Lockdown #2 update: You can still buy a home, sell your home and move home during the lockdown in England starting on Tuesday 5 January 2021 (unlike the first lockdown in March 2020). But you must follow Covid safety guidance.
Conveyance Solicitors & Finding The Right One For You
What is a Licensed Conveyancer / Conveyance Solicitor?
A Licensed Conveyancer and/or Conveyance solicitor are legal professionals that handle the legal paperwork which is required for transferring ownership of property in England or Wales. Conveyancing is the legal term for transferring ownership of a property from seller to buyer.
It’s actually not a requirement – legal or otherwise – to use either, you can do the conveyancing yourself, and many do consider carrying out the conveyancing process by themselves in order to save money. Some are successful and manage to do it efficiently, while most us mere mortals, miserably fail, and end up waving the white flag.
In my opinion, it would be very unwise to manage the legal paperwork yourself without prior having experience. It’s generally best to use a qualified professional, who is able to deal with the process efficiently, which may include overcoming any unforeseen problems and complications.
What is Conveyancing?
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 by 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 penalty.
- 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 Licensed Conveyancer and Conveyance 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, therefore they can deal with a wide range of legal issues. 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;
- Both Licensed Conveyancer and Conveyance Solicitor can handle the legal and administrative work for you, but if you have a simple case, then a Licenced conveyancer should be fine.
In rare cases where it’s a particularly complicated transaction (i.e. complex lease issues or complex split ownership), a specialised property solicitor might be more suitable.
How much does a Conveyance Solicitor cost?
It varies, but it’s generally between £500 – £1500.
Conveyancing Solicitors charge in different ways: fixed fee, an hourly rate, or a percentage of the property price.
The price can be determined by the complexity of the purchase. For example, purchasing a leasehold property tends to entail more legal paperwork, so the conveyancing costs are usually higher compared to buying a freehold property.
Another point to remember is that Conveyancing Solicitors are generally more expensive than Licensed Conveyors.
Either way, it’s always best to get a handful of quotes to ensure you’re paying the right rate, and work with a Conveyancer which charges in a way which you’re comfortable with. I personally prefer a fixed-fee pricing model, so I know exactly what I’m going to pay.
You can use this tool by Reallymoving.com to receive conveyancing quotes from expert SRA or CLC regulated conveyancing solicitors and Licensed Conveyancers. Average saving is £365.
Should I use the Conveyancer recommended by my Estate Agent?
If you’re dealing with an estate agent, more often than not they will recommend their own in-house or preferred conveyancer. While this may seem appealing because of the convenience factor, it’s most often the most expensive option, because estate agents usually put their own fees 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.
Tips on choosing the right Conveyancer for you
It is commonly said that buying and selling property is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. One reliable way to ease the pain is by making the right choice when it comes to choosing your conveyancer.
From personal experience, I can tell you that conveyancers, whether they be a licensed conveyancer or a conveyancing solicitor, drastically vary in quality, so it’s crucial to practice due diligence when choosing one to handle your paperwork. 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.
Many conveyancers 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.
If anything in your itemised quote sticks out and seems unnecessary, don’t be fearful of asking questions to determine whether or not it’s actually required.
Some conveyancing firms charge extra if a sale/purchase isn’t completed within a certain time frame. What that means is that if there are any unforeseen delays, you may have to pay extra.
I would be wary of that clause.
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’:
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.
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.
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!
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.