Why do conveyancers range so dramatically in terms of their quality?

17 Jul 2013

Because you do not have to be qualified in the law to be a conveyancer. Simple as that.

As a result, when choosing a conveyancer for your home move, you get what you pay for. It could not be more true. Unfortunately, this also means that the public are exposed to an obvious risk of poor legal knowledge and training if they do not weed out the poor quality conveyancers right at the start.

But how?

The first step is to ask at the point of a conveyancing quote: "Are you a solicitor or a chartered legal executive?"

Indeed, equally important is to stop adding to the risk of shoddy conveyancing with such self-disrespecting Google searches as 'cheap conveyancing' or 'cheapest conveyancers'.

Knowing now that conveyancers need not be qualified or even properly trained in the very law they are charging you for – property law – if you then want them to work as cheaply as possible too, just imagine the kind of attention they will pay to you during the home moving process – an already highly emotional time for you. What corners can they cut to do the work so cheaply. Will they take your calls, will they reply to your emails, will they keep you updated (or fob you off to some website for tick box impersonal 'updates'), will they never be in the office, always 'on the other line', too junior to make decisions (but instead requiring the actual solicitor in the building at some point that week to approve their work and sign-off the file), will they close at lunch or dead at 5pm? The list goes on.

All conveyancers can set a lower fee overnight, but that means lowering their service to that of the cheaper conveyancers, and that is not the level they want to offer. Expert conveyancers want to get the legal work right for you – it's your home/investment. If the legal work by your conveyancer is carried out incorrectly, you may not even own your home, or it may not have a right of way to it, or the Council may tell you to take down that recent extension you paid extra because it had it, or you may move into a neighbour dispute. It's the knock on the door once you move in that is the worry, or a few months later, or when attempting to remortgage and certainly on reselling.

True, moving home is expensive, and people have limited budgets. People look to minimise costs. Understood. However, time and time again – and this time you can properly Google for this evidence – people don’t just take risks with the quality of their conveyancer, they also do it with surveyors too. But conveyancing solicitors and surveyors (make sure they are 'chartered surveyors' too) are two highly critical professionals involved in the home moving process. So critical, and so responsible for potentially vast financial mistakes to you and your home that they are regulated by professional bodies (The Law Society and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) and they carry huge insurance cover. At great premiums. They have a crucial and critical job to perform. Your error-free house move.

However, this is not to say price should not be a factor, of course it should. But if a cheap price is your top priority/your respect for your legal work is that low, how can you expect the conveyancer to have any more either?

However, here are additional tell-tale signs for securing good quality conveyancers:

  • Law Society Accreditation under the Conveyancing Quality Scheme.
  • Lexcel Accreditation of the solicitor firm's working standards.
  • Do they promote their conveyancing team on their website (i.e. they demonstrate they are fully accountable and do not hide away)?
  • Do they offer one single named qualified conveyancer to you from start to finish – i.e. your lawyer?
  • Are they available – or instead do they close at lunch and dead at 5pm; are they too small to cover holiday and absences?
  • Is the conveyancing team really just 'high street' or is their legal firm full of other expert lawyers who can provide the fullest advice to you – as moving house can impact so many other areas of law (e.g. employment, family, trusts, partnership/company, wills, tax)?
  • Is there charging transparent and clear, or do they attempt to disguise hidden charges/pure profit in their quotes with such things as:
  • Filling in a stamp duty form?
  • Dealing with unregistered land?
  • Acting for a mortgage lender / repaying a mortgage?
  • Raising additional enquiries / searches?
  • Forced ID check fees?
  • Postage and photocopying?
  • Insurance contributions?

But, the above seems to blame the client for who they choose. This is not the case, certainly the client does not intend to make the wrong choice – and we hope the above can guide a better path. In fact, clients can secure shoddy conveyancing, but middlemen who do not have the welfare of the client at heart.

If you receive a recommendation for a conveyancer, ask why? Is it from an estate agent or mortgage broker with an agenda; Google who they recommend for a review. Ask why you are not being referred locally. Ask 'what is in it for you?' Do they own the conveyancers for instance. There are some estate agents who make vast amounts of money from recommendations – ask yourself, is your welfare being put first, or just their pocket, and so have you just been sold to a 'shoddy conveyancer' the very subject of all you have just read about above, and so back to square one, and the risk to your home?