Your home is probably the most valuable asset you will ever buy and it is a transaction where you need help from a Solicitor or Conveyancer to guide you through the legal side of the process. They will check the property’s title, carry out searches, liaise with your lender, pay the Stamp Duty Land Tax and register your ownership of the property. These are important jobs, so how do you choose who will do them for you?
Here are some tips:
1. Beware of recommendations from estate agents. They will often be receiving a hefty commission for each client they refer, so their suggestion may be based more on the profit to them, than the quality of service.
2. Conveyancing work does not have to be carried out in the area where the house is located, but you might want to have a solicitor who is local to you, to make delivery and collection of documents easier.
3. Conveyancing services that are advertised on-line, at low prices, are frequently “call-centre” operations, where you will generally speak to a paralegal who is sitting in front of a computer screen. Are you comfortable with that?
4. Most Solicitors and Conveyancers will now quote a fee for the whole job, rather than an hourly rate, but check with them whether there are any circumstances where their fee can increase.
5. When you get a quote for conveyancing, make sure you are comparing like for like. You may be given a “headline” figure that looks very low, but are additional costs being hidden behind terms such as “leasehold fee”, “mortgage fee”, “SDLT return fee” or “expedition fee”? These are all just disguises for additional costs.
6. Your Solicitor or Conveyancer will need to make a number of payments on your behalf (referred to as “disbursements”) and these are significant sums. They include search fees, Stamp Duty Land Tax and Land Registry fees. There should be little variation in these figures between quotes, but they should all be set out for you, so you can budget accurately.
7. You can calculate the SDLT payable on a purchase at: https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/calculate-stamp-duty-land-tax/#/intro
8. Mortgage lenders will only instruct your Solicitor or Conveyancer to act for them if they are on the lender’s panel of approved lawyers. When you are looking for a lawyer, check they are on your lender’s panel.
9. The nature of the conveyancing process means there is always a possibility, until contracts are exchanged, of a transaction falling through. When you are getting conveyancing quotes, find out what costs you will have to pay if that happens.
There is no “right answer” to the choice you make. Price is, of course, a factor but, given that you are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on the house, is a price difference of, say, £50.00 that significant? Getting the service you want and need is of much greater value. Give some thought to the decision and don’t be rushed into making a choice - you will increase your chances of having a smooth and stress-free move.