Conveyancing is the legal transfer of ownership of a property from one person to another, from the seller to the buyer, and the process is usually undertaken by choosing either solicitors or a specialist conveyancer. At OASiS, we recommend choosing our own ‘Contract Ready’ conveyancing package. OASiS has also teamed up with a national firm of solicitors offering competitive rates for both selling and buying. If you would like a free quote for the conveyancing work for your sale or purchase please let us know and we can arrange it for you.
Choosing your representative
A solicitor is a qualified lawyer in all aspects of common law and should be a member of the Law Society. A conveyancer has less general training but specialises in property law, and should be a member of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. In general, a solicitor will cost more than a conveyance, although some larger practices will use a combination of the two to offer a more competitive fee.
Most conveyancing practices are more than capable of acting on your behalf. However, should your sale involve elements beyond property law, for instance the issue of probate or divorce, then you will need to use a solicitor. Similarly a solicitor will be required if a lease extension forms part of the sale or a boundary dispute exists.
There is a third option when it comes to conveyancing and that is that you do it yourself. However, the reality is that it is a complex and time consuming process, and if you are buying with a mortgage, the lender will insist that a solicitor or conveyancer acts for them as well as you on this aspect of the transaction regardless. There is also the danger that you will be considered a less favourable buyer or a riskier seller, so caution is advised.
If you opt not to use OASiS’ own ‘Contract Ready’ service, whichever form of representative you decide on can be crucial to maximizing the success and minimizing the stress of the selling or buying process.
So how do you decide who to appoint? If you have used a solicitor or conveyancer before and you were happy with the service they provided, or one has been recommended to you, that’s great. If you don’t have one then it is worth bearing the following elements in mind.
Staying in touch
Throughout the process, OASiS will seek to keep you informed of the progress of your purchase or sale, as well as any related sales if a chain is involved. Your solicitor or conveyancer should be equally prepared to communicate with you – be warned, they don’t all take your calls or answer your emails, and this can be hugely frustrating.
Ability to cope
At the height of the property boom in 2007 there were 1.67 million property sales* all requiring conveyancing. After the property crash, a large number of firms withdrew from this area of law or disappeared altogether as transactions dropped by almost half to 859000* (2009). In 2013 there were 1.07 million transactions* yet the number of firms offering conveyancing services has not grown at a proportional rate.
Similarly, not all firms can cope with the workload; however, few will admit to this and rarely turn work away. The larger ‘conveyancing factories’ are just as susceptible to capacity fluctuations as the smaller high street solicitor, especially during holiday months, so it is worth asking the question before service levels become an issue. Where smaller firms are concerned it is worth enquiring as to continuity of service during holiday periods.
(*HM Revenue & Customs Annual UK Property Transactions Statistics June 2014)
It is no longer necessary to physically attend your solicitor’s or conveyancer’s offices. Much of the information flow can be done electronically and that has opened up a greater range of choice. You will still need to provide certified identity so this is worth bearing in mind as you could incur additional costs if you chose an out-of-area firm. Some conveyancers will accept certified identification from an agent or a financial adviser, so check with them if in doubt. Some documents will still need to be signed and returned, and we would always suggest these are sent via registered post.
No sale, no fee
This is an area worth considering and applies equally to buyers and sellers. If for any reason you have to abort a sale or purchase, you could be liable for a percentage of the solicitor’s or conveyancer’s fees depending on how much work has been carried out on your behalf. Some – like the OASiS ‘Contract Ready’ service – offer a ‘no sale, no fee’ guarantee whereby no legal fees are payable in the event of the transaction falling through. This will only apply to recoverable costs and would not include payments for searches or disbursements already carried out.
If you are buying with a mortgage then your lender might have strict guidelines relating to which solicitors or conveyancer they will work with. If you have a solicitor or conveyancer in mind, it’s advisable to make sure that they’re on the ‘approved panel’ for your mortgage provider.
Whether you choose to use a solicitor or a conveyancer, make sure you know the extent of your costs up front. Most firms these days will charge a set fee for carrying out the basic conveyancing process, with the exceptions to this being lease extensions and boundary disputes etc. Avoid those firms who proffer an hourly rate as this can quickly become expensive if issues arise.
Two Way Process
As a final point, your solicitor or conveyancer is only as good as the information you provide and this is especially true where sellers are concerned. This similarly applies to the speed at which you return paperwork and answer any enquiries; the more you co-operate, the greater your contribution to the overall efficiency of the transaction.