How to choose a conveyancer
You’ve found your dream home, your offer has been accepted, and then the estate agent asks you who your conveyancer will be. Perhaps you’ve never bought a home before, or maybe the conveyancer you used on your last purchase just didn’t give you the service that you expected.
So, how do you make sure you get the best conveyancer you can to make this experience as smooth as possible? Our guide will tell you everything you need to know, including what qualities to look for in a good conveyancer, and how to choose one that will be the best fit for you.
What’s the difference between a conveyancer and a solicitor?
When it comes to standard conveyancing, there isn’t much of a difference between a conveyancer and a solicitor. Both solicitors (who are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority) and Licensed Conveyancers (who are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers) are required to be fully regulated and insured.
In terms of handling your property transaction, they will adhere to the same conveyancing practices and procedures. However, it’s worth noting the main differences, because you’re likely to see a price difference when you compare conveyancing quotes.
- Licensed conveyancers are specialist property lawyers, focusing largely on residential property. They handle transactions like sales, purchases and re- mortgages every day.
- A solicitor is a qualified lawyer, with training in many aspects of law. They can offer legal advice on property sales, purchases and re-mortgages, but could also advise on boundary disputes and property investment as well. A solicitor may also advise on matters which aren’t related to property law, such as divorce, family law, and prenuptial agreements as well.
At Eden, our firm is regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), but our property lawyers are accredited by both the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the CLC.
Sam Strong, our Head of Conveyancing, has been a qualified property solicitor since 2006 and is dual accredited as she is also a qualified Licensed Conveyancer.
1. Good communication
When deciding which conveyancer to use, when and how often they communicate with you is a key consideration. One of the major issues that many customers have with their conveyancing firm is poor communication. Before you choose your conveyancer, it’s helpful to ask the following questions:
- Who will have responsibility for your transaction?
- Will they handle your case personally or rely on less-qualified assistants?
- How can you communicate with them?
- Will there be a dedicated point of contact if they go on holiday or are absent from work?
At Eden, you will have one qualified property lawyer allocated to your transaction. We don’t rely on assistants, so the property lawyer assigned to your sale or purchase will be the one handling your transaction from beginning to end. You will have a mobile number to contact them easily, and can also receive updates through our dedicated client portal.
And there is no such thing as a stupid question. If you aren’t sure about something, then just ask!
2. Positive reviews
Reviews are one of the best ways to get an unbiased opinion about a company, from a customer who’s used them in the past.
Have a look at the different firms you’ve received a quote from and see what people are saying about them.
You can have a look at reviews left on Google, Trustpilot, or other social media channels to get a good idea of people’s experiences with them.
Ask your conveyancer what technology they use. For example, do they insist that all documents are posted to their office and send you updates the same way? If they do, then consider whether that’s how you’d like to proceed with your purchase or sale.
In 2022, more and more firms are embracing technology to streamline the entire process of buying or selling a home. Unfortunately, some firms are still a little hesitant to embrace technology. If this is something you’d prefer from your conveyancer, you may wish to ask:
- Do they use electronic ID checks, or will you need to post original documents like passports to them?
- Do they use electronic checks to establish how you are funding your purchase, or do they ask you to send paper bank statements?
- Have they got a customer portal where you can see exactly what is happening on your transaction?
- Do they send automated updates when milestones are met, or there are documents you need to sign.
A tech-savvy conveyancing firm will help keep your transaction moving as efficiently as possible, and give you more visibility over its progress.
4. Clear pricing
When you’re requesting quotes from multiple firms, make sure that they are like for like and don’t include hidden extras. Some conveyancers don’t include costs such as VAT. If you are considering “No Move, No Fee” then check this carefully.
The Legal Ombudsman has reported that this is often not the case, despite what the client expected. Take a little extra time to ensure your conveyancers are being up-front with you, and if you feel that they aren’t, it’s your right to choose a more clear and transparent firm to go with.
Ask your conveyancer how many other cases they are working on. Some conveyancers will manage over a hundred transactions at once, without warning clients that progress on their sale or purchase may be slow. Some firms are able to provide cheap quotes by over-loading their conveyancers, and using less-qualified assistants to handle transactions instead.
The reason that many conveyancing firms have poor communication, is due to the amount of customers they are handling at one time. It’s important to choose a conveyancer that values their staff, as well as their customers, and won’t overwork them to improve their bottom line.
When you are choosing a conveyancer for your purchase, it’s important to check your conveyancer is on your mortgage lender’s panel.
- Mortgage lenders will only deal with certain conveyancers and solicitors (e.g., those that are on their panel)
- If you do not use a conveyancer or a solicitor on their panel, you will usually have to pay for the bank’s representation fees. This is typically around £200, but varies from bank to bank.
- Ask your conveyancer or solicitor which panels they are on, and let them know which lender you are considering for your mortgage.
You should also check to make sure your conveyancer is properly regulated by the CLC, or if they are a property lawyer, that they are regulated by the SRA as well.
Choosing a conveyancer: what else you should know
Your conveyancer does not need to be local to you or your new property to be able to provide you conveyancing services. In fact, depending on where you live, then some local firms could be more expensive – in London and the South East for example.
As long as they are capable of representing you in the appropriate part of the UK (Scotland has a different buying process, and both Scotland and Wales have different Stamp Duty Laws) you do not need a local conveyancer. There are far more important things to consider, and given that these days, the conveyancing process can be done online, there’s really no obligation to go with a local solicitor.
It is a good idea to shop around for quotes before making a decision, but choosing the cheapest conveyancer doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the best value. The Legal Ombudsman said:
“While it’s a good idea to get quotes, remember that buying a house is in all likelihood the biggest financial outlay you’ll have in your life. By all means make sure that you’ve got a competitive quote, but don’t become consumed with getting the cheapest.”
Ask yourself: how is a firm able to offer the cheapest rates? What element of service has been reduced to enable them to charge so little for such an important service?
At Eden we pride ourselves on providing a quality service while remaining competitive on price. Our bespoke online platform gives us the ability to work on your transaction efficiently and keep you updated at each step, without compromising on quality.
Before instructing a conveyancer, research their track record, and how other people have felt about their service. Although many services include testimonials on their site, these can be cherry picked to give the best impression to potential customers.
Check out third-party sites like Trustpilot and Google reviews to see the experience that other buyers and sellers have had with the conveyancing service.
Recommendations from family and friends are great. However, if it is an estate agent making the recommendation, then make sure you know if they are basing it on the quality of the conveyancer being recommended. Some conveyancers offer estate agents cash bonuses to refer their clients to them, while there may be other services which are better-suited to the person’s needs.
Remember, you are free to choose. An estate agent is not allowed to tell you that your offer won’t be accepted if you don’t use their conveyancer or their mortgage broker.
Choosing your conveyancer: final thoughts
At Eden, we believe that the conveyancing process should be clear and transparent, from beginning to end. With our team of experienced property lawyers, we’ve combined our model of sound, honest legal advice, with innovative tech solutions to deliver a conveyancing service that’s simple and hassle-free.
With a 24/7 online platform, where you can check the progress of your purchase or sale, as well as multiple channels to contact your dedicated conveyancer, we’re excited to deliver a supportive, professional experience every step of the way.
If you’d like to learn more about Eden and everything we offer, feel free to check out our service page. And if you’d like to get an instant quote for your sale or purchase, we’ll be happy to get you started.