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Solicitors Guide

Every house purchase and sale is different but in general a solicitor or conveyancer will manage things like:

  • Dealing with the Land Registry
  • Stamp duty charges and payments
  • Collecting and transferring money during a house sale
  • Providing legal advice and recommendations
  • Drawing up and assessing contracts

Once you have agreed on an offer, you need to choose a solicitor or conveyancer to transfer the legal ownership of the property from the seller to yourself. Choose the wrong one and it could add hundreds of pounds to your bill - or even derail the whole buying and selling process.

We can recommend a good solicitor or conveyancer who we feel is best suited to ensure your sale progresses to a successful conclusion. We do not solicit commissions from solicitors/conveyancers we recommend however, if offered, we would accept a commission or any gift (such as a bottle or two at Christmas). We are more than happy to disclose if we are being paid a commission.

What is the difference between a solicitor and conveyancer?
A solicitor is a qualified lawyer, with extensive training in many aspects of law, and can offer full legal services such as taking someone to court.

A licensed conveyancer has less training, but is specialised in property.

Solicitors are almost always more expensive than conveyancers.

Solicitors must be members of the Law Society.

Conveyancers must be members of the Council for Licenced Conveyancers.

Many larger solicitors practices employ in-house conveyancers, to do their conveyancing for them

What can go wrong with them?
Some homebuyers get frustrated with their solicitors or conveyancers:

Conveyancing involves a lot of paperwork and it is vital that all aspects are correctly completed. If they are not diligent and efficient in sending off the right bits of paper at the right time, they can cause considerable delays to the process – even to the extent of causing the sale to fall through.

Some can be difficult to get hold of, meaning it is difficult to track how your case is going, or to get any questions answered.

An efficient and communicative solicitor or conveyancer will make the whole process a lot less stressful. Preferably avoid solicitors or coneyancers who haven’t yet discovered the joys of email – it will make them less easy to communicate with.

It is also important that the buyer or seller communicate properly with the conveyancer; disorganised customers can cause just as many delays and problems.

They can give you low quotes but then reveal lots of hidden costs. Do your research and make sure you are aware of what the final bill will be.

Whatever you do, avoid solicitors/conveyancers which charge an hourly rate, and be wary of any quote that does not fully itemise all charges

When should I use a solicitor rather than conveyancer?
There are times when you are dealing with particularly difficult transactions when you should use a fully qualified solicitor.

For example, if a lease extension is part of the purchase or if there is a dispute over the boundary, or if the sellers are getting divorced and are using more than one solicitor
If there are any legal issues outside property law, then a conveyancer would have to refer you to a solicitor in any case.

But in most cases, an ordinary conveyancer will be able to handle it from beginning to end.

What are the downsides of a solicitor?
They are almost always more expensive. Make sure you get full quotes from a solicitor so you can make a direct comparison in price with alternatives, as prices can vary massively
They might also be distracted – they will usually be handling many other more complex cases with urgent deadlines which can push your ordinary conveyancing to the bottom of the in-tray.

Solicitors often insist on seeing you in person, to verify who you are.

If they are a small practice, ask what holiday cover they have.

Most solicitors are highly specialised, but some are generalists who do the occasional bit of conveyancing. Ensure your solicitor is a property specialist.

If you are getting a mortgage
Mortgage lenders will only deal with certain solicitors and conveyancers – those on their “panel” – who in turn usually pay the lender for the privilege.

If you do not use a solicitor on their panel you will usually have to pay for the bank’s representation fees. This is usually around £200 but varies from bank to bank.

For example, if you use HSBC you pay the bank, but if you use Halifax you have to make your own arrangements.

Ask your solicitor/conveyancer what panels they are on; or ask your mortgage lender to recommend a solicitor, or what they do if you use a solicitor or conveyancer who isn’t on their panel

Gardiner Tip:

Consider using a local solicitor or conveyancer – they'll have a good knowledge of any laws or issues particular to the area. Although most of the process will be handled via phone or email, being able to drop into an office to hand over paperwork or check on things can speed the process up.

Look for a ‘no sale, no fee’ firm as this gives them an incentive to get the job done quickly. Most ‘no sale, no fee’ firms also offer ‘fixed-fee’ conveyancing, which means you only pay the price you sign up to.