How to find a solicitor or conveyancer and what to ask them
Choosing a solicitor or conveyancer to handle your property purchase is clearly not as exciting as choosing the property itself. Yet it’s an important decision. A good one will speed things along, keep you updated and make you feel supported. A bad one could drag their feet, leave you in the dark – and potentially even make costly mistakes.
How to find the right solicitor or conveyancer
If you’re wondering how to choose a solicitor or conveyancer, there is no one right way. Of course, you could first try asking friends and family for recommendations.
It’s worth noting that your solicitor or conveyancer doesn’t necessarily need to be in the same location as your future property. So, even if you’re buying in the capital, you may not need your solicitor or conveyancer to be in London too.
It’s worth talking to a few solicitors or conveyancers for comparison. To help you make the right choice, here are seven essential questions to ask your solicitor or conveyancer when buying a home.
1. How much will you charge?
Conveyancing fees depend on the type of property you’re buying and the type of company you use. As costs vary widely, it’s worth getting in at least three conveyancing quotes for your London property before making a decision.
Bear in mind that your basic legal fee will be higher on these types of properties as there’s more paperwork involved:
- Shared Ownership
- Right to Buy
- Buy to Let
Your solicitor or conveyancer should ask what type of property you’re buying before generating your quote. If they don’t, check the small print for clues about additional costs and hidden extras.
When reviewing your quotes, make sure you’re comparing like for like. You should expect to see:
- Your solicitor’s basic fee plus VAT
- Itemised ‘disbursements’: the extra costs that they’ll pay to other people on your behalf and pass on to you
- These disbursements include search fees, Land Registry fees and Stamp Duty Land Tax
Ideally, you want to choose a fixed-fee service where you only pay the amount quoted when you sign up. A good firm will be transparent about costs so there should be no surprises.
To get an indication of average costs based on the value of a property, take a look at this conveyancing calculator.
2. What kind if service do you offer?
Wondering whether you need a solicitor or conveyancer? Solicitors are qualified lawyers who can offer a wide range of legal services. Licensed conveyancers usually only offer conveyancing services but are specialists in property law.
If your purchase is straightforward, a good conveyancer should easily be able to handle it. But if your purchase is more complicated, such as if it’s tied in with a divorce, a qualified solicitor would be better equipped to handle both matters.
If you’re buying a new-build property or an off-plan purchase, it’s worth finding a solicitor or firm with proven experience in this specialist area.
3. How long will it take?
The conveyancing process usually takes between 8 and 12 weeks. It can be much quicker in simple cases and much longer if you’re in a chain or buying off-plan.
Although the conveyancing is mainly carried out between your solicitor and the seller or developer’s solicitor, you’ll naturally be required to review, sign and return documents at various stages.
You can ask your solicitor what you can do to speed things up. They should be able to advise where the potential delays and bottlenecks are in the process, and what you can do to help. For example, you could pay to get the searches underway as quickly as possible.
4. Who will I be dealing with?
When choosing a solicitor, it’s a good idea to develop a rapport with them as you’ll be more able to discuss issues freely.
Ask your solicitor who’ll be handling your case on a day-to-day basis. Choose a firm with a wide range of conveyancing experience, check that they have holiday cover for their lawyers and what their opening hours on public holidays are, especially if you’re planning to move during Christmas or Easter.
5. How often will you update me?
Your solicitor or conveyancer should be in regular contact with you. A good question to ask your conveyancing solicitor is what their preferred method of contact is – and think about what you would prefer:
- Traditional face-to-face and phone contact
- Letters in the post
- Convenience of email contact
- Access to an online tracking system
Another consideration is whether you want to know what’s going on every step of the way, or just be updated at major milestones.
You should ask your solicitor how often they will update you – and if it’s important for you to be updated more regularly, ask if that’s possible.
6. What would happen if the purchase falls through?
According to Which?, half of all house sales fall through. This may be because of gazumping – where the seller accepts a higher offer later in the process, or if your seller changes their mind. If your purchase falls through, one of the biggest costs you can be left saddled with is solicitor or conveyancer legal fees.
For peace of mind when buying a home, choose a solicitor or conveyancing firm who work on a ‘no-completion, no-fee’ basis. This way, if your transaction falls through, you won’t have to pay any legal fees – just the expenses that have been incurred on your behalf.
Not only does this protect you, but it’s also an incentive for them to work more quickly to push the sale through.
7. Are you regulated by a professional body?
If you do your research and choose a reliable, experienced firm, it’s unlikely you’ll need to follow a grievance procedure. However, if you do receive unsatisfactory service, you may want to make a complaint.
Purchase solicitors should be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and conveyancers by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers – and both should have a clear complaints procedure in place.
Responsible firms will outline their grievance policies in their client care letter and will also confirm their fees. If they do not, you should consider withdrawing your instructions and choose a different solicitor or conveyancer.
The great thing about buying a new-build property is there’s no danger of being gazumped or the seller changing their mind. Take a look at some of our new London homes here. And don’t forget that, whether you’re a first-time or existing buyer, we have a wide range of offers to help you make your next move.