One of the non-negotiable when it comes to investing in property is the need for finding a good solicitor or conveyance to oversee the transaction legalities. This is a necessary part of the transfer of property and can make a big difference to the final cost, as well as the stress-free transfer of property process.
First up, a few key questions:
What services are involved in conveyancing?
The services should include dealing with the Land Registry on your behalf, putting Stamp Duty charges and payments in order, collecting and transferring your money during the sale, providing general legal advice and recommendations and drawing up and evaluating the contracts involved in the process.
There are many red flags to be aware of when considering a solicitor or conveyance for these tasks. The main concern in the process of conveyancing is the paperwork: all of the paperwork has to be completed correctly and on time, and you need someone reliable for this task.
What is the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer?
Solicitors are qualified lawyers, and can therefore offer a much wider range of services as they are trained across many different aspects of the law. This is different to a conveyance, who specialises particularly in property. This means that solicitors are always more expensive, as they also have to be members of the Law Society.
So, when should you use one over the other? Well, a solicitor is able to offer a more comprehensive legal service, which means their value comes if you have more complex matters forming part of the agreement. For instance, if a lease extension forms part of the purchase or there exists a disagreement or dispute on the boundary lines. If these are present, your conveyancer will not be able to deal with these issues. However, if you have a straightforward transaction, a conveyancer is a far more economical choice, and will be able to assist you without any problem.
A solicitor is likely to be taking on a whole host of complex cases, which means you might not feel you are getting the attention you deserve in the case of a simple property transaction.
What are the key things I should I look for in a solicitor and conveyancer?
A Good Recommendation
If you have friends or family that have used a great solicitor or conveyancer, take their recommendation. This is a great way to cut through the search process, and if they have delivered results before, you know you’re in good hands. Don’t just take your estate agent’s recommendation – estate agents often recommend someone they have a commission from. This means possibly costly extras in the form of fees.
Qualifications and Membership
A solicitor, as mentioned above, should be a part of the Law Society. Conveyancers must be members of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. Make sure that your solicitor is experienced in property specifically – not specialists in divorce, etc! Be sure that their experience matches what you need from your service.
Communication and Availability
Given the detail involved in good paperwork and filing procedures, you must ensure your conveyance or solicitor is someone who can be relied on to communicate when necessary. They should be available to answer your questions a they arise. Without this, the process instantly becomes more stressful. Take note, however, that solicitors are often a bit more antiquated in the way that they work: they may refuse to use emails for their business.
Be sure to ask upfront as well about your solicitor or conveyancer’s holiday cover – if they do take holidays during the process of your transaction, this can really be a problem, if it aligns with a particularly time-sensitive part of the process. Be sure you know who will be available to cover for this to ensure the transaction continues smoothly.
A Comprehensive Quotation
Be sure you know what is being included in the quotations you receive. A low quote doesn’t mean you won’t be hit with more costs down the line – so make sure to ask questions upfront! What is included in their quotations? Do they charge an hourly rate? A fixed rate is the best way to ensure you know your costs, instead of an hourly rate.
Fixed rates should include things like search costs, land registry fees, and telegraphic transfers. They should not include things like photocopy charges, phone calls, letters or filing your Stamp Duty Return – these are not services which should incur a cost! Have a good idea of what the final cost will be by ensuring you see the total itemised costs, before you engage a particular solicitor/conveyancer.
A final thing to ask about is a non completion quote. In this case, it’s a way to ensure that if your sale falls through, you don’t end up saddled with the legal fee – you will still have to pay other fees, but the legal fee would be waived if the sale falls through.