Be wary of a conveyancing solicitor with a suspiciously low quote

23 Oct 2013

How easy it is to just fall for the line "Oh it will be much easier to just use our in-house conveyancers" or "Don't use a local solicitor they will be too busy". The problem is there is often a hidden agenda. Are they being paid by the conveyancer? Do they own a stake in the conveyancing firm? Are your best interests being looked after?

Be suspicious.

The quality of conveyancers, when buying or selling your home, can vary wildly. This is because a conveyancer does not need to have any qualifications or any legal training in the very law they are charging you to perform. Provided the employer is badged with the correct credentials to offer legal services, their employees can be whoever that employer wants. As a result, such businesses can afford to charge less, to make their legal services look more appealing.

Clearly price is a sensitive one. We all want to make sure we secure value for money. After all, buying a home is not a cheap process. Everyone charges. Surveyors, mortgage brokers, mortgage companies, removal companies, he Government – yes, stamp duty and Land Registry fees. So when pricing each element, conveyancers'  fees are no less scrutinised in that we all want to achieve a low price.

Unfortunately, conveyancing is a ‘service’. It is not a ‘good’ like a tin of beans. As a result, the service of one conveyancer can range dramatically between another. Securing the cheapest overlooks the quality of that particular conveyancer. The lower the charge, the less experience you may find your lawyer has. The less experience, the more risk that errors are then made, and your home move ends up costing you a vast sum to put right.

Alternatively, the lower the charge, the more possibility that there are hidden charges which will in fact make the charge higher in the end, and yet still not having secured you a solicitor or chartered legal executive.

ALWAYS, ask yourself why are they cheap? Are they an actual solicitor, or chartered legal executive? If not, why not, why are you expected to accept anything else? Yet pay the same or similar fee. Also, seek an outright guarantee at the start by quoting back the total fee you appear to be asked to pay and say "Is this the total bill I can expect from you?".

Sadly, all too many stories surface about conveyancers who appeared cheap, who then bury charges in their fine print, and the eventual bill was huge.

Extra charges – hidden away on their paperwork – for things that most conveyancing solicitors include as standard in their quotations:

  • acting for a mortgage company on your purchase
  • the work necessary to repay each mortgage you have when selling
  • taking out legal indemnity insurance on a sale
  • reviewing legal indemnity insurance offered on your purchase
  • obtaining copy Council planning consents on your sale
  • filling in a Stamp Duty form on your purchase
  • an extra charge if the land is unregistered
  • postage and packaging
  • forced online identification check fees

Even charging a set amount (e.g £15 plus VAT) for each enquiry your conveyancer chooses to raise on the contract papers sent from the selling lawyers.

Bear in mind that every house sale or purchase has a set amount of work, and you should really ensure you pay at least £500 + VAT as a minimum to ensure that a fair reward is being passed to your conveyancer, as of course, the lower the fee, the likelihood will be that the quality of the service will drop with tell tell signs such as:

  • no email addresses
  • no direct telephone number you can have
  • you are not given a single named conveyancer, but a conveyor belt of 'staff'
  • closing for lunch or dead at 5pm
  • too small a team where holiday or illness cover will delay your move

And, of course, is the conveyancer's motivation and enthusiasm to 'get things right' for you gone when the fee is too low?

Always think, will mistakes be made so that when I move in to my new house, I receive a knock on the door by a neighbour/the Council, or will I have problems remortgaging or re-selling? And where will your cheap conveyancer be then?