In last week’s Budget, George Osborne made it quite clear for the need “to get our housing market moving”. But how true is this of conveyancers when handling the legal work and what can be done to improve things?
One only has to Google ‘conveyancing solicitors’ to discover the dramatic variations in price between businesses offering conveyancing services, and the immediate dilemma of how to go about choosing a conveyancing solicitor.
Despite a house worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, a conveyancing quote for just £500 can still seem too much and it is tempting to find the cheapest possible. All the more tempting when quotes can range from £99 to £1500 for the same work. Yet the spectrum of quality of the ‘lawyer’ can also be the same.
So how do (or more accurately how should) people set about choosing a conveyancing solicitor?
1. The actual person you want handling the legal work
Conveyancing is the legal work needed to convey legal ownership of land and property between a seller and buyer. The intricacies of the law are involved, and the priority of so many people is to secure the most knowledgeable legal person, who will avoid untrained errors, ultimately costing a home owner their house. The choice is between conveyancing solicitors, chartered legal executives, licensed conveyancers, paralegals and unqualified conveyancers. The title in itself does not guarantee a quality individual, though one hopes that a qualification, particularly that of a conveyancing solicitor would be a fair and reasonable claim to be a wise move. After all, with seniority and conveyancing knowledge comes an ability to make instant decisions, without the need to check ‘with the solicitor in the building’ or ‘team manager’. But there are other factors to test even this comfort.
2. Genuine recommendation of excellence or just sales talk ‘best to use our conveyance…all under one roof’
It is tempting to be guided by your estate agent, who may want to pick their preferred conveyancer to try and help you. But what is their motive? Is the conveyancer the very best for you, or is there a simple commercial relationship as the motive? An estate agent handing our their recommended conveyancer’s business card is a more genuine indication of a good referral as this leaves you to speak to a named person on the other end of the telephone – a card clearly showing their credentials. That leaves you free to ask that conveyancer for yourself the very things this article mentions.
Unfortunately, if there is a commercial motive, then your best interests are not the priority, and the quality of the conveyancer may well come into play, and the risk to you – whether delay/errors or otherwise, the last thing you need in such an important transaction. A possible sign of this is if the estate agent refers you out of the county for legal work. Who are the conveyancers they are recommending?
3. Test the conveyancer
Once a particular conveyancing firm is within sight, test their actual quality for yourself. Law firms themselves ‘mystery quote’ their competitors, that is no secret. It is always interesting to see what factors conveyancers use to demonstrate that they put quality first, as opposed to some who just shout how ‘fast’ or how ‘cheap’ they do things. Respect for a client’s house move is very important.
Numerous ways to test quality do come to light:
- How prompt are they in sending you a quote or replying to emails? First impressions go a long way.
- Do they close for lunch and dead on 5pm?
- Will they have holiday or sickness cover?
- Do they just offer conveyancing or do they have expert lawyers around them offering other areas impacting on conveyancing? For example, wills, trusts, probate, family/matrimonial, employment, debt recovery, disputes and so on.
- Do they have any form of accreditation such as Lexcel, or the new Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS)?
- Do they refer you off to a website for updates or will they actually speak to you?
- Will your conveyancer be allocated as a set individual (see the qualification earlier) or you just have a ‘Team’ looking after you?
- Do you have a direct telephone number to your conveyancer, and their personal email address?
- Does the letter headed paper of the conveyancer have personal emails and a website? This can indicate more immediacy to their work.
- Can they send you any testimonials from clients?
Hopefully in the end, you have chosen freely, influenced by a motive of securing you genuine ‘excellence’ to make sure your house move is kept expertly moving.
David Clayton, Managing Director of Bassets Estate Agents in Salisbury, comments that “Our sellers are very clear what they want from us: a quick sale, at the best possible price and with the minimum of stress! Using good local solicitors is vital to ensuring that the sale (or indeed purchase) goes through quickly and smoothly. There will almost always be problems which arise and need to be resolved, but good solicitors will identify these issues early on and work (often hand in hand with us) to resolve them quickly and proactively. On the other hand, poor solicitors or conveyancers will often lead to delays and minor problems which turn into major issues - with the sale or purchase falling through as a result. At Bassets, our ‘fall through’ rate is roughly half the national average which is in no small part thanks to recommending good local solicitors to our clients!”