Conveyancing solicitors are all unique. None can take credit for that. They are not selling a Pot Noodle, which is the same wherever offered, but instead, they are offering a service, and each law firm will offer it differently.
However, the one common ingredient is that conveyancing solicitors form part of a solicitors practice - compared to the various types of conveyancers in the marketplace. As a result their standards are policed by both the Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and on top conveyancing solicitors can be accredited by by Lexcel but also the Conveyancing Quality Scheme.
So, if conveyancing solicitors are all unique, what things separate them, and how can members of the public steer through the maze and secure the best they can?
As with all service providers, some will focus on how cheap they can offer their service, perhaps an immediate disrespect to the public for whom they wish to act, and others will focus on quality and value. We all know that cheap can mean poor quality, and the cutting of corners.
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.
Hidden/disguised legal charges
These are common place in the conveyancing market, and can 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.
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.