How To Choose A Conveyancing Solicitor

How to choose a conveyancing solicitor
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Engaging a solicitor is part of the process of buying a home for the majority of people. So knowing how to choose a conveyancing solicitor is important. We will tell you all you need to know.

Buying a home is one of the most stressful events in your life and not just because it’s probably the most expensive purchase you ever make. The conveyancing process is complex and can be long-winded and frustrating.

Having an experienced solicitor at our side will make the whole process easier and a tad less stressful.

While you aren’t legally obliged to have a solicitor, we wouldn’t recommend DIY conveyancing, unless you have a legal background. That’s because transferring ownership from one person to another is a legal process.

And if you buy with a mortgage, you will have to have a solicitor as lenders require this. So let’s look at what to consider when choosing a conveyancing solicitor.

We should also highlight that these tips for finding a conveyancing solicitor relate to property purchases in England – there’s a different system in place for buying property in Scotland.

Things to consider when choosing a conveyancing solicitor

Legal fees are a big part of the costs involved when you buy a home, so you want to make sure that you get a good service for your money. This means choosing the right professional is vital.

Here are the things to look out for before hiring your solicitor.

1. Conveyancer vs solicitor

Frist you have to decide if you want to use a conveyancer or a solicitor, because in the UK you can use either. But what’s the difference?

The main difference is that a solicitor will have a university law degree. While a licensed conveyancer might also have a degree in law, it’s not a necessity. They might have chosen a different route, such as an apprenticeship or a relevant diploma.

A solicitor will have a wide knowledge and experience in legal matters and the law. While a conveyancer only focusses on property law. So not every solicitor will be suitable to help you buy your home, therefore, you want one that has experience of property law.

For this reason you want to either hire a solicitor who is experienced in residential property buying and selling or opt for a licensed conveyancer who will only do this type of work.

Both will follow protocols and are knowledgable when it comes to property law. However, a solicitor will be able to offer more legal services. And if the transaction is more complex, a solicitor might be the better option.

As a result, solicitors tend to be more expensive than licensed conveyancers.

But ultimately, whether you choose a conveyancing solicitor or a conveyancer is down to personal preference.

We’ve mostly used solicitors experienced in conveyancing on all of our transactions, and we’ve always been happy with the service we received.

To help, we have a useful conveyancing solicitor finding tool which is easy to use and will help you find conveyancers near you who offer good value for money.

2. Online conveyancing vs traditional solicitor or conveyancer

Online conveyancing firms

Online conveyancing firms have become more popular in recent years, like online estate agents. They don’t have offices and everything is done online.

As a result, their costs are lower, so they offer cheaper deals. Some offer deals from as low as £199. Given that most traditional solicitors are much more expensive, it might be tempting.

One thing to be careful about is that the cheapest packages might not include everything you will need. And to get these necessary additional services, you have to pay extra. So the initial low price could grow very fast.

So it’s important to always check what services are included in the quoted price to make sure you get everything you need. Even with various add-ons, it might still be cheaper than a traditional solicitor or conveyancer.

Conventional solicitors and conveyancers will have a fixed price for the conveyancing process, which will include all the vital services for a standard property purchase. Only in certain circumstances might they have to add additional fees, for example if the purchase is much more complex than anticipated.

But generally, the price they quote you is the price you pay.

Like with the first question, the answer here is down to personal choice again. It’s important that you trust the firm you hire and feel comfortable with them. Whether they are online or traditional doesn’t matter.

We have used both online conveyancing firms and local solicitors and both are good. However, of the two, we prefer the online conveyancing firms. That’s mostly because they tend to offer longer opening hours (including weekends), which we’ve found really useful when trying to get our transaction completed.

However, traditional solicitors are moving with the times and are making contact easier – and offering ways for clients to see how their conveyance is progressing. Always check!

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3. Budget

Cost of conveyancing solicitor

The fees of solicitors and conveyancers vary considerably, anywhere from £900 to £5,000 for a freehold, depending on the value of the property. So it’s always good to get quotes from at least three firms you are considering hiring. Assess them carefully and compare the level of service you would get.

While it might be tempting to go for the cheapest offer, it might not be the wisest choice. If one solicitor is much cheaper than the others, there might be a reason.

While we have never gone with the cheapest conveyancing solicitor, one of our buyers did. And to be honest, it was a nightmare.

Our buyer’s solicitor was very slow and often didn’t communicate at all with our solicitor.

It got so bad, that our solicitor had to ask us to ask the buyer to ask their solicitor to reply to our solicitor. Not only was this very stressful and frustrating, it also slowed down the whole process. Thankfully, our buyer was fully aware of the issues and did his best to push from his side.

We just wish he would have taken the time to read the reviews of the solicitor he chose, because there were many telling about the same issues. So make sure you don’t just go for the cheapest you can find.

Nobody wants to overspend, but remember, you get for what you pay, as our experience has shown. So make sure you get quotes from several solicitors to make sure you get a good service for a price that works for you.

4. Quality

legal uk

Having an experienced solicitor or conveyancer who knows what they do and can deliver a good quality service is vital to make your purchase less stressful. But how do you know if a solicitor is good?

You can also check with the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority who have an up-to-date list of qualified and regulated conveyancing solicitors.

Many conveyancers are a member of the Council for Licenced Conveyancers (CLC), so you can check with them to find a qualified conveyancer for your property purchase.

Both bodies ensure that their members follow certain standards and protocols that ensure they deliver a good quality service.

Another way to find a legal professional is to check your lender’s list of approved solicitors or conveyancers. The advantage of choosing one on their list is that you won’t have any issues further down the line.

But still get quotes from several to make sure you get the right solicitor or conveyancer at the right price for you.

5. Recommendations and reviews

conveyancing solicitor

For us, one vital step in choosing a conveyancing solicitor is by looking for recommendations from friends or family. If they had a good experience, the chances are so will you. Likewise, they might be able to tell who not to go with.

Those recommendations can be very valuable because they come from someone who has used the solicitor or conveyancer.

Estate agents also tend to have a recommended solicitor they can refer you to. There are two things to keep in mind though. First, the estate agent is unlikely to have used them so won’t know what the experience for you might be like.

Secondly, they will get a commission for referring you. This isn’t a problem in itself, but it could mean that they recommend someone who isn’t as good just because they get paid.

On the other hand, by recommending them they put their reputation on the line. If customers have a bad experience, it might reflect badly on them.

We’ve had both good and bad experiences when we have used the solicitors recommended by the estate agent. It’s a real mixed bag and a bit of a lottery.

That’s why we now prefer to select the solicitor ourselves. It’s often cheaper this way and at least we only have ourselves to blame if we pick a bad one!

Another way to ensure that you get the service you expect is to look at reviews.

We found that online reviews are also very helpful in finding a solicitor or conveyancer, and we wouldn’t dream of hiring one without checking their reviews.

If you have used a solicitor firm before and were happy, why not use them again? That’s what we did, because we were really impressed by the solicitor that did the conveyancing on our first home. We have gone back to the same firm since and didn’t regret it a bit.

6. Experience and local knowledge

Property solicitor

The conveyancing process can be complex and often throws up unexpected issues. So you need an experienced solicitor or conveyancer who is able to deal with anything that might come up.

We found that asking about their experience is a useful question, because it gives you the reassurance that they have come across many different scenarios and know how to handle them. Don’t be afraid to ask this question!

For example, a conveyancer that has never managed the purchase of a leasehold property might be a bit out of their depth and as a result won’t give you as good a service as one that has done it before.

Another important criteria is local knowledge. Areas with a mining history will bring out different issues than an area without. Not only will the potential issues be different, but the necessary searches will also differ.

A solicitor or conveyancer that has local knowledge will be well-placed to ensure that the right searches are orderd and unnecessary once are left out. So you can have confidence that you aren’t missing anything but that you also don’t overpay.

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How to choose a conveyancing solicitor

Finally, there’s no doubt that knowing how to choose a conveyancing solicitor will be one of the most important skill you need when buying a property.

With an experienced, highly qualified solicitor or conveyancer, the buying process will be less stressful and smoother. The right price is also important, so make sure to get quotes from more than one firm.

You also want one that is a good communicator, as communication is key. The last solicitor we used was a real gem.

Not only was he a real good communicator, he was also very experienced and always calm. This was particularly useful when our buyer contacted us on moving day in the morning to say that their moving company had cancelled on them!

We contacted our solicitor panicking, because we were worried that it would mean the move wouldn’t happen. Our solicitor was able to calm us down and reassure us that he had such situations before and that everybody did move on the day planned.

And he was right, in the end all ended well, despite it being the most stressful move we ever had. Knowing that you have a competent solicitor who has your back is really worth it.

This means you can then focus on the rest of the jobs necessary for moving into a new home, such as organising the removal service and the utilities.

Authors

  • Steve Lumley

    Steve Lumley has years of experience writing about property. His output has covered everything from property investment, news for landlords and student tenants to articles on how to run a successful portfolio and starting out as a property investor. He has also written several books on the subject.

    View all posts
  • Paul James

    Paul James, is a marketing expert with a passion for property. As well as being a property investor, Paul has also worked within the marketing departments of some of the UK’s leading estate agents. Paul is the founder of Property Road.

    View all posts
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