specialised, but some are generalists that don’t specialise in any specific area, and therefore may not specialise in conveyancing or property. If you have a particularly complex case, or even if you would prefer using a solicitor over a conveyancer, it’s always best to ensure your solicitor is a property/conveyancing specialist.
You can get some competitive quotes from licensed conveyancers by following the link below…
If anyone else has any further tips/advice, or experiences to share, please leave a comment.
Disclaimer: I’m just a simple landlord blogger, I am not qualified to give legal advice. Any advice I give is my opinion based on my experience. I will always recommend you seek legal or professional advice on any legal matters!