Should I use an online conveyancer?

What is online conveyancing? What are the pros and cons, and how do you make sure you get the best solicitor for your move?

Couple using online conveyancer

There's no such thing as 'online conveyancing'...

The term ‘online conveyancing’ was coined by the conveyancing sector in the early years of the internet when early adopter solicitors started marketing their services online.

Since then, the concept of online conveyancing became conflated with solicitors that do one or more of the following:

  • market their services online
  • offer online case tracking facilities
  • complete the conveyancing remotely without meeting clients in person (since COVID-19, this has become the norm)

So what is meant by online conveyancing?

Neither online marketing nor online case tracking really equates to online conveyancing.

Whether you find your conveyancer through a Google search, agent recommendation or by walking into the solicitor's offices, the conveyancing process will be completed by a qualified conveyancer who will be sitting at a desk - somewhere in the UK.

When people talk about online conveyancing they tend to mean using a company that is not local.

Should I use a local or remote conveyancer?

Since the COVOD-19 pandemic, the conveyancing sector has embraced home working. Even before the virus, the consumer legal services sector was already edging towards a culture of home working.

Case management systems and electronic communications allow conveyancers to service their clients from anywhere. Most solicitors are now working from home or remotely, so choosing a local firm is no guarantee that your solicitor will actually be based at the local office.

Modern conveyancing is carried out by phone, email and post. Proactive conveyancers will prefer email as snail mail can lead to lost documents and delays. There is no need, or indeed any expectation, for you to visit your solicitor in person.

The right conveyancer to choose is the one who offers the best service for your budget, regardless of where they are based.

What about local knowledge?

Local estate agents tend to have valuable knowledge about the local area. Solicitors, however, carry out all of their local checks and searches through local authorities and/or third-party search companies.

I have heard negative things about large conveyancing factories.

Piling cases high and selling them cheap is still something to be wary of. Some firms have earned a bad reputation for giving their conveyancers too high a workload. An overworked solicitor will have less time to focus on your case. However, a solicitor's individual workload has nothing to do with the size of the firm.

If, for example, one solicitor of a two solicitor firm goes on holiday or is sick on the day of your completion, his colleague's workload will double overnight.

So should I choose a larger or smaller firm?

There are good and bad firms - regardless of their size.

Larger firms still employ individual conveyancers who have their own individual caseloads. Dealing with a large conveyancing firm will not feel like dealing with a large bank, for example, where you may feel like a number.

Larger firms are also more likely to be on your chosen mortgage lender's panel. This is a critical point as choosing a firm that cannot act for your lender can lead to serious delays.

Larger firms are also more likely to be open over evenings and weekends.

Read more:

Why you must check your solicitor's mortgage panel status.

How do I find the best solicitor for my home move?

Approximately 1/3 of sales fall through after an offer has been accepted - often due to delays in the conveyancing process. A good conveyancer can be the difference between a stress-free move and a nightmare experience, culminating in your sale or purchase falling through.

You should choose a solicitor that is:

  • Available for regular communication.
  • Highly proactive so as to keep the conveyancing process moving forwards
  • Responsive to your requests and enquiries.

Ask yourself how quickly your prospective conveyancer responded to your initial request for a quote? How keen were they to secure your business?

If the solicitor takes a long time to get back to you or you had to chase them, this is a red flag.

Obtaining a conveyancing quote should really be an instant process.

Read online reviews, look at the solicitor's opening hours and ask if they prefer to use email? These are all good indicators of a modern proactive firm.

Read more:

Tips for Choosing the best conveyancer or solicitor

Should I just choose the cheapest online quote?

Maybe - but the deciding factor shouldn’t be price or price alone.

You may well be able to save a few hundred pounds but this will be insignificant when compared to the cost of an aborted home move.

On the other hand, paying more doesn’t guarantee a quality service.

If an online conveyancing quote looks too good to be true, it probably is.

While some quotes may look cheap, there can be costly add-ons along the way that can bump the conveyancing fees up.

The key point here is to read the terms and conditions carefully. Quotes tend to be for the ‘basic transaction’. As there is rarely such a thing, hidden fees in the terms and conditions can sometimes double or even treble your initial quote.

See also:

Solicitor vs licensed conveyancer - what's difference?

How much should conveyancing fees cost in 2021?

How to choose the Best Conveyancer or Solicitor

Your next step

If you are buying, selling, remortgaging or transferring equity in a home, we can help you find an expert conveyancing solicitor.

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Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Author:
Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher