Find the right solicitor or conveyancer

Money Advice Service

A solicitor or conveyancer will handle all the legal aspects of buying or selling a property for you. A good one will keep you updated regularly, and can really support you in what is likely to be a stressful process. Find out how to choose a solicitor, the fees and the questions to ask.

What do solicitors and licensed conveyancers do?

The first question you’ll be asked when you put in an offer on a property is the name and contact details of your solicitor or licensed conveyancer.

Conveyancing is the legal term for transferring ownership of property, whether you are buying or selling.

A solicitor or conveyancer will:

  • handle contracts
  • give legal advice
  • carry out local council searches
  • deal with the Land Registry, and
  • transfer the funds to pay for your property.

It’s an important role, so choose carefully.

Solicitors are usually more expensive than conveyancers and are qualified lawyers, so they can offer a full range of legal services.

Licenced conveyancers are specialised in property but can’t deal with complex legal issues.

How to find a property specialist

  • Ask friends and family.
  • Ask your lender, mortgage broker or Independent Financial Adviser (IFA).
  • Estate agents might recommend a solicitor as they often work in partnership with property specialists. However, this could end up being an expensive option for you.
  • Online conveyancing is a growing area. You’ll only deal with them by email or phone but it’s often cheaper. However you won’t fully understand the quality of service, you might not talk to the same person each time you call, and they can’t deal with more complex legal problems.
  • Make sure your chosen property specialist is a member of the Law Society of England and Wales/ Law Society of Scotland and a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.
  • Conveyancers must be members of the Council for Licenced Conveyancers.

Fees

Solicitors charge in different ways:

  • A fixed fee.
  • An hourly rate.
  • A percentage of the property price.

Try to get quotes from three different firms on the cost of their service.

Make sure the quotes breakdown all costs, allowing for VAT, so you’re comparing like with like.

They should include charges for:

  • searches
  • bank transfer
  • Land Registry fees
  • Stamp Duty on properties over £125,000
  • ‘Disbursements’ – other costs including postage and courier services
  • additional work if the process is more complex or urgent than expected.

Other considerations

The service you receive during the property buying process can make a huge difference to how easy or difficult it feels for you.

Communication

  • Find out the best times and ways to contact them.
  • Do they have a system allowing you to track how the purchase is progressing?
  • Check if they have a holiday booked when you will need them.
  • Ask who will step in if they are away or off sick.
  • Where are they located? Using a solicitor or conveyancer near to your home or work makes it easier to drop off or collect documents if necessary; and there might be local arrangements or leases, which are unique to your area.

Setbacks along the way

Buying and selling homes can be a frustrating process and there are bound to be setbacks – either minor or major – along the way.

Such setbacks could include:

  • The vendor (seller) dropping out – this is just bad luck, and very frustrating. You can ask them for a contribution towards your legal fees, but they are under no obligation to pay.
  • Uncommunicative solicitor – this can be stressful.
  • Being gazumped – when someone else offers to pay more than the offer you’ve had accepted.
  • The cost going up when you’re in a chain – you can decide if you want to continue with your purchase.
  • Problems found during a survey.
  • Difficulty getting a mortgage.

If you want to make a complaint

Your next step

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

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