How to quickly find a good conveyancing solicitor in 2022
The key takeaways
Recommendations from estate agents for solicitors are often of poor quality.
Always choose a ‘no move no fee’ conveyancer
You will be disappointed if you choose a service that is too expensive.
This is what you need to know:
Many conveyancing solicitors offer a second-rate service for premium pricing.
The UK conveyancing industry is known for slow and expensive services.
It is difficult to find a professional conveyancing solicitor who can provide a reliable, efficient, and personal service at a reasonable price when selling or buying a property.
It is worth your time to carefully choose a conveyancing solicitor.
- Accelerate your transaction.
- You can reduce the chances of the deal being canceled.
- You want the process to be as stress-free and error-free as possible.
This guide will provide all the information that you need to locate a personal, fast service that is worth your money.
Is it necessary for my conveyancer to be located?
Local solicitors were able to hold a stronghold in the conveyancing industry until recently because potential clients believe that local knowledge is essential to doing the job correctly.
This is simply false:
- It is not necessary to meet with your solicitor every time you are involved in a sale or purchase.
- This means that you don’t have to limit your search to local solicitors.
- It’s possible to shop around for the right specialist and get the best service at an affordable price.
However, if your transaction is unusual and involves altering existing boundaries, creating rights of way, or dividing property, it might be wise to hire a conveyancer who is able to visit the property.
Do you need a recommended conveyancing solicitor by an estate agent?
It’s always better to ask someone who has used the service for recommendations when choosing a conveyancing company. If that fails, you can still search for a company’s name on Google and read what others have to say about it.
Warning! Be careful before you use any conveyancing solicitor that an estate agent recommends to you!
Their recommendations are often overpriced. Many estate agents negotiate substantial referral fees with their conveyancing partners.
It is not surprising that the UK’s largest firm for conveyancing solicitors is also owned and controlled by one of Britain’s biggest estate agency chains.
Although this is a profitable relationship, you can ask your friends and family to recommend the service.
Do not underestimate the power of estate agents to push you for the services they are selling.
Here’s a quote that we found on the recruitment page for one of the UK’s largest estate agencies groups (we have removed the company name).
Some estate agents may recommend you to others because they are paid large referral fees.
You can see that cross-selling is a common job for estate agents. So be careful when choosing your conveyancing service.
Are you looking for good online conveyancing services?
The Internet makes it easy to find specialist online conveyancing firms, which offer conveyancing services on a fixed-fee and no-completion basis.
This is huge because property transactions can be unpredictable and 1 in 3 fails to close.
A solicitor will only be paid if the transaction goes through. This will save you significant money.
There are many inexpensive conveyancing services available online, with some charging as low as PS125. However, you will likely find hidden fees.
You can see that not all firms you find online are great.
We wouldn’t recommend you base your decision on price when considering these online companies.
In reality, the cheapest people are usually the busiest and most difficult to reach.
It will not help to hire a solicitor who is overworked or underpaid and it won’t help you secure the property that you want in the time you need.
Don’t fall for the trap of saving PS100 on conveyancing costs only to make it more complicated and longer!
To get a decent service, your total conveyancing cost should be:
Selling = PS600-PS1,000
Buying = PS700-PS1,500 (this excludes SDLT).
Why it’s worth choosing wisely
Let’s quickly examine the differences between a good conveyancer and a bad one.
Good conveyancers will:
- Perform the task efficiently and accurately.
- Expert guidance and support throughout the entire process can help reduce stress and ease the pressure of moving.
- Push your deal forward by taking a proactive, not reactive role.
- This will help you negotiate with other parties effectively.
- You can speed up the process of completing your transaction
- Be a good listener and don’t be too stoic in your efforts to appear smart.
- Technology should be advanced enough to offer modern conveyancing services.
- At least PS1,000,000.
- Be on the lender panel of approved solicitors. This will allow them to work on you mortgage without your having to pay more.
- Register with one of two regulatory bodies: The Law Society (solicitors), or The CLC (licensed consigners).
Poor conveyancers will:
- Your move’s success is at stake
- Do not read important documents.
- Ignore your phone calls.
- Failing to answer your questions in plain English
- It may take you longer to finish the job.
- You should not fail to warn others about potential problems.
- Ten-fold increase your stress levels
- You will ultimately pay more.
Checklist for good conveyancing services
This is the checklist that you need to use when evaluating any conveyancing service:
The firm should be able to specialize in residential conveyancing, or have at least one specialist conveyancing department.
- Experience is the most important factor to consider when choosing a conveyancing company.
- Residential conveyancing is rarely provided by solicitors who specialize in litigation, divorce or family law.
It is important to know who will handle your case. You should, in principle, be given their direct number.
- Many conveyancing firms use a “dedicated team” model where paralegals and trainee conveyancers take over all administrative tasks.
- Then, a qualified professional Solicitor (or Licensed Conveyancer) will inspect everything.
- This works well in small to medium-sized businesses because it is efficient and manageable enough to provide a personal service.
- However, I believe the ‘dedicated teams’ system is a failure in large conveyancing factories.
- Many of these low-cost legal call centers have “team members” that are nothing more than glorified computer operators.
- This is called ‘conveyor belt’ conveyancing. It is slow and impersonal.
- Although the websites of these firms will claim that they offer the best personal service, my experience shows otherwise.
- For simple tasks like a mortgage remortgage, factories that specialize in conveyancing are okay.
- You’d be smart to avoid anything more complicated, especially the sale or purchase leasehold properties.
They can be used online for case tracking, email, and SMS updates.
- These features distinguish the progressive conveyancing providers and the dinosaurs.
- Online case tracking, for example, is extremely useful because each step of your transaction will now be recorded online via a dedicated site (you are given a username and password).
- You can check the status of your case anytime, and see immediately if progress is being made or what are the causes of any delays.
- Firms that use the most recent technology will save time, money, and the stress of not being aware.
You can operate on a “No completion, no charge” basis.
- A third of all sales fail so it is important to choose a conveyancing company that does this.
- “No completion – No fee” is somewhat ambiguous because if the solicitor has paid any disbursements on behalf of you, you will be charged these. It is only the basic fee that will be waived.
- However, there are many cheap home-moving insurance policies that will cover you for any financial loss.
- It is worth looking into, as you have a 33% chance to need to file a claim.
You can operate on a “fixed fee guarantee” basis.
- In the past, solicitors charged an hourly rate for conveyancing work. This allows bills to spiral out of control.
- Fixed fee guarantees allow you to budget precisely. You’re covered even if unexpected problems arise.
- Fixed fee guarantees mean that the initial fee quoted by a firm will be the final price you pay.
Are approved by all major lenders.
- This is especially important if you’re buying with a mortgage. There’s some legal work that must be done for your lender.
- Your lender will instruct a conveyancing company if the one you select is not on their approved panel.
- This is an additional cost that you cannot control (there aren’t statutory set fees for solicitors).
- Two solicitors on your behalf can also increase the time required to exchange contracts.
Extended opening hours
- Although it is not necessary, this can help you to quickly resolve legal issues relating to your move that are not within the 9 am-5 pm window.
- No matter which firm you choose to work with, make sure that someone is available outside of business hours to discuss your case.
- You can find conveyancing companies that will answer the phone until 7-8 p.m. on weekdays and weekends.
You will receive a “Client Care” letter upfront.
- Once you have chosen a legal advisor, the first thing they should mail you is a Client Care Letter.
- The letter should include a breakdown of costs and a description of the service being provided. These items should be included in the letter.
- You are only bound to use the conveyancing service if you return the signed letter.
Solicitor or Licensed Conveyancer?
Let’s first look at their differences:
- A qualified professional with a broad knowledge of the law. This includes family law, personal injuries, litigation, and many other types of agreements.
- You might specialize in property transactions, or you might do all of it.
- Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
- Only qualified to practice property law
- The Council of Licensed Conveyancers is responsible for regulating them.
Are licensed conveyancers equivalent to solicitors?
Many people are anxious about licensed conveyancers. They wonder if they are as qualified and competent as solicitors.
Conveyancing lawyers are licensed to practice law in the area of conveyancing and land. They must be at least a few years old.
This means that licensed conveyancers and solicitors should be equally skilled in conveyancing.
Although it is unlikely that you will require assistance in any other area of law during a conveyancing transaction, if you do (e.g. if there is a dispute or you need to sue a seller or buyer, or if you find squatters living in your home and want them removed), a licensed conveyancer won’t be able to help. A specialist conveyancer at a firm will, but usually, someone else will.
Compare fees and quotes carefully
Two parts should be included in a conveyancing quote:
- The basic fee of the solicitor (i.e. What they charge for the work.
- Disbursements are the amount that a conveyancer must pay for other people’s work on your behalf, e.g. ..).Environmental searches, Local Authority searches, and indemnity insurance policies.
Although the disbursements should be roughly the same from each conveyancing quote to another, the ‘basic fees’ can vary greatly.
You should be cautious when requesting quotes.
Conveyancing has become so competitive that many prominent firms use tricks to appear cheaper than they really are.
Phantom of the Disbursements
One trick conveyancing firms love to use is inventing disbursements.
They will take on tasks and charge that is not covered by the basic solicitor’s fees. They call them disbursements, or supplemental charges’, and they put a heavy price tag on them.
It does three things:
- This sneakily generates additional profit for the conveyancing company.
- It creates the impression that their base fee for the work is less than it is. This is why you may see some extremely low conveyancing quotes.
- This transforms what appears to be a simple conveyancing quote into something much more costly.
This will protect you against these:
- Do not accept a quote that does NOT fully include all costs and disbursements.
- Pay attention to the fine print and look out for hidden fees.
- These additional costs can be added to your quote to see the true cost of the solicitor’s service.
When is it appropriate to instruct a conveyancer?
The short answer to your question is “EARLY!”
One thing I’d like the guide to do is to emphasize the importance of instructing your conveyancer before accepting an offer.
Buyers and sellers tend to wait until they find a buyer or a property to purchase before instructing a Solicitor.
This was due to the fact that they didn’t want to incur any expenses before the transaction was complete.
Many conveyancing firms now offer a “no move, no fee” policy. This eliminates the risk.
There is no reason to wait to get a solicitor in your corner before you start thinking about selling or buying. You will save yourself many weeks of paperwork and faffing around.
This is particularly true if you’re selling a leasehold home. Your conveyancer will need to get information from the Freeholder and/or Managing agent, which can take a lot of time.
Conclusion and Summary
Let’s summarize: Here are four key points to remember when selecting a solicitor.
You don’t have to limit your search to local solicitors.
Conveyancing does not require ‘local knowledge’ nor the need to meet physically with your conveyancer.
Do not base your decision solely on price
Many of the cheap “online bucket-shop” conveyancing services that you will see advertised can be slowing down your move or worse.
Do not automatically choose the estate agent’s recommended firm.
Particularly if the recommendation comes via an online, hybrid, or corporate estate agent.
These agencies recommend that you use ‘factory conveyancing.
These are often staffed by inexperienced “legal executives”, making it difficult to get hold of the same person twice.
It is a great idea to find a conveyancer who provides personal service and one point of contact.
Estate agents can earn large referral fees for recommending solicitors. It is not uncommon for as much as PS200-PS400 to be paid directly into the pocket of an estate agent.
Do not hire a solicitor who charges per hour.
You will save a lot of money if you find someone who offers both a fixed-fee and no-completion, non-fee service.
Appendix A: Different types and types of conveyancing companies
Conveyancing, like other legal services, was traditionally performed only by firms of solicitors, under the Solicitors Act 1974.
However, home ownership rose dramatically in the mid-80s due to the introduction of Right to Buy. This gave tenants from councils the right to purchase their homes at a discounted price.
The Government realized that conveyancing services needed to be affordable to all and that increasing competition was the only way to achieve this.
This resulted in new types of conveyancing companies, called licensed conveyancers. They were created by the Administration of Justice Act 1985. In 1987, the first licenses were granted.
The 2007 Legal Services Act introduces ‘Alternative Business Structures. This means that non-lawyers may own firms providing legal services such as conveyancing companies.
Traditional Solicitors’ Practice
Before the introduction of licensed conveyancers, only solicitors were allowed to own conveyancing companies. Conveyancing services were typically provided by general practices along with other legal services.
Due to increased demand, however, there are not many law firms that are solely conveyancing companies and do not offer other legal services.
While solicitors can and have allowed non-lawyers in their legal work, all owners of the firm (the Partners) must be solicitors.
This rule was created to protect the public. It ensured that only solicitors, who are strictly regulated, would ultimately be responsible for the work performed by the firm.
The potential loss of non-lawyers by breaking the rules would be less, so it is possible that they will adopt dubious methods to increase their profits.
The rule could also be unfair to non-lawyers, who may not have the same skills or experience as their colleagues but could not be rewarded by a partnership.
A licensed conveyancer is a lawyer who is licensed to only train in conveyancing and is not permitted to practice it. However, he or she has all the rights of a solicitor when it comes to conveyancing.
Conveyancing licensees can work for solicitors, or start their own companies.
There are two levels to be licensed as a conveyancer: a part license holder or a full license. Only full license holders are allowed to form their own conveyancing company.
Some consumers are wary about licensed conveyancers believing they are not as strictly regulated.
A licensed conveyancer might argue that he is better than a solicitor.
Even though a solicitor may not have any practical experience, he can still practice conveyancing. A licensed conveyancer will, however.
Alternative Business Structures (ABS).
The Legal Services Act 2007 introduced alternative business structures, but the law that makes them effective is still in effect.
These allow non-lawyers to own firms that provide legal services to the public (including conveyancing businesses).
There is a lot of opposition to the work, and some fear that it will affect the impartiality of the actual solicitors.
ABSs will need to be regulated by a licensing body (not necessarily SRA or CLC), and their owners will need to pass a “fit & proper persons” test.
Alternative Business Structures was a Labor idea. Both the Conservatives as well as the Liberals expressed concern when they were in opposition. Therefore, it is unclear if the legislation that brings them into force will become law.
A large deposit is required to get a mortgage
A standard mortgage can be secured using a deposit of as low as 5%, but a buy-to-let mortgage requires a minimum of 25%.
In order to be considered a professional, you must also earn at least PS25,000 per year.
Learn more about buy-to-let mortgages in our guide to buying your second home. Use our Mortgage Comparison Tool to help you find the right mortgage for your needs.
First-time buyers might not qualify
First-time buyers can get a buy to let mortgage in theory. It’s actually very difficult as lenders are often too cautious with this group.
You will have fewer mortgages available to you, so you’ll likely need to deposit more to secure a great deal.
Lenders will carefully examine your financial situation and the reasons you wish to buy a property for rent.
A mortgage broker can help you find a lender who welcomes first-time buyers.
Profitable properties do not all exist.
To be eligible for a mortgage on a buy-to-let, you must show that the rental of the property is profitable.
How to calculate rental yields:
- Consider the annual rental income for a property
- Divide this amount by the price you paid for the property
- To get the percentage, multiply the number by 100
Remember to include maintenance, insurance, managing agent fees, mortgage interest, and any periods when the property may be vacant. These costs will reduce the rental yield.
Also, you will need to prove that you can pay your mortgage even if interest rates rise.
Basic-rate taxpayers pay 125% rent. This is calculated at a rate of around 5.5%. For those in higher tax brackets, this rises to 145%
Capital gains tax is also applicable to a buy-to-let property if it is sold.
The rate is:
- 28% for higher-rate taxpayers
- 18% for taxpayers at a basic rate
If you are a taxpayer at the basic rate, this gain will be added to your income. This could help you move up to a higher-rate band.
Mortgage fees can be very high
Buy-to-let mortgages may have higher interest rates and fees than a standard mortgage.
Keep in mind, however, that not all buy-to-let mortgages fall under the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) supervision.
These mortgages usually come with interest only. While your monthly payments may be lower than a repayment mortgage, you won’t actually reduce the debt.
These mortgages can be advantageous because you have the option to pay off a portion of your loan every year if your rental income is higher. Be sure to check for penalties fees, especially if your fixed rate is applicable.
Remortgaging interest-only loans after a period of time or when the fixed-rate has ended is another way to handle them.
This option may appeal to you, but you will need to pay more, be older, and there is no guarantee that the numbers will still add up, especially if interest rates rise.
You can eventually sell the property to repay your mortgage. If house prices drop and the proceeds aren’t enough to cover the outstanding debt you will be in negative equity. You may need to make up the difference by yourself.
It’s worthwhile to build up a financial cushion in order to ensure that your property empire does not collapse.
Before you cash your pension, think twice
Be careful if you’re thinking of cashing in your pension to buy a property.
If you take out your pension, only 25% will be exempt from tax. The rest will be subjected to income tax.
You will have to pay:
- Stamp duty will be charged on any property that you purchase
- Rent income subject to tax
- Capital gains tax is also applicable if you decide to sell
Inheritance tax will apply to the property if it is left to your family members after you have died. Normally, inheritance tax is not applicable to your pension.
Get to know the area
If you are looking for a cheap two-bed apartment in the northeast, it might be tempting. Be aware that not knowing the area can result in serious losses.
There could be a weakening or declining demand for rentals in this area. The ban on most letting fees may have caused estate agents to flee the market, making it more difficult for you to rent the property.
If you decide to sell your property, you might find yourself taking a loss.
Do your research, then continue to do more.
You should also consider the demographics of potential tenants: Is there a demand for young professionals, families with young children, or students?
This will also determine the type of property that you buy to let.