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Choosing a conveyancer

February 15, 2013

Costs are relatively low these days, but it still pays to look around and find a service that suits all your requirements.

Whether you're buying or selling, conveyancing is a necessary part of the process.

A mandatory but nerve-jangling part of buying and selling a home is conveyancing the legal process involving the transfer of property ownership titles from one person to another.  This will be done either by a solicitor (all are qualified to do this work, although it pays to hire one who has experience) or by a dedicated licensed conveyancer.  Solicitors who reach consistently high standards of conveyancing, as tested by the Law Society can carry a kitemark-style logo stating they are in the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS). Conveyancers are authorised by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers and listed on its website.

What do they do?

Whichever you choose, the individual has six major tasks to undertake for a buyer:

  • He or she will conduct vital searches with local authorities, utility companies and other bodies to ensure no future plans or financial liabilities hang over the property in question. The searches will reveal if there is a sewer running close to the property, if it is liable for local church repairs, and other key details like that.
  • Advise you of any "incurred costs" including well-known ones like stamp duty or much more unusual charges like chancel repair liability applying to a few homes near churches.
  • Check (and if necessary draft) contracts regarding the purchase of the property.
  • Ensure your mortgage lender has all the relevant information about the property, from the sellers as well as from yourself.
  • Carry out on your behalf the payment of fees at the end of the transaction, such as estate agency costs and stamp duty.
  • Register new owners with the Land Registry.

When and how do I choose a conveyancer?

Appoint a conveyancer as soon as you decide to sell and do not wait until you find a home to buy this way, the maximum paperwork can be sorted in advance.

You may save money if you appoint the conveyancer in tandem with your choice of mortgage lender. Since the credit crunch, some lenders work only with a panel of conveyancers who they regard as particularly scrupulous at checking on searches and ensuring there are no problems with the purchase (a process known as due diligence).

If you are tied to a specific mortgage lender, you can request a list of its approved conveyancers and choose from those. Or instead, use your existing solicitor or conveyancer or follow the recommendation of a trusted contact who has moved house but you may be charged by your lender if it uses its own, separate approved conveyancer.

How much will it cost?

Whichever type of conveyancer you use, always check charges upfront.

Costs vary according to the price of homes being bought and sold, despite the fact that a £5m mansion may require no more legal work than a £100,000 studio flat. The UK average cost of conveyancing is £850 according to the website reallymoving.com.

Lists of charges will typically include fees for the conveyancer's time, telephone and internet charges, letters and an indemnity fee, plus a contingency for unforeseen problems. On top of that, there will be council and Land Registry fees for searches and for lodging title deeds.

Conveyancing is becoming increasingly competitive and there are now many fixed-rate deals - Saga, for example, has just launched one for £750 and several online providers offer similar services from about £500 upwards.

These days, conveyancing costs are relatively low, while searches and liaison with lenders have become increasingly complex. To ensure a smooth move, most people will be better off hiring a professional.

Warcup Law Firm bases their cost on the sale or purchase price of the property with fees starting as low as £425 plus disbursements.

Graham Norwood
guardian.co.uk, Friday 15 February 2013 07.00 GMT

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