Tips for Choosing the Best Conveyancer or Solicitor

Updated: November 5, 2018

Give your home move the best chance of success. Here's how to choose the right solicitor for your sale or purchase. Save time, money and stress.

Conveyancing solicitor office

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 discipline 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 the two.  It is more important that you choose a proactive and communicative firm to help with your sale or purchase.

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First thing’s first: are you taking out a mortgage?

If the answer is yes, the first thing you should ask the conveyancing solicitor you are considering instructing is whether they are on your mortgage lender’s ‘panel’.

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.

Your conveyancing solicitor must therefore be on the mortgage lender’s panel.

Most conveyancers are not on the panels of every mortgage lender.

If the solicitor is not on your mortgage lender’s panel, they would have to outsource the above process to another firm, which can cause unnecessary delays and extra expense for you.

As negligent as it may sound, some conveyancing solicitors don’t confirm whether they can act for your lender at then point of instruction.  The problem can then manifest itself when you are weeks into the conveyancing process.

Ask your then solicitor if they can act for your lender before you instruct.  If they cannot – go elsewhere.

See also: Why you must check you conveyancer's lender panel status

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What is included in the price? 

You should be getting quotes from several conveyancers before you make your choice; be sure to ascertain 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)Whether they charge a fixed fee or an hourly rate.  (we advise you choose a fixed fee service)
  • VAT

Make sure there are no hidden extras. Read the terms and conditions carefully to make sure you’re not missing anything, and if a quote seems particularly cheap it probably means hidden costs.

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Comparing like with like

Make sure the quotes you are comparing are for the same levels of service.

Services can very wildly between solicitors including:

  • 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 use email? 
  • Online facilities - some firms offer online case tracking facilities
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Get a recommendation

The conveyancing firm you are considering is sure to tell you how great they are, but try to find out what other people think. Get as much information as you can from:

  • Friends and family who have bought or sold property
  • Online comparison sites and feedback from past clients (ask the firm for the latter)
  • Online reviews
  • Your financial advisor, if you have one.
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Find someone proactive and responsive

Ask yourself how quickly a 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.

A conveyancing quote should really be an instant process.

Buying or selling a house is a protracted process with a lot of paperwork and inevitable delays, so you need your conveyancing solicitor to be highly responsive, proactive and communicative. 

Before you engage anyone, ask them a direct question: "How regularly can I expect updates from you during the conveyancing process, and what form will they take (calls, emails)?"

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Who will actually be handling your case?

It may not be the person you originally spoke to for a quote, but a more junior, perhaps even unqualified, member of the firm.

For straightforward residential buying and selling scenarios 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

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What about estate agent recommendations?

Whether you are buying or selling, you are likely to find that the estate agent managing the property will encourage you to use a certain conveyancing solicitor.

The estate agent will work on a no sale, no fee basis, so they are as keen to sell your home as you are; it follows that they are unlikely to recommend an unreliable conveyancer. 

However, the reality is that:

  • They are may be recommending a specific firm because they, the agent, are getting a commission (referral fee) out of it
  • The recommendation will therefore not be based solely on the performance of the firm
  • If the agent is receiving a referral fee, then their recommended firm will likely be more expensive, as your bill will be marked-up to include the referral fee.
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Should I choose a local firm?

This is a common and understandable question.  There are firms offering a national service and local high street firms.

You will never need to meet your solicitor as conveyancing is handled over phone, post and email.

More important that the location is the level of communication you will receive.  No matter where the firm is based, you don’t want to be constantly having to chase your solicitor for an update.

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Summary

In summary you need a proactive, fixed price conveyancer with a good reputation.

Above all else you are looking for pre-instruction signs of poor communication.  Get this wrong and you that to good to be true quote will end up being just that. 

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CLC
 

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.

Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert

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