Buying a property entails many processes, and it can be overwhelming to you, especially if you are a first-time buyer. You will need help from a few experts, one of whom is a solicitor.
The person who works on the legal aspects of purchasing or selling a home is your conveyancer or solicitor. They should be your point of contact for all issues regarding the purchase. It can be stressful to go through this process alone, so here is our advice on how to choose a solicitor, the questions you must ask them, and other important matters so you can get the best value conveyancing for your property.
Choosing a solicitor or a conveyancer
If you are buying or selling a property, you are likely to coordinate with a real estate agent. Once the offer on the house is accepted, they would ask for your solicitor’s name and contact details. They will be the ones to handle the exchange of contracts and initiate local authority searches. Your solicitor will also handle the Land Registry, organise the transfer of funds, and offer legal advice on related matters.
To this end, you must choose a professional who can handle specialised concerns. Solicitors have higher rates, but they are qualified to offer their opinion on complex legal issues. Furthermore, they specialise in several areas other than conveyancing. In contrast, licenced conveyancers are focused on property and do not offer other legal services.
Breaking down their quoted rates
For the best value for your money, you must compare conveyancing specialists and find out the likely scale of fees for each person. Ask for an itemised quote to see what the conveyancer really includes in the charge.
Conveyancing quotes sometimes include disbursements. These include stamp duty, authority searches, and other third-party fees. When a quote is too low, it might be because the quote has not included disbursements.
Determine whether their quoted figure is a fixed fee or if it is variable depending on additional work needed. See if the figure includes expenses and VAT, and ask for a breakdown of these. In addition, ask if there are further charges that you would incur when the sale fall through.
Compare the conveyancing fees and the quality of service you will get from a solicitor. The legal process is the most important part of a purchase, a resale, or a remortgage of property. As such, they should manage it at the highest professional standard. Choose quality over the price at all times.
Here are things you should learn before signing with a conveyancing solicitor:
The person who will handle your case
A firm could have several solicitors, so before hiring them, you must ask who will be dealing with your case. While discussing your case, you might initially meet with a senior practitioner but later be referred to a junior team member. While this is not a bad thing, you do want to know from the outset your actual point. Some transfers could be a cut-and-dry affair, so if you have this type of case you would probably get a junior solicitor. For complex issues like buying a house through a government scheme, you might get a senior team member.
The amount of coordination you must do
At the start of your engagement, you can ask how often you are likely to speak with your point person. Ask your prospective solicitor how often you can expect updates on your case. There are times when you might not hear from your conveyancer for long periods.
Usually, that is when you are waiting for results on searches. Some firms have online portals where you can monitor developments, though not all companies provide this service.
Their institutional or organisational affiliations
You must find out if your conveyancer is affiliated with institutions relevant to their practice. In the UK, they must be a member of the Law Society of England and Wales. This organisation provides advice and information regarding property purchases. In Scotland, the counterpart is the Law Society of Scotland.
Furthermore, they must also be a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS). Quality standards for conveyancing practices come from this body. Finally, conveyancers should also be a part of the Council for Licenced Conveyancers (CLC), the group that sets regulations for professional conveyancing.
Fees in case a transaction falls through
Some firms have a ‘no move, no fee’ policy. You must ask explicitly what this means before you sign with a conveyancing solicitor. Often, you might still need to pay for other things, such as disbursements or billable hours already spent on the case. You can also ask if you need to pay insurance to be eligible for the no-fee policy.
How they transact with mortgage lenders
Before signing with a conveyancing solicitor, check if your mortgage lender has them on the approved lenders’ panel. Enlisting the services of a solicitor who is not part of your lender’s panel might incur extra charges. At times, the lender might even rescind their offer.
The company’s grievance procedure
Nobody wants to air grievances, but if the quality of their service was not satisfactory, you will want to express this to the firm. A sign of a healthy company is one with a fair and detailed grievance policy. They will also make you aware of this during initial meetings with you and before formal instructions.
Other matters you must note
Another thing that you can consider in your selection process is whether your real estate agent is an affiliate of any solicitor’s firm. If they recommend a conveyancer from their affiliate, it might be a financially motivated move, and therefore, may not be in your best interests. It may lead you to choose a solicitor who is not suited for your case.
You might also want to consider online conveyancing, which is popular these days and offers competitive rates. Furthermore, with this method, you can do conveyancing from any location. However, you might want to hire an online service based in your area, since they will be better able to handle any potential issues that might arise.
Finally, local conveyancers update themselves on developments that might affect the purchase of a property. They are likely in touch with local authorities and know any processes you might need to undertake. Note that instructing a solicitor outside your area is fine as well, and is an accepted practice in property conveyancing.
Hiring a conveyancer is a difficult but necessary step in buying or selling your property. Getting the right person for the job means shaving off hours of uncertainty, legal bottlenecks, and going to and from various institutions.
When choosing conveyancing solicitors for your case, use our instant online Conveyancing Fees Calculator. Whether you’re moving, buying or selling a house, or remortgaging, you can get instant prices directly from UK-regulated SRA property solicitors or CLC-licenced conveyancers!