What to look out for when instructing a Conveyancer?

You might have heard the term ‘conveyancer’ and ‘conveyancing’, especially if you have bought or sold a property in the past. However, if you are one of the thousands’ of first time property buyers in the capital, trying to get on the property ladder, then this term might be something completely new to you.

A conveyancer in its simplest definition is a property lawyer. They are solely responsible for ensuring all legalities involved with a property transaction are carried out in a manner which safeguards their respective client’s interests (be it the seller or the purchaser). You will also find that your conveyancer or property solicitor will be instructed to act on behalf of your lender too in case you are obtaining a mortgage.

Historically, both buyers and sellers have had two potential problems which they always face –

  1. Speed – conveyancing transactions generally take anywhere between 8 – 12 weeks to complete from you having instructed your solicitors to getting the keys
  2. Local Solicitors – instructing your high street law firm down the road has always been the norm, but what this means is that this becomes a ‘one size fits all’ model. This means you might not be getting the best value for money, or sector expertise which you would otherwise be receiving from a specialist lawyer.

Also a common misconception when it comes to conveyancing solicitors is that they will be addressing all forms of hidden structural issues with regards to your property. This isn’t the case. What a Conveyancer actually does is investigate the Title of the property and ensure the marketability of the property remains unaffected. This is also known as checking the mortgageability of the property.

In today’s online market place, a simple Google search would yield hundreds, if not thousands of conveyancers and property solicitors. Since the inception of the Land Registry’s E-Service, you now no longer have geographic limitations encountered in the past where only Conveyancers usually in the immediate vicinity of the property could represent either the vendor or the purchaser. What this in other words mean is that you no longer have to be looking for a conveyancing solicitors in London when you are buying a property in the Capital. Instead, they could be based in Newcastle for arguments sake and still be able to carry out the transaction on your behalf, electronically.

That said however, the level of service you can expect and the cost associated with conveyancing vary between firms. We have listed some key points you should be looking out for, before you instruct a conveyancer –

  • Are they property specialists or a firm of solicitors who are spread too thin?

Traditionally, your high street firm would offer all forms of legal related services, from litigation, family law to employment services and conveyancing. They might have a good reputation for a particular aspect of law but not others. Do not forget, each property transaction varies and you will require a specialist property lawyer when it comes to buying or selling a property.

  • Do not base your decision on price alone.

After all, buying or selling a property is the biggest asset acquisition or disposal most of us have. There are companies who offer conveyancing from £150 + VAT to £2,500 + VAT per transaction. Keep in mind that all these companies generally have the same over heads as each other, and therefore, for someone to offer fees at such a low rate, they would need to take on more and more cases! It is not unheard of property lawyers to have caseloads of over 120 files each meaning they might not be able to give your case the same level of attention to detail as they should be.

  • Speed is essential – can you chosen solicitor complete the transaction in the shortest time frame possible?

Property Law in England and Wales vary to that of Scotland. Though your offer is accepted, neither the vendor nor the purchaser is contractually bound to sell or purchase the property until contracts are exchanged. What this means is that the seller is free to accept a higher offer any time once they have accepted the purchaser’s offer or similarly, the purchaser can buy another property which they later find. It is therefore extremely important you instruct a conveyancer who can act with speed and diligence to effect exchange of contracts as soon as possible.

  • Do not just settle for the Conveyancer recommended by your estate agent, mortgage broker or sales consultant

Traditionally, your estate agent, mortgage broker or the sales consultant (when buying a new build or shared ownership property) generally always will recommend a conveyancer for your to use for your conveyancing formalities. Don’t just settle for them. The recommendation they make could be based purely on the fact that the personal recommending you the conveyancer might be receiving a significant referral fee (though this is not illegal) which is usually added on top of the law firm’s fee. Always shop around and compare a few firms before instructing.

  • Other customer feedback

Lastly, though most of us do this already; always have a look around for client feedback of what others having use the services of a particular firm have to say. Do not forget that buying or selling a property is a very stressful time and what you do not want a conveyancing company who are essentially a factory (generally due to low fees they charge). It is therefore crucial you always have easy (and direct access) to your appointed solicitor to quickly address and answer any questions you will inevitably have throughout the course of the transaction.

What some of the leading conveyancing companies have to say to all property buyers or sellers?

We have spoken to a few conveyancing companies out there to find out first hand, what they could advice our readers.

Giles Refoy, the customer relationship manager at Express Conveyancing said;

In today’s market, everyone (including myself to some extent) always look for the most cost or cheapest services out there, be it Car Insurance or a New boiler.

We all know how expensive moving home can be and most of us are guilty in looking for a cheap conveyancing quote from companies who either entice their client’s with amazing low fees which will later, inevitably go up as being hidden administration fees or the other extreme being the transaction taking far too long to conclude, therefore meaning your transaction falls through and costing you thousands of pounds be it with survey or mortgage fees.

With that in mind, Express Conveyancing works with some of the finest conveyancing companies in the market, offering a more affordable yet service orientated solution. We handle the customer journey while the law firms concentrate in carrying out the legalities, meaning the transaction times with us tend to be almost half of what the market currently offers. ‘

We hope you have found our article helpful, but do not forget, take your time before instructing anyone. Don’t be shy to ask any and all questions you have and usually, how the companies initially deal with your concerns would generally give you a good indication of how they will be in dealing with your transaction once you have instructed!


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