How to choose a conveyancer

Finding the right conveyancer can make buying a house run a lot smoother. James Robson explains what you need to look for and the questions to ask.

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Conveyancing is the transfer of the legal title of property from one person to another or the granting of a mortgage.

You should look to appoint a conveyancer even before you place an offer on a property or before you decide to sell. This way you can potentially clear some paperwork in advance so not to waste time later on.

The cost is worked out on the price of the property you are selling or buying. So even though it may not require any more work to purchase a £5 million mansion to a £100,000 flat, the former will cost much more. The average conveyance fee is around £850 in the UK.

“You should look to appoint a conveyancer even before you place an offer on a property or before you decide to sell”

Before your make an appointment you should ask some key questions:

Q.     What costs will the mortgage company pay? Many remortgage products come with legal costs included; if not there may be an obligation to use a solicitor from the lenders approved panel.

Q.     Do you have any personal recommendations? Do you have friends or colleagues who have recently moved house? Did they have a good experience?

Q.     Can you meet with them face to face? Are they local? Purchasing property can be a complicated affair and constant communication is vital

Q.     Are they a specialist property lawyer/conveyencing firm? Or a general law firm?

Q.     Have you been given a specific name? Try to get a direct phone number

Q.     Can they provide an itemised quote?  Ask them to list all the services they will provide – aim to compare at least three firms

The six main tasks

Whatever the firm you choose, there are six major tasks to undertake for a buyer. Make sure any quote covers all these tasks:

1. Conduct searches with local authorities, utility companies and other bodies to ensure no future plans or financial liabilities hang over the property in question. The searches will reveal if there is a sewer running close to the property, if it is liable for local church repairs, and other key details.

2. Advise you of any “incurred costs” including well-known ones like stamp duty or much more unusual charges like chancel repair liability applying to a few homes near churches.

3. Check and, if necessary, draft contracts regarding the purchase of the property.

4. Ensure your mortgage lender has all the relevant information about the property, from the sellers as well as from yourself.

5. Carry out (on your behalf) the payment of fees at the end of the transaction, such as estate agency costs and stamp duty.

6. Register new owners with the Land Registry.

What else to look out for?

Conveyancing is becoming very competitive nowadays and many firms offer a no-completion, no-fee service which means if the deal collapses entirely (perhaps because a buyer in a chain pulls out, forcing the collapse of related sales) you pay nothing. The price of these, in instances when deals are concluded, can be higher than usual to compensate the conveyancers for the occasions when deals collapse.

Solicitors who reach consistently high standards of conveyancing, as tested by the Law Society can carry a kitemark-style logo stating they are in the conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS).

>>>Learn more conveyancing or find a professional adviser