For most homebuyers, knowing how to choose a conveyancing solicitor is a crucial part of the homebuying process- whether they know it or not. There’s no doubt that when it comes to choosing a conveyancing solicitor that it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack but this Property Road guide will help.
There are two simple choices available when it comes to choosing a solicitor; do you rely on family and friends’ recommendations or do you choose one yourself?
There are other issues to consider, for instance, will you go for the cheapest one or find a solicitor with the strongest reputation or opt for a large firm of conveyancers?
It’s at this point we should highlight that if you’re thinking of cutting corners to save money and try to do this job yourself, then that’s not recommended.
No-one can buy their home or property without conveyancing as this is the legal process that will transfer property ownership titles from one owner to another.
This can be a complicated process, and you’ll need all the administration and legal work to be done correctly to ensure there are no future problems.
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.
Conveyancer vs solicitor UK
Most homebuyers will begin looking at finding out how to choose a conveyancing solicitor once your offer on a property has been accepted because this will be the start of the conveyancing process and will finish once the final contracts have been signed and the cash transferred.
Though you may be worried that the process to exchange contracts may be taking a lot longer than usual, you should keep in touch with your solicitor – and you will need to have decided whether you want a conveyancer vs a solicitor UK when you begin the process.
This means that when it comes to sourcing someone to do the work you could use a licenced conveyancer, a property lawyer or a solicitor.
So, while all solicitors are qualified for undertaking this kind of work, not all solicitors are experienced in conveyancing – an important distinction when you need to know how to choose a conveyancing solicitor. This may have a big effect when it comes to meeting deadlines and having the work carried out properly.
It’s for this reason that it would be a good idea 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.
We’ve always used solicitors experienced in conveyancing on all of our transactions and we’ve always been happy with the service we recieved.
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.
Once you begin the search to find a conveyancing solicitor or a licensed conveyancer, you will come across online search results that highlight the potential of using an online conveyancing firm.
Some of the conveyancing fees being quoted are extremely cheap, some offer deals from £229, and you’ll need to be very careful before selecting one.
It’s also a good idea to check their online reviews, but then you need to be sure that their reviews are actually genuine. Again, this is another important step when understanding how to choose a conveyancing solicitor because you need to be very careful if a firm is offering very cheap conveyancing services.
You should also look to see what is included in their fees and when you do speak to one or two firms you will get a better idea of how the quotes are put together and the level of service they will offer for the money.
However, be prepared for ‘add-ons’ which may substantially add to their original quote!
A list of questions already prepared for a conveyancing solicitor will be a good idea.
Essentially, while there will be decent online conveyancing firms available, you will get what you pay for, but you’ll need a conveyancer who is good at communicating and makes you feel confident about their expertise.
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!
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 your transaction completed.
How can I check if a solicitor is genuine?
The first step when you want to know whether a solicitor is genuine is to find one who is on the mortgage lender’s approved panel of solicitors because if they aren’t, this could mean unnecessary complications.
In a worst-case scenario, you may even find the mortgage lender refuses to lend to you if you decide to use an unapproved conveyancer.
For this reason, you should ensure that your conveyancer is on the building society’s or bank’s panel you are using to obtain a mortgage.
For peace of mind, when researching how to choose a conveyancing solicitor, you can also check with the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority who have an up-to-date list of qualified and regulated conveyancing solicitors.
How much does a solicitor charge for conveyancing?
Another important issue will be the question of conveyancing solicitors’ fees, and they will vary widely.
There are a number of reasons for this and will include things like the solicitor’s reputation and their location.
And since buying a house can be a costly undertaking, you should budget ahead for conveyancing costs but not opt for a conveyancer that is the cheapest.
Indeed, if you ask several conveyancing solicitors to quote and one is much lower than the rest, then you need to be cautious if you are considering engaging their services.
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 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.
For those who want to put a figure on the legal fees, then they are usually between £850 and £1,500 – don’t forget to add VAT at 20% – plus the cost of disbursements.
The disbursements that a solicitor may charge will include the costs for title deeds, so you can obtain a copy, anti-money laundering checks and the cost of checking that the other solicitors who are receiving the money really are genuine.
Also, if you’re buying a leasehold property then expect the fees to be higher.
Find a conveyancer
You may also find a conveyancer will charge for carrying out local searches, which could be another £200 to £300 to see whether there are any problems with local plans affecting your property purchase.
As an example, your final bill will be affected by these additional searches should your property be located near a coal mine or a river.
We mentioned earlier about sourcing a potential conveyancing solicitor by using recommendations and one reason for this is that a previous client will be doing the recommending.
This means that the solicitor has taken someone through the home buying process successfully, so you’re likely to enjoy a good experience too.
This also means that if you are asking family and friends about their recommendations, and they say they had a bad experience with one particular solicitor then you really should remove that particular firm from your shortlist.
We found that online reviews are also very helpful in finding a conveyancer, as it gives you an insight into the level of service you can expect. 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.
Before engaging any property solicitor you will need to check their credentials.
Essentially, you want to be reassured that you are paying for an experienced solicitor to deal with your conveyancing, rather than relying on a practice that consists of legally qualified juniors.
At this point, you should never be shy about asking a conveyancing solicitor about their experience, and you should also ask for their qualifications.
Remember, you’re paying for their services and want to be reassured that they have the capabilities and expertise to deal with your home buying process without any issues – this is so important when you have to know how to choose a conveyancing solicitor.
One last word about recommendations; you really should not take an estate agent’s recommendation and here’s why: you may find that they are on a commission when they recommend a firm of solicitors and there’s no guarantee of the service you will enjoy.
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!
Do I need a solicitor and a conveyancer?
While the subject of conveyancing can be confusing, if you need to know whether you need a solicitor and a conveyancer then – unless your property purchase is a commercial undertaking or particularly complex – then no, you don’t need both a solicitor and a conveyancer.
Communication between you and your conveyancing solicitor is key because the home buying process is one that can be confusing and convoluted.
This is particularly true if you are a first-time buyer, so you’ll need a conveyancer who can effectively communicate with you about what the actual process is and talk you through it, stage-by-stage.
It’s also important that you don’t have to chase your solicitors as this will create unnecessary stress and the process of conveyancing is completed without any hiccups or distractions.
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 tasks you will need to do when buying a property.
You’ll need a solicitor that is not only well qualified but can communicate well and has lots of experience, so they can take a stressful situation and only help alleviate it for you.
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.
If you want to know, ‘how to choose a conveyancing solicitor’ then you need to keep things simple, keep them local and understand what you are paying for.