Buying or selling a home can be stressful, which is why the next most important decision to make is who should represent your legal interests. A Solicitor or Licensed Conveyancer will both be qualified and able to smooth the journey to completion: but how they work and what they charge can vary.
We recommend getting at least three fee quotations and actually speaking to conveyancers in person. This will give you an indication of how each of them works. Good personal chemistry also matters because your dealings together will last typically from eight to twelve weeks.
Make sure that any quotation breaks down all costs, such as VAT when applicable. It should include disbursements such as those for searches, Land Registry fees and Stamp Duty Land Tax.
Look at it carefully. Firms that charge the least will have to take on much more work to stay in business. This may mean they can devote less time to you. Exceptionally cheap quotations may mean additional costs being added to inflate that original bargain price
Nobody needs that sort of extra stress. Whilst it may be tempting to choose a conveyancer on price alone, exercise caution. Run a checklist for yourself: are they friendly, helpful, informative and proactive? Try to speak with a satisfied customer or act on a personal recommendation. Another important consideration is their company structure: Is your conveyancer a sole operator, for example? If so, what happens during holidays or sickness? Property transactions can be time critical.
Other key questions to have answered in advance are:
- What are the best times and ways to keep in touch?
- Do they have a system that allows progress to be tracked?
- Do they have an assistant who is up-to-date with developments?
- Who steps in during absences from the office?
Tip: In practical terms, using a conveyancer near to home or work makes it easier to drop off or collect documents if necessary; and there might be local arrangements or leases unique to your area with which they will be familiar.
Think about what levels of service you expect to receive and ask yourself these questions:
- Do you prefer email or phone contact?
- Do you expect to receive weekly or alternate day updates, even if there is no progress to report?
- Do you have a completion date that you really must achieve?
Accreditations – they matter
Always look for Law Society accreditation. This is reassurance that the firm you intend to use is working to top benchmarked standards, and that the conveyancer you have chosen has the requisite skills, knowledge and approach.
Lexcel is the Law Society international practice management standard, representing excellence in conveyancing and client care. Lexcel accredited firms undergo rigorous independent assessment every year to ensure that they continue to meet the very high required standards.
The Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) is another important standard, providing an equally high quality mark for residential conveyancing practices. Members are annually reassessed for accreditation.
Tip: Mortgage lenders will only deal with certain firms of conveyancers who are on their panel. Ask whether your conveyancer is on your chosen lender’s panel.
Online conveyancing is growing and is often a cheaper option. An online-based firm can lower costs by reducing overheads and not running large offices. Much of the routine work takes place in a call centre environment, further reducing fees, but also affecting the amount of personal attention your matter may receive. The person who answers your call may not be your dedicated “file handler” but instead someone available reading notes from a central computer system. In addition, complex issues, such as deeds of variation, will be outsourced, causing delays and increased costs.
Buying a property – What happens
Your conveyancer begins by collecting documents to show that any work carried out on the property is to required standards. This ensures that:
- Building work meets construction and planning regulations.
- New windows, doors and electrical work are all certified to relevant industry standards.
Your conveyancer will also uncover any financial obligations for maintenance, such as service charges at a leasehold property, or for a private road or private drainage; and will identify if you are responsible for maintaining boundaries at the property.
Searches are carried out to discover any past planning applications; whether the property is listed or in a conservation area; any rights of way or road schemes that might impact; connection to mains water and drainage; and any environmental concerns, such as flooding risk or land contamination.
Your conveyancer will check that you are able to use the property as intended. For example, if you need to park a caravan or commercial vehicle on your drive, restrictive covenants will be examined to ensure that nothing prevents you from doing so. If you plan on building an extension or conservatory in future, the conveyancer will find any limitations from, for example, underground utilities pipes and cables crossing the property.
Increasingly, property transactions are at high risk of fraud. Conveyancers check that all law firms involved in the chain are legitimate, that the seller has the right to sell the property, and that a safe transfer of funds along the chain takes place.
Your conveyancer will ensure that everything that has been agreed or promised to you is contractually binding, including the date you will move. This will include what is to be left in the property being purchased and any repairs due to be finished prior to your moving in.
After completion, your conveyancer will continue working to ensure that the property is registered promptly and correctly in your name at the Land Registry. Once registered your conveyancer will keep a detailed file regarding your transaction. This further reassurance ensures that issues emerging following completion can be dealt with swiftly using documentary evidence from the file, should that be necessar
Our dedicated team of conveyancers take the stress and strain out of moving, working closely with estate agents and mortgage brokers to ensure that all parties are up to date with the latest developments. But above all, we make sure that you get the best legal support. Contact us on 01273 685 888 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.