Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring property ownership from one person to another. There are numerous processes to complete, with some required for legal reasons (such as title checks, land registration and taxes) and others for the protection of the client and their lender (including planning applications, flood risks and building surveys).

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Although you are legally entitled to conduct your own property conveyancing without professional assistance, very few people choose to do so. The extensive paperwork has to be navigated flawlessly and there are many dangers if something is missed. When either the buyer or seller has a mortgage, which is often the case, the lender almost always insists that transactions are performed professionally.

Most home buyers have more exciting things on their mind and don’t want additional worries. By using a professional, you only have to deal with one person rather than a host of different agencies; nevertheless, conveyancers have been known to make mistakes, so choosing wisely can save a lot of money, time and anxiety.

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Conveyancers and solicitors

Solicitors are qualified to perform a range of legal services, with some specialising exclusively in conveyancing. Licensed conveyancers are not necessarily solicitors; however, to get their licence, they will have served at least three years in a conveyancing office and have passed examinations and background checks conducted by the Council of Licensed Conveyancers.

All conveyancers in England and Wales are regulated either by the Council of Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) or the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The best conveyancing solicitors can also be accredited under the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS).

Since it is legal to conduct your own conveyancing, it follows that you can theoretically hire assistance from anyone; however, it is an offence for a person to describe themselves as a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer if they are not. Even if you were foolish enough to work with an unlicensed third party, nobody else involved in your transaction would agree to work with them; therefore, your first step should always be to check the accreditation of the conveyancer you are thinking of using.

Fortunately, the internet has made it easy to access documents and records from any location. This means you no longer need to hire someone just because they are local; instead, you are free to hire the best conveyancing solicitors you can find.

There are both good and bad solicitors. In most cases, there are no advantages to hiring a solicitor instead of a licensed conveyancer. Most conveyancing firms have solicitors available in-house, but make sure you are appointed a named conveyancer. How can you check on the experience and competence of your conveyancer if you don’t know who they are?

Getting a conveyance quotation

Wider choice has helped to substantially reduce the cost of conveyancing; nevertheless, you should never appoint a solicitor or conveyancer until you know precisely what the cost will be.

The best conveyancing solicitors always provide you with an advance quote rather than an estimate. This distinction is very important, as estimates carry little weight in law if any kind of dispute or complication arises.

Also, make sure that you understand the difference between a fixed fee and a flat rate offer. A fixed fee quote implies the sum requested will cover your particular conveyance. Once you have accepted, it will not vary even if the conveyancer encounters additional labour.

A flat rate, on the other hand, implies the fee is the same for any property transaction. Since different conveyances are subject to different costs, this flat rate is not likely to be all-inclusive. In addition to making sure that you are being given a quotation and not an estimate, make sure you know exactly what is included in the price and what is not.

How the costs build up

The fees and charges that can arise in the course of the conveyancing process include some or all of the following: surveyor reports, land registry fees, copies of title deeds, local authority searches (planning and environmental risks), stamp duty and other taxes, bankruptcy searches, bank transfer fees, bridging insurance, and chancel repair liabilities. Leaseholds and help-to-buy schemes also incur extra costs. All these things are added to the conveyancer’s fee for their own labour.

Another thing worth looking out for is a no sale, no fee or no purchase, no fee clause. This means that if something stops the property purchase completing, you won’t have to pay all the charges regardless.