A conveyancer plays a vital role in the house-buying and selling process, as it is their job to handle the legal side of things on your behalf.

A good conveyancer will be transparent, communicative, and efficient in handling your end of the property sale and/or purchase, and help you through what is generally quite a complex process.

In this article, we detail the difference between a conveyancer and a solicitor, what roles they will perform for you in the process of buying and selling property, and how to get started finding the right one for you.

What is the difference between a conveyancer and a solicitor?

A conveyancer is a specialist in property law specifically. “Conveyancing” refers to the process of legally transferring property from one owner to another.

A solicitor, meanwhile, is a legal professional with more wide-ranging expertise. While a conveyancer is a specialist, a solicitor will have knowledge of other areas of the law and may be able to advise on related issues. Because of this, solicitors tend to be more expensive than conveyancers.

Whether you prefer to use a conveyancer or solicitor to buy or sell your property is down to you and your preference. If you expect it to be a relatively straightforward sale – say, you are just buying a house to move into – then a conveyancer will probably be perfect. If you expect it to be slightly more complicated and think you might need advice on other areas of the law (for example, if there is a boundary dispute, or you are selling during a difficult divorce) then you may want to consider using a solicitor instead.

Another reason to consider a conveyancer over a solicitor is that solicitors may have their hands full with other legal commitments, whereas a conveyancer may be more likely be able to give you more attention. However, this is not always the case, with many homebuyers and sellers experiencing lengthy delays in recent months, as both conveyancers and solicitors have been inundated with transactions during the stamp duty holiday period.

What does a conveyancer or solicitor do?

Whether you opt for a conveyancer or a solicitor, their basic roles in your purchase or sale will be the same. If you are buying a property, the estate agent will ask you for the name and contact details of your conveyancer or solicitor straight away and these will be included in the Memorandum of Sale which is sent out to all parties involved once an offer has been accepted.

If you are buying, your solicitor or conveyancer will handle:

  • Checking the property title and analysing the contract, so that you can be sure you’re legally getting what you are expecting
  • Working with the seller to organise the sale and legal transfer of rights
  • Organising property searches. This is separate from a survey or inspection, and will highlight things such as planned construction in the surrounding area, water and drainage issues, flood risk and any other environmental factors
  • Scrutinising mortgage offers and arranging for mortgage funds to be transferred at the point of purchase
  • Keeping you updated and providing you with the relevant documents
  • Arranging for Stamp Duty Land Tax to be paid
  • Registering your ownership of the property with the Land Registry

If you are selling, they will handle:

  • Keeping you updated on the sale and guiding you through the relevant paperwork
  • Drawing up and sending out the contract for the buyer
  • Answering any questions from the buyer (and their conveyancer/solicitor)

How long does conveyancing take?

With all of the paperwork and administrative tasks that go into buying or selling a home, conveyancing usually ends up taking at least 6-8 weeks, but if any issues arise it can take three or more months.

People sometimes grow frustrated waiting to hear back from their conveyancer during the slower parts of this process, so it’s important to make sure that you find a conveyancer who is efficient and trustworthy. It can also be a good idea to ask them for regular updates, even when there has not been much progress or at times when no action is required from you.

How do I find a conveyancer or solicitor?

An estate agent might have an in-house conveyancer or solicitor, or one that they recommend. Remember: you don’t have to use them, and just because they’ve suggested using them, this doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily do the best job possible for you, so it may be better to find your own representative instead.

If you’re searching for a conveyancer, then the website for the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) provides a search tool that lets you search for licensed conveyancers by postcode. The search results will give you their contact details and let you know whether their firm is CLC-regulated.

If you’re looking for a solicitor, you can find one through the Law Society’s free Find a solicitor service. Make sure you check reviews for the solicitor you’re planning to use, so you can see how other people have rated their service.

What should I look for in a good conveyancer or solicitor?

You’ll want to find a conveyancer or solicitor who is able to dedicate a good amount of time to your particular case. A solicitor with lots of other responsibilities may be unsuitable, for example, because it might mean that your sale or purchase gets put at the bottom of the pile and takes much longer to complete.

Check what kind of communication channels a prospective conveyancer or solicitor offers – whether they are easily reachable by phone, email, etc. Some practices offer an online case tracking system that lets you check how your case is progressing at any time any time of the day or night.

A solicitor or conveyancer who works near to your home or office can be ideal too, as this can make exchanging documents significantly easier. Having a representative who knows the area well can be an advantage when it comes to buying and selling property too, as they may be aware of specific local issues that could affect you, such as nearby planning applications.

While it is possible, and sometimes cheaper, to complete the conveyancing process entirely online, it is usually better to have a conveyancer or solicitor you can either meet in person or easily contact by phone to get a sense of whether they will be right for you.

You should ensure that your conveyancer is a member of the CLC, and if they are also a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme, then this is even better, as it proves your conveyancer has the expertise to deliver quality residential conveyancing advice.

How much do conveyancers cost?

The fees charged by a conveyancer or solicitor can vary dramatically depending on the value of the property and the complexity of your sale or purchase. They might charge you in one of a few ways.

Some will simply ask you for a fixed fee for arranging your sale or purchase. They might have their own way of calculating this, or do it based on a percentage of the value of the property in question. According to the HomeOwners Alliance, conveyancing costs are typically between £850-£1500, plus the costs of disbursements.

Others might charge you an hourly rate for the amount of time they spend on your sale or purchase and give you the bill at the end.

You might want to opt for a conveyancer or solicitor who can give you a fixed fee upfront, rather than one who charges an hourly rate. This way, you won’t end up being charged lots more if it turns out to be an unexpectedly long and drawn-out sale or purchase. If you can, try to get quotes from multiple different firms before choosing one.

If buying, remember you’ll also have to pay for surveys or inspections, Stamp Duty, Land Registry fees, bank transfer fees, and of course the price of the property itself, all of which is done through your conveyancer or solicitor.

Do I need to use a conveyancer or solicitor?

Technically you don’t have to use a conveyancer or solicitor when buying or selling a property. However, unless you are extremely confident that you have the necessary legal expertise, it would probably be best to seek help, as property law can be complex.

Even if you feel you could handle the paperwork yourself under normal circumstances, you shouldn’t underestimate how stressful and time-consuming buying or selling property can be. It tends to be a demanding process even when you are using a conveyancer, let alone when you are trying to do it all yourself! Don’t try and go it alone unless you are 100% positive that you have the necessary knowledge and plenty of free time.

How did you find your conveyancer or solicitor? Is there anything you wish they’d done differently? If so, we’d be interested in hearing from you. You can join the money conversation on the Rest Less community or leave a comment below.

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