Choosing between a solicitor and a conveyancer
Conveyancing can be handled by either a solicitor or a licenced conveyancer, and there are advantages to both. If your sale or purchase is straightforward, a dedicated conveyancer is all you need, and they will usually be cheaper than a solicitor. Conveyancing companies can also be much quicker than a solicitor, who may be distracted by other aspects of their legal practice, such as court appearances.
*In the vast majority of cases, a dedicated conveyancing company is the better choice*
On the other hand, if there are complications with the sale, like a boundary dispute or a complex lease, this may be beyond the expertise of a basic conveyancer, and you will need the wider expertise of a solicitor. In most cases though, choosing a conveyancing company will be the right move.
Choosing the right solicitor based on location
Back in the day, you needed to pick a local conveyancing company so that you could sign contracts and drop in documents in person. Of course, most of that is ancient history now, with almost all aspects of conveyancing done online. Chances are, you’ll never meet your conveyancer in the flesh, and you might not even speak to them beyond an email exchange. This makes the whole process convenient and cost-effective, and it allows you to deal with the paperwork when it suits you, instead of having to make an appointment in town.
*For a simple sale, you don’t need a local conveyancer*
The only time you need to consider choosing a local conveyancer is if there are complex issues surrounding your property, like rights of way or boundary problems. In this case, a little local knowledge, and even the opportunity to visit the property for themselves, can be a big help in moving your transaction forward. If you already have a local solicitor, who’s worked for your family for years and knows you and your personal circumstances well, they may be worth considering for your conveyancing. That said, in most cases, there isn’t much that they can do that a remote conveyancing company can’t, so you need to ask yourself whether a familiar face is worth the significant difference in price.
Choosing the right solicitor based on recommendations
If, like most people, you have little or no dealings with solicitors in your daily life, choosing the right solicitor for your property sale can feel like a stab in the dark. But it doesn’t have to be. We all know friends and relatives who have moved recently, and they can give you first-hand feedback on the speed and quality of service they received from their conveyancer. You can also do your research and read feedback online from past customers.
*First-hand experience is priceless when it comes to choosing a conveyancing company*
Chances are, your estate agent will recommend a conveyancing firm to you, but it’s important to remember that this will be based on a financial kick-back, rather than a heartfelt recommendation earned through great service. That’s not to say that your agent’s recommended solicitors are automatically terrible or expensive, but you should still take these recommendations with a pinch of salt. The only advantage of taking on your agent’s conveyancers is that the agent will be able to lean on them a little harder because of the amount of business they put their way. They’ll work harder to keep the agent happy, and keep the work flowing in, than they will to look after an individual customer who may not come back for a decade or more.
*Always take your estate agent’s recommendations with a pinch of salt*
If you’re buying your next home with a mortgage, it’s worth noting that most lenders will prefer to deal with conveyancers who are on their ‘panel’. This is not a recommendation as such, but it will be much more difficult, and more expensive, if you don’t use one of these companies, so make sure you check before you commit.
Choosing the right solicitor based on price
Price is by far the biggest consideration when choosing the right solicitor for your property sale. The difference between the cheapest and the most expensive can be several hundred pounds or more, but there is much more to it than just picking the cheapest. Like most things, you get what you pay for, so the lowest price conveyancing company will often be the worst choice, because they’ll lack the time and expertise you need for a prompt and professional transaction.
*Remember, you get what you pay for, so a cheap price probably means poor service*
There are a number of things to look out for when comparing conveyancing prices, and you should always make sure that you’re actually comparing like for like.
- Always choose a fixed fee – avoid firms that charge by the hour or as a percentage of the property price
- Get a list of all the extras – these are called disbursements and can add significantly to your final price. Compare these lists carefully to ensure the company isn’t creating a low headline price by hiding additional fees in the disbursements.
- Insist on no sale, no fee – but remember that you’ll still have to pay some costs if the sale falls through. With one in three sales falling through, it’s worth considering home mover insurance to cover these costs.
Other factors in choosing the right solicitor
If, like most people, you’re selling your current home and buying your new one at the same time, you should choose the same conveyancing company for both transactions. Even if you’re using a local firm for your sale, and moving out of the area with your purchase, it’ll still be quicker and easier if one company handles both deals.
Communication is also key when choosing the right solicitor for your property sale. If you don’t want to spend your life listening to terrible on-hold music or waiting for a call back from an overworked and underpaid paralegal, then look for a conveyancing company with an online tracker. That way you’ll be able to monitor the progress of your sale 24/7, so you always know where you’re up to.
Can you sell your home without a solicitor?
The only way to sidestep the costs of a solicitor or conveyancer is to get someone else to pay them for you. Occasionally, to sweeten the deal, the seller will offer to cover your legal costs when you buy from them. This is a common practice for new homebuilders, and it can be used in a slow market to help secure a sale. If you’re considering offering this to your potential buyers, then you need to be even more careful when choosing the right solicitor for your property sale.
*The only way to avoid the costs of conveyancing is to get your buyer or seller to pay them for you*
The other way to avoid the costs of conveyancing is to sell your house to a cash house buyer. One of the advantages of using a cash house buying company is that they will usually take care of the legal side of their purchase for you, commonly using their own panel solicitors who are trained and ready to handle conveyancing much quicker than average.
Selling your home to a cash homebuyer not only saves you in legal fees, but it could also result in your sale completing in as little 3 weeks. With the average costs of conveyancing for a house sale standing at £800-£1000 (+VAT), and the average time from instruction to completion standing at a whopping 16 weeks at the time of writing, this can go a long way towards offsetting the lower price you’ll get for your home.