Five steps to choosing a conveyancing firm

By Linda Kirk, director of conveyancing, Adkirk Law

You’ve found your dream house and had an offer accepted. The only obstacles standing between you and your new home are the legal formalities.

For many people, choosing the correct conveyancing lawyer is a difficult decision. The legal process can be complicated but also very personal – as you entrust such an important procedure to somebody you might not have met before. With thousands of conveyancing firms across the country, it can be difficult to know where to start in choosing the correct one.

Solicitor or licensed conveyancer?

Not all conveyancers are solicitors, and vice-versa. Licensed conveyancers are regulated property lawyers, who focus on just residential property, whereas solicitors specialise in a wider variety of legal services as well as property transactions. Be sure to check with any firm which they are. All lawyers are regulated and it is important that you check they are registered with their regulator. Solicitors are registered with The Law Society and Licensed Conveyancers with the Council of Licensed Conveyancers otherwise known as the CLC. Both regulators have the ability for you to check out their regulated firms on their websites. Solicitors can be a wise choice for a more complex transaction, when boundaries may be disputed or if other specialist advice is required outside the conveyancing process.

Whether you choose a solicitor or conveyancer the process is the same, however fees can vary from firm to firm. It is important to check that the quote provided covers all the work that has to be carried out. Often accurate information is not present at the time a quote is requested and this can result in not all fees being quoted initially. When requesting the quote ensure you provide as much information as possible about your matter. Firms do have an obligation to be transparent with their fees and if additional work is required you should be notified of the additional fee as soon as this becomes apparent and before the additional work is carried out so there should be no surprises at the end of the matter.

Be wary of recommendations

When your offer on a house is accepted be careful to ensure you choose the right firm for you and ensure the firm you choose can offer the service you require. The cheapest is not always the best and remember that buying a house is the most expensive asset you will purchase so it is important you make the right choice.

Buying or selling a property can be very stressful, especially when you have set your heart on your dream home, so it is important that your solicitor or conveyancer is able to provide the level of service you require together with the relevant support and guidance throughout the transaction.

Many conveyancers are registered on different mortgage lender’s panels so they can act for the mortgage lender as well as you as the buyer. Check with your conveyancer at the outset whether they are on your mortgage lender’s panel or not, as firms which aren’t on the panel could result in you paying an extra fee of up to £300. You may also find you have to change solicitor part way through the transaction. This can cause a delay.

Check the fees

Conveyancers can charge fees in a variety of formats, including hourly rates, fixed fees or a percentage of the property price. Fixed fees are generally charged for the sale and purchase of properties and it is the safest approach, as you should not receive any surprise additions to the bill at the end of the process. The type of transaction can involve different layers of complexity and can result in additional fees being charged, so it is important to be upfront with your solicitor at the start of the process. Your quotation should clearly state all disbursements such as land registry fees, searches and stamp duty.

For many firms, you can find out an initial fee using a conveyancing calculator, which will give you some estimated costs to work from.

Reduce the stress with good communication

Buying a house is such a personal process, it’s important to have a lawyer you can trust. Regular communication with your lawyer can reassure you that the transaction is going smoothly and give you peace of mind that the move is going to plan.

Particularly for a first time buyer, a good lawyer should aim to reduce any unnecessary stress by maintaining a good line of communication and guiding you as the process unfolds – with some even offering a service to track your case online. Speak to family members or friends who have recently gone through the house moving process for recommendations on who has given them a good service.

Local knowledge can be key

While conveyancing can be done remotely through phone calls, emails and letters, understanding the local environment can still be important. The laws around conveyancing in England and Wales differ from Scotland and Northern Ireland, and as such you need a firm who complies with the country-specific legislation.

Similarly, local lawyers can offer an insight into the area, and have experience working with the opposite lawyer before. They typically will also have worked with the local estate agent and developers before and can know the inside track on getting your transaction through quickly and smoothly.

Make the correct choice

When it comes to choosing a solicitor or licensed conveyancer, you want to make sure you are making the right decision. It is worth putting the time in to research as well as speaking to a few firms to make sure you are doing the right thing.

To find out more about choosing the correct conveyancing solicitor, or get a conveyancing quote, visit Adkirk Law, an experienced firm specialising in sale and purchase conveyancing in the North West and throughout England and Wales.