When is the best time to instruct a conveyancing solicitor?
Instructing a solicitor before an offer is accepted can speed up your move. As most solicitors work on a no move no fee basis, it's something of a no-brainer…
Speed up the sale conveyancing process
1-in-3 house sales fall through after offer - often due to delays in the conveyancing process. Yet many buyers and sellers make the mistake of instructing a solicitor after an offer has been accepted.
It can take weeks to collate the documentation needed before the conveyancing process can start. Delays frequently arise while solicitors twiddle their thumbs waiting for forms and documents to be returned.
A solicitor, forearmed with the necessary information, can help to proactively drive your sale or purchase forwards.
Why should sellers instruct a solicitor before finding a buyer?
As a seller, you probably won’t think about conveyancing until your estate agent asks for your solicitor's details. Some agents will try to refer legal services when you list your property, but most won't ask until you accept an offer.
Instructing a solicitor before an offer is accepted can significantly speed up your move and reduce stress in the process. Many of the initial legal steps can be completed in advance, potentially shaving weeks off the conveyancing process.
These steps include:
1. Completing the initial formalities
The solicitor can complete the ID verification, money laundering checks and other formalities. You can sign and return the solicitor's terms and conditions and agree to their conveyancing quote.
2. Completing the Property Information (TA) forms
Once your solicitor is instructed, you will need to complete various property forms including the TA6 Property information form, the TA10 Fittings and contents form, and the TA7 Leasehold information form (if you are selling a flat).
The TA forms are detailed and take hours to complete. The TA6 form is over 20 pages long.
Completing these forms in advance is a decisive time saver. You can download specimen forms here:
3. Locating documents
Collating documents referred to in the TA forms (e.g. planning consents, building regulations approvals, electrical certificates, insurance documents etc.) will save time once you have a buyer.
4. Sourcing leasehold documents
If you are selling a leasehold property, your solicitor can apply to your freeholder or landlord for the management information pack. Obtaining this information from managing agents can take weeks or even months.
Applying for this information upfront means it can be forwarded to the buyer's solicitor as soon as you have accepted an offer.
Your solicitor can also review the lease and leasehold title and be ready for any legal enquiries from the buyer's solicitor.
5. The conveyancing process can start immediately
As soon as you accept an offer, the draft contract, the completed TA forms and any associated documents can be despatched to the buyer's solicitor without delay.
Having had time to review the legal documentation, your solicitor can present solutions alongside potential problems, avoiding legal ping pong with the buyer’s solicitor and saving considerable time
If you have yet to instruct a solicitor at this stage, it could be weeks until this initial pack is sent to the buyer's solicitor. Until the buyer's solicitor receives this information, no progress can be made on your sale.
Why should buyers instruct a solicitor before finding a property?
Although much of the pre-offer legal work needs to be completed by the seller, instructing a solicitor to act on your purchase ahead of finding a property still has significant benefits:
1. Saves time once your offer is accepted
As with a sale, the solicitor can complete the ID, money laundering checks and other formalities. You can sign and return the solicitor's terms and conditions and agree to their conveyancing quote.
2. Prevents mortgage-related legal delays
Your solicitor will also need to act for your mortgage lender to ensure the property you want to buy offers security for the loan.
However, not all solicitors can act for all lenders. If your chosen solicitor discovers that they cannot act for your lender once the conveyancing process is underway, part of the legal work will need to be outsourced to another firm. This will lead to inevitable delays.
To avoid delays, it is critical that you find a solicitor that can act for your lender. Starting the legal process before you find a property gives you time to find a solicitor that is a member of your lender’s approved solicitor panel.
3. Demonstration of intent
Having your solicitor in place before you make an offer on a property will demonstrate to the seller that you are serious about proceeding.
If you are obtaining a mortgage you can also ask your lender for a Decision in Principle (DIP).
These steps will help support your offer and will mean you are ready to hit the ground running when you find a property you want to buy.
No move, no fee, no-brainer…
Most solicitors now offer a no move, no fee conveyancing service, so starting the legal process early won’t add to the cost of your move.
With no financial outlay, there is no risk of losing money on legal fees if your move does not go ahead.
Better still, you will have the benefit of expert legal advice from the outset.
There really is no reason to wait until an offer has been accepted before starting the legal process.
But will it cost more when I do complete?
No. Most solicitors working on a no move no fee basis also charge a fixed fee for their services. This means that you only pay legal fees if, as and when your sale or purchase completes.
The amount you pay should be fixed and agreed at the point of instruction and set out clearly on the conveyancing quote you received.
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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.