Tips for Choosing the Best Conveyancer or Solicitor
Choosing the right solicitor gives your home move the best chance of success, saving time, money and stress. Here's what you need to check before you instruct.
What is the difference between a solicitor and a licensed conveyancer?
Conveyancing solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Solicitors tend to be multi-disciplined covering areas from family law to conveyancing.
Licensed Conveyancers are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). Licensed Conveyancers specialise in conveyancing only.
In practice, there is little to differentiate between the two. It is more important that you choose a proactive and communicative firm to help with your sale or purchase.
Are you buying with a mortgage?
As part of the conveyancing process when buying a home, your conveyancing solicitor will also act on behalf of your mortgage lender.
This is often referred to as the ‘Acting for lender’ process and involves your conveyancer carrying out due diligence on the property to make sure that, from a legal perspective, the property suitable to lend on.
If you are buying with a mortgage, you must check that your conveyancing solicitor is a member of your lender's approved solicitor panel.
Not all solicitors can act for all mortgage lenders
If the solicitor is not on your mortgage lender’s panel, the solicitor would have to outsource the lender legal process to another firm. This can lead to unnecessary delays and extra expense.
As negligent as it may sound, some conveyancing solicitors don’t confirm whether they can act for your lender at the point of instruction. The problem can then manifest itself when you are weeks into the conveyancing process.
Ask your solicitor if they can act for your lender before you instruct. If they cannot – go elsewhere.
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What is included in the price?
The cost of conveyancing can vary considerably between solicitors firms. You should get a few quotes from several companies before instructing.
Once you have obtained a few quotes, you will need to check exactly what is included in the price.
Confirm that your quote includes the following:
- Stamp duty
- Local authority searches
- Land registry fees
- Bank transfer fees
- Any other disbursements (third party costs)
Make sure there are no hidden extras. Read the terms and conditions carefully to be certain you are not missing anything.
If a quote seems particularly cheap, it may be a sign of hidden costs that will inflate your legal fees when you complete.
No sale, no fee
Most solicitors offer a no sale, no fee conveyancing (also known as no move, no fee) service. With the spiralling cost of moving home, no sale, no fee means you won't incur any legal fees if your purchase or sale falls through.
Some firms don't offer a no sale, no fee service, however, so check the quote to see if it is included in the price.
Comparing like with like
Make sure the quotes you are comparing are for the same levels of service.
Services between solicitors can vary, for example:
- Opening hours - some open 5 days a week closing at 4.30 pm - others are 7 days a week with extended evening hours.
- Communication - does the solicitor still use snail mail - or do they still use email?
- Online facilities - some firms offer online case tracking facilities
Get a recommendation
The conveyancing firm you are considering will no doubt sing its own praises. But what are the experiences of other clients? Get as much information as you can from:
- Friends and family who have bought or sold a property
- Online comparison sites and feedback from past clients
- Online reviews
- Your estate agent or financial advisor
Is the solicitor proactive and responsive?
How quickly did the prospective conveyancer respond to your quote request? 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.
A conveyancing quote should really be an instant process.
Buying or selling a house is a complex process with a lot of paperwork and inevitable delays. You need your conveyancing solicitor to be highly responsive, proactive and communicative.
Before you instruct a solicitor, ask:
- how regularly you can expect updates
- will you get the solicitor's direct line
- do they use email wherever possible
Who will actually be handling your case?
It probably won't be the person who gave you a quote. You may be assigned a junior, perhaps even unqualified, member of the firm. For straightforward sales and purchases, this may not be an issue as they would be overseen by a qualified conveyancer.
For more complex transactions, such as leasehold, it is a good idea to ask about the experience of the person who will be actively handling your case.
What about estate agent recommendations?
Your estate agent will probably recommend a solicitor. As agents work on a no sale, no fee basis, they will be keen to sell your home as you are. It is not in the agent's interests to refer you to a slow and unresponsive solicitor.
However, the agent may be recommending the firm that pays the highest referral fee, rather than the firm that is most proactive.
If the agent is receiving a large referral fee, the legal fees are likely to be more expensive to cover this fee.
Should I choose a local firm?
There are local high street solicitors and specialist conveyancing firms offering a national service.
Whatever firm you choose, you will not need to visit your solicitor's offices. The conveyancing process is normally handled by phone, post and email.
Many conveyancing firms had already started to implement limited home working within their conveyancing teams. Once the pandemic hit, firms were forced to migrate their entire operations to home working. Post-pandemic, most firms have opted to continue home working due to the many benefits it offers.
When moving home, your key concern should be the level of communication you will receive. Wherever the firm is based, you don’t want to be constantly chasing your solicitor for an update.
How we can help you
If you are buying, selling, remortgaging or transferring equity in a property, our solicitor panel can help make the process as straightforward and stress-free as possible.
- No Move, No Fee Guarantee
- Fixed fee conveyancing service
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Fixed fees from £415 inc VATGet a Conveyancing Quote
Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher
About the author
Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.