How much should conveyancing fees cost in 2018?

2018 market research reveals the pitfalls when comparing conveyancing quotes. Find out what you should be paying - don't get stung by hidden costs.

Man and woman comparing conveyancing quotes

Quick answers:

How much should I be paying for buying a property?

How much should I be paying for selling a property?

Are there any hidden Fees?

How to (properly) compare conveyancing quotes

To compare conveyancing solicitors' fees properly, you need to look at both the headline legal fees and also any additional fees in the 'small print'.

Even then, picking the cheapest quote may be a false economy, as service levels vary significantly between law firms.

To choose the best conveyancer for your move, you should therefore check the level of service being delivered by each solicitor on your shortlist.

Back to top

Average conveyancing fees - Updated 2018

Following extensive market research carried out in March 2018, we look at a breakdown of a typical 2018 conveyancing quote. For each fee listed in a quote, we explain what the fee relates to and set out the range you can expect to pay.

We also offer tips on how to avoid getting caught out by extra costs that could mean you end up paying more than you expected.

Back to top

How to compare "apples with apples"?

Choosing the cheapest solicitor can end up costing you more.

Service levels vary considerably between solicitors. Some solicitors offer a proactive service employing the latest technology, while others are more 'old fashioned' and work at a slower pace.

There is a correlation between slow conveyancing and an increased chance that the sale or purchase will fall through. Choose the wrong firm and any saving in conveyancing fees will pale in comparison to the cost of losing your new home or buyer.

When comparing quotes, make sure you consider service levels as well as fees.

Some firms provide direct contact details for clients' conveyancers, correspond by phone and email, and offer online case tracking. Some "more traditional" solicitors will dictate letters to their secretary, and may be difficult to contact by email or phone.

When comparing quotes, make sure you consider service levels as well as fees. 

Back to top

When is a quote not a quote?

Answer: When it's really an estimate.

A 'quote' is defined as an offer to do a job at a given price and as such, cannot vary from the given scope of the work.

An 'estimate' is just that, and constitutes a rough idea of what the job will cost. This means that you could end up paying more than the estimate suggests.

Choose a solicitor offering fixed fees, rather than an open-ended estimate, as solicitors fees can range from £200 to £350 per hour!

Back to top

Is the quote “No Move, No Fee”?

Many firms now work on a No Move, No Fee basis. If your purchase or sale falls through, No Move, No Fee means that you will be spared the expense of legal fees.

Don't assume that the quote is No Move, No Fee - make sure the quote states explicitly that it is.

Back to top

Are there any hidden Fees?

No two conveyancing transactions are the same. Some are relatively straightforward - others can be more involved, and most conveyancing transactions will require some additional work on the part of the solicitor. If you have received a quote, the solicitor should not charge any additional fees for any work that falls within the agreed scope of 'standard' conveyancing.

Nevertheless, some solicitors hide additional fees in their terms and conditions for work that should be 'standard' - so much so that the Law Society has introduced measures to address the problem.

“Potentially misleading cost information may also arise where additional charges are later 'bolted on', or where items are referred to as 'disbursements' when they are not.”

- The Law Society

Back to top

What is the difference between Fees and Disbursements?

'Disbursements' is a peculiarly legal word. It refers to third party costs incurred on your behalf by the solicitor. These costs are then passed on to you. Examples of disbursements are Office Copies and ID verification. The regulators (the SRA and CLC) do not permit solicitors and conveyancers to 'mark up' these costs, so they must not charge you more than the cost to the firm.

Fees are the amounts you pay directly to your solicitor for the legal work carried out on your behalf.

Conveyancing quotes must show a clear breakdown of both the legal fees and disbursements.

Back to top

How to compare conveyancing fees for buying a property

How much should I be paying for buying a property?

2018 Conveyancing Fees and Disbursements*

Range

Purchase legal fee

£400 to £1,500

TT Fee

£15 to 45

Lawyer Verification

£7.50 to £12

SDLT1 form fee

£20 to £50

Leasehold supplement £100 to £350

Acting for the mortgage fee

£30 to £75

Land Registry searches

£3+

*according to market research carried out in March 2018.

Purchase legal fee

This is the sum paid to the solicitor for the conveyancing legal work itself. Be aware that solicitors will usually charge extra fees for services considered beyond that of a standard transaction.

Legal fees range from around £400 to £1,500 - Care must be taken to understand what is actually included in this headline fee.

ID fee

To comply with money laundering regulations and lender requirements, property lawyers are required to confirm the identity of each person buying and selling the property. ID checks can usually be completed online through third party providers. This ID verification process will only need to happen once per person - so you should not be charged this fee for both the sale and the purchase.

Costs vary from £2 to £15 per person.

Telegraphic Transfer or 'TT' fee

When buying a property your solicitor will transfer the purchase funds electronically to ensure that the funds arrive in the seller's solicitors account on the completion date. The mortgage lender will also insist on the electronic transfer of funds.

TT Fees range from £15 to £45

Fraud prevention checks (lawyer verification)

Increasingly used by solicitors, anti-fraud checks such as 'Lawyer Checker' confirm the identity and bank account details of the seller's solicitor. Fraud prevention checks should now be standard procedure for lawyers. The nominal cost is a small price to pay for the level of security it offers home buyers.

Anti-fraud checks should cost the client £7.50 to £12.

Stamp Duty (SDLT) form fee

Not to be confused with Stamp Duty Land Tax itself, the SDLT form fee is the amount the solicitor charges for completing the SDLT1 form and submitting it to HMRC on behalf of the buyer.

Since the SDLT1 form must be completed on every purchase (even if no Stamp Duty is due) the cost of completing the form should either be included in the legal fee or explicitly set out on the quote.

SDLT1 fees range from £20 to £50.

Leasehold supplement

The legal work involved in buying a leasehold property is significantly more technical and time consuming than the work required to buy a freehold property. Legal documents such as the managing agent pack and the lease itself must all be reviewed by the solicitor. Conveyancing solicitors usually charge a 'supplement' to cover this additional work.

Leasehold supplements range from £100 to £350.

Acting for lender fees/Mortgage fees

When acting for a buyer who is taking out a mortgage, the conveyancer must also act in the interests of the mortgage lender. The solicitor will need to ensure that the lending criteria are met and that the lender's interests are protected.

The acting for lender fee will range from £30 to £75.

Bankruptcy search fees

The Bankruptcy Search (K16) is a pre-completion search required by the lender. The search is carried out in order to ascertain whether the buyer is bankrupt or is in the bankruptcy process.

The bankruptcy search should cost £2.

Land Registry searches

These searches include the Title Register and Title Plan. The Title Register confirms that seller is the legal owner the property, as well as confirming other issues such as whether any third party has a charge over the property. The Title Plan sets out the boundaries of the property, land included in the title, and shared maintenance responsibilities (such as for shared walls) referred to in the deeds.

The Title Register and Title Plan each cost £3 when ordered online directly from the Land Registry. Significant additional costs could be charged if further supporting documents must be sourced by the solicitor. Some firms offer a capped maximum fee that covers the cost of all required documents.

Searches (search packs, local authority searches and others)

Searches are enquiries made of various authorities about the property and the area in which it is located.

A buyer's mortgage lender will require their solicitor to carry out local authority, drainage and water, and environmental searches. These searches should be included in the conveyancing quote's 'search pack' cost. If you are not getting a mortgage, you may not necessarily need searches. Ask your solicitor if you actually need to have them.

Search pack fees vary from £189 to £375. Further searches may be required, depending on what the standard searches reveal during the conveyancing process.

Search Guarantee - Some solicitors offer a free second set of searches if the first purchase does not complete.

Case Management Fee

Some firms charge additional fees as a contribution to the administration of their internal IT systems or for online file access. Ideally, this cost should be included as part of the headline legal fee. If not, the fee should at least be explicitly set out in the quote.

Fees vary from no charge (£0) to £29 per case.

HM Land Registry registration (disbursement)

The Land Registry is the official government body that registers ownership of property and land in England and Wales. When a property changes hands, a fee is charged by the Land Registry to update the register. The fee will depend on the purchase price of the property, as follows:

Purchase Price

Registered by post

Registered online

0 to £80,000

40

20

£80,001 to £100,000

80

40

£100,001 to £200,000

190

95

£200,001 to £500,000

270

135

£500,001 to £1m

540

270

£1m plus

910

455

If the property is a new build there is an added fee of £15 pounds.

If the solicitor is charging you the more expensive postal rate, it suggests he is working in an inefficient manner. The online registration method is quicker, cheaper and safer.

See how we compare - Get a conveyancing quote from Quittance

Back to top

How to compare conveyancing fees for selling a property

How much should I be paying for selling a property?

2018 Conveyancing Fees and Disbursements*

Range

Sale legal fee

£350 to £1250

TT Fee

£15 to £45

Mortgage fee

£20 to £125

Leasehold supplement

£95 to £225

Office Copies (and associated documents)

£3 to £100+

Sale legal fee

This is the sum paid to the solicitor for the sale conveyancing legal work itself. As the sale process requires less work and exposes the solicitor to less risk, fees are marginally lower than for purchase conveyancing.

Sale legal fees range from £350 to £1250 - Care must be taken to understand what is actually included in this headline fee.

Mortgage fee

If there is a mortgage on the property being sold, this fee is charged by the solicitor for handling the formalities of redeeming the mortgage and releasing the lender's charge over the property. This fee may be included as part of the legal fee or it may be itemised separately.

Fees range from £20 to £125.

Leasehold supplement

When acting on the sale of a leasehold property, the seller's solicitor will be required to collate all documentation relating to the leasehold and answer all enquiries raised by the buyer's solicitor. This represents considerably more work than for the sale of a freehold property, and a supplement for this additional work is normally charged.

Fees ranged from £95 to £225.

Telegraphic Transfer or 'TT' fee

The TT (bank transfer) fee is the fee charged for sending the sale proceeds electronically to the seller. If the property being sold has a mortgage, the lender will require that their share of the proceeds is wired electronically.

TT fees range from £15 to £45. Note that there may be more than one TT fee per transaction.

If you are happy to wait for your share of the sale proceeds you could request payment by cheque and save the cost of the TT fee.

Office Copies

The solicitor will obtain formal title documents from the land registry called “Official Copy of Register of Title” or 'official entries' or 'office copies' for short. These documents will show whether the seller is actually the owner of the property and whether any other party has an interest in the property. Office Copies can also refer to any additional titles relating to the property and any rights, restrictions or covenants governing how the property is used.

The actual office copy document should cost £3 if ordered online, or £7 by post. However, the solicitor will also need to obtain all other documents associated with the title, such as additional titles, the lease and any rights and restrictions. The cost of additional and non-standard documents can, in some cases, add up to over £100.

Look for a solicitor that offers a fixed cap for the cost of these additional documents.

See how we compare - Get a conveyancing quote from Quittance

Back to top

Conclusion

When comparing conveyancing quotes to find the 'best deal' and choose a conveyancer, you will need to do more than simply pick the cheapest quote.

Cheap headline legal fees may mean that additional costs are hiding in the small print. In addition, some firms may present a lower “legal fee”, with mortgage and other fees listed separately, and other firms may bundle all of these into a single, larger fee on their quote.

Some firms blur the line between fees and disbursements, and to compare similarly named fees and costs, you will need to check what each item actually includes. For example, a seemingly cheaper search pack offered by one solicitor may not include the same searches as that offered by another firm.

With a little work, it is possible to compare quotes to ensure that you know:

  • what is included in the quote and what is not
  • what you will end up paying
  • whether the quote contains any warning signs of hidden or unnecessary fees (e.g. case management fee)
  • whether the quote indicates a slow, inefficient service (e.g. postal registration)

See how we compare - Get a conveyancing quote from Quittance

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

Ask a conveyancing expert

If you have any questions about getting a conveyancing quote or any aspect of the conveyancing process, let us know:

Questions: 2

I am about to sell my flat and I have checked what costs the freeholder is going to charge. The fee for providing the freeholder information is £500 +VAT. Can this really be right? Am I correct in thinking that they are just photocopying a few bits of paper?

Jocelyn 15/05/18

Hi Jocelyn,

The standard leasehold conveyancing process requires the solicitor to obtain a 'Managing Agent' or 'Freeholder' pack which is forwarded to the buyer's solicitor. The pack includes all sorts of information such as service charge and insurance accounts.

For an organised freeholder, supplying this will not be too much work but it has become standard practice to charge fees for the service. Fees tend to range from £150-£500, so your freeholder is at the greedier end of the scale.

You could dispute the fees but having a dispute with a freeholder will highlight the problem to a buyer.

My advice would be to call the freeholder and try and negotiate a lower fee. You are doing the right thing looking at this in advance. The sooner you get a solicitor, the sooner you can apply for the pack. The big problem is usually how long the packs take to obtain.

One other thought - If your solicitor has acted in the same block as you are selling in, they may be able to reuse some of the common information which could reduce the pack cost. If you would like to call us on 0800 612 0377 we can check if we have acted on another flat in your block and can reuse some of the pack info.

The Quittance Team, 15/05/18

Hi We are in the process of buying a flat as first time buyers. The flat is a leasehold property. After exchanging contracts and setting a completion date this week the solicitor's carrying out the conveyancing have sent us their final bill of almost 3.5k. This is approx 1.5k over what was originally estimated. This is obviously way over the average one would expect to pay for these services. The way the additional charges have been incorporated without keeping us informed throughout the process surely cannot be normal. What is my best course of action in disputing these fees? I have been complaining to the solicitors but so far they have agreed only to remove a very small amount from the final bill. By the way they were recommended by the estate agent... I cannot risk delaying completion therefore I will be forced to have to pay the fees and contest the bill after. I have seen your info on standard charges that we should have expected to pay and some of the fees are way over. Also there appears to be duplicate charges but all the solicitors come back to me with are cleverly worded excuses. Some guidance would be much appreciated. many thanks PC

Peter Cochran 05/10/18

Hi Peter,

The first thing to do is separate fees from disbursements. The disbursements should be the costs incurred by the solicitor on your behalf. These include searches and Land Registry costs. Solicitors are not supposed to mark disbursements up and they should be able to provide you with receipts for all of the disbursement costs.

The fees part of the invoice should then be broken down into an itemised list, each fee being cross-referenced with the solicitors? initial quote and the terms of engagement you signed when you instructed the conveyancing solicitor.

If these additional fees are not set out in the terms, and no separate agreement has been reached about these additional fees, then you should dispute them.

Solicitors are not supposed to delay completion based on an unpaid or disputed bill.

You should follow the complaints procedure which must be set out in the solicitor?s terms. Thereafter you can refer the matter to the legal ombudsman. Here is a link to the complaint form: https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/?portfolio=complaint-form-legal. Fee disputes are one of the most common reasons for complaints referred to the Ombudsman.

Assuming that £3,500 represents the fee component of the invoice only - it sounds way over what one would expect to pay - especially given you were ot selling a property as well.

Hope that helps

The Quittance Team, 09/10/18