Sadly for the public, there is a huge disparity of quality between the various legal businesses who handle the legal work necessary when buying and selling houses. This makes it incredibly difficult to set about securing the best conveyancing solicitor.
Clearly the description is a subjective one, but there are several easy checks to make to ensure you are moving as closely as possible to securing the best conveyancing solicitor.
1. Who is the person that ends up being your conveyancing solicitor?
The phrase ‘conveyancing solicitor’ is not an all encompassing definition, as there are a huge volume of conveyancers in the market place who are not Solicitors, who are not qualified at all, and yet whose credentials the public do not even think to check when obtaining a conveyancing quote.
'Conveyancers’ is the better description, as there are the following groups handling conveyancing:
- Chartered Legal Executives
- Licensed conveyancers
- Unqualified ‘conveyancers’
This is the first check one should make when looking to employ a conveyancer. Who in this list would you prefer to handle your property move?
2. What credentials does the conveyancing business shout most highly about?
Is it how cheap they are? Or is it the quality that you can be sure you will secure? Quality attracts quality. Price dropping can mean corners cut…at your expense. The Law Society advocate conveyancers who have secured Lexcel and CQS – badges where the conveyancing business has demonstrated a commitment to offering top quality to their clients.
3. Hidden/disguised legal charges
These are common place and present a nasty sting at the end of a house move when the client can do nothing about them, yet thought they had secured a low conveyancing charge to start with. The cheap headline rate that lures us in is always tempting, but the adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is very true in conveyancing, certainly the lower end of the fee level. Where are the corners being cut to make the low charge work, or are there any extras that will actually bump the charge up? Invariably there are, with such pretend third party expenses (but actually just going into the pocket of the conveyancer) as the following:
- Filling in a stamp duty form – the conveyancer must do this as part of their duty to the mortgage company, so separating it out is very bad form.
- Repaying mortgages on your sale – again, this is pure profit and part of the conveyancer’s work anyway.
- Forcing you to have mandatory ID checks at a charge.
- Forcing you to contribute to postage and photocopying.
- Forcing you to contribute to the conveyancer’s business insurance!?
- Charging you if the gap between exchange and completion is less than 3 weeks – which will always usually apply (the shorter the gap the easier it is in fact for the conveyancer).
- Charging you extra is the property has unregistered deeds – this usually shows the inexperience of the conveyancer who may struggle (a worry in itself) with unregistered deeds.
Always seek out a conveyancing quote before instructing a conveyancer, and look for these charges. There may also be additional charges buried in the fine print, which may be stated as ‘possible’ charges but actually they will usually apply. As a result, what looks like a low quote could be the highest you have sought out, maybe even double in the end. And you may not have even secured a conveyancing solicitor either.
4. Running of the office
This can often be where all the stress comes from in house moving. Does the law firm close at lunch, or dead on 5pm? Is the conveyancing team so small that holiday and illness cover is non-existent? Do they carry out more than just conveyancing – as conveyancing impacts other areas of law such as Wills, Trusts, business law, employment, family, probate - and so you will be better protected with a specialist law firm with support in those areas too.
Will the method of communication you have with the conveyancer present a struggle, where updates are pushed out to some general ‘tick-box’ website rather than a personal call/email with what is happening week on week?
Will the conveyancer provide you with their direct dial telephone number and email address, or are they anonymous and hidden behind a general website with no profiles?
A thorough review of the above factors can help you move in the direction of securing the very best conveyancing solicitor.