20 questions to ask your prospective conveyancer

Last updated: April 2023 | 5 min read

Once you have shortlisted a couple of soliciting firms you will be wondering how to choose between them. These questions will enable you to make an informed choice about your prospective conveyancer. Learn what to ask about fees, experience, and service.

The questions you need to ask to make an informed decision boil down to three main areas:

  • the experience of the person doing the work 
  • the amount you will pay 
  • the service level they offer

Here we have listed some of the most important questions that will help you in the process of conveyancing when buying or selling your property.

1. Why do I need a conveyancing solicitor?

Putting this question to prospective conveyancing solicitors serves as an excellent starting point. Analysing their responses will help you pick a good conveyancing solicitor.

A conveyancer who communicates ambiguously, merely indicating the necessity of their assistance for legal and administrative matters, isn't offering valuable clarity.

Instead, inquire specifically about the actions they'll undertake on your behalf.

2. Who will do the work and who will cover in case of your absence? 

Within a conveyancing department of any firm, there are likely to be several people carrying out conveyancing work. They will all have different levels of experience, different styles, and competencies. You need to find out whether one of them is the right conveyancer for you.

Start by asking who will do the work. Does the firm assign one person to each transaction who does everything, or could several people be working for you: an administrative point of contact, a paralegal for the bulk of the work, and overseeing both, an experienced solicitor?

The reputation of a conveyancing firm is important in deciding whether to use them but be aware that a good firm can have mediocre people working in it, and vice versa.

Progress in some firms may be delayed if your designated conveyancer is unavailable to make decisions. If your conveyancer cannot work or is on vacation, ask who will cover their workload and get their contact details.

3. What are your qualifications?

The qualifications don't matter as much as you might think. Relevant experience can be far more important. Here's the reason why:

Conveyancing is a regulated activity. The firm you choose should be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). The professional body for solicitors is the Law Society.

Membership of these professional bodies requires the firm to meet specific standards and adhere to certain practices. You can be assured that a qualified professional oversees your work. For most transactions, it doesn't make a difference whether you use a licensed conveyancer or a solicitor.

4. How many cases have you handled?

To gauge experience, you could ask bluntly how many years the person has been working as a conveyancer. You could ask how many conveyancing cases they have worked on.

If this is too direct for you, look at their job title. The conveyancing department is where many a newly qualified solicitor starts their career. If they have a more senior title, they are likely to have in-depth knowledge of property transactions.

5. How much experience do you have with properties like mine?

The right solicitor for you is one with experience of properties like yours. Experience can be invaluable when the unexpected happens.

An experienced conveyancer has likely encountered various scenarios in the property market and can anticipate potential issues before risks or costs escalate. They are also likely to be more confident in dealing with you and the other side firmly.

But experience is also only valuable if it is experience working on transactions like yours. So, the question to ask is not just 'How much experience do you have', but 'How much experience do you have with transactions similar to mine?'

Your conveyancing needs may be reasonably straightforward, so you don't need specialist experience. But if there are any obvious complications - the property is leasehold, you're buying in a geologically riskier area such as a mining area or on a flood plain, or there may be issues with neighbours - ask about experience in those areas.

6. How much will you charge?

Questions about legal fees should be at the top of the list for both buyers and sellers. Start your conversation with the conveyancing solicitor by inquiring about their fee structure.

You aim to make sure there are no unexpected costs later down the line.

It is likely to be different depending on whether you are buying or selling because buying requires additional work to be done.

Different conveyancing solicitors have varied fee structures; some might offer a fixed fee service while others could charge based on the property's value.

Conveyancing quotes can be difficult to interpret, particularly side by side. Responsible firms tend to set out their fee structure clearly, separating the core costs of their service from the additional ones.

7. What is included in your fee?

Once you have an idea of the solicitor's basic fee, find out the details of the services covered within that price.

Conveyancing services typically encompass a range of tasks – from managing land registry fees to handling the paperwork.

Find out about any third-party costs, like search fees that may be passed onto you. Perhaps a quote might seem low, but it may be because some third-party costs have not been included in the conveyancing fees.

8. At what stages do I pay conveyancing fees?

Inquiring about payment timelines will help you budget and prepare.

Some conveyancing firms might require an upfront deposit, while others might charge after the whole process is completed.

If you're selling, make sure that payment aligns with completion - so that you're not out of pocket while you're waiting for the sale money to be transferred to you.

If a particular deposit is required, ask about the circumstances in which it will be refunded, such as if the transaction falls through.

9. What additional expenses might I face during the conveyancing process?

Conveyancing has various associated costs. While your conveyancer will cover some, others might fall upon you.

Common additional expenses include land registry fees, stamp duty, and costs related to leasehold property transactions. These are often called 'disbursements'. 

Ask your conveyancing solicitor about these potential extra fees to avoid any surprises later.

10. Do I need to pay if the sale doesn't conclude?

Some solicitors might still charge for their time or services used up to that point. Some might offer 'no completion no fee'.

When engaging a conveyancer, even in 'no sale no fee' deals, there's typically an initial payment of £160 to £300 covering preliminary tasks like searches.

Some firms may allow transferring the initial payment to a future transaction, offering long-term savings. Others might include subsequent searches at no extra cost if you remain their client and swiftly find another property.

However, expenses like search fees or survey costs usually remain your responsibility if the sale fails.

Be aware that transactions fall through all the time and that while it is great not to have to pay for conveyancing costs if your sale or purchase doesn't happen, your overall fee will probably be slightly more.

11. Are you endorsed by my mortgage lender?

Check if your chosen conveyancer is on the list of your mortgage lender's approved conveyancers because your lender is also a party to the transaction. If not, you may need to pay additional costs for your lender to employ a different conveyancer for their requirements.

Usually, your conveyancer acts for both you and your lender.

12. Where can I seek feedback or reviews about you?

Reputable conveyancers welcome transparency and often direct clients to online reviews or testimonials.

However, be aware that online reviews can be bought so read the words and don't just rely on the star rating. You're looking for a demonstration of expertise and quality of service.

Others may offer contact details of past clients (with permission) for a first-hand account of their experience. But it is unlikely that they will send you to unhappy clients.

13. What measures do you take for cyber security?

It's advisable to inquire specifically about processes surrounding sharing account details and confirming financial transactions.

A diligent conveyancing solicitor will welcome this question and detail the steps taken to ensure online safety.

14. How do I securely transfer money to your firm?

Ensuring the security of your financial transactions is paramount.

You'll want to know the measures in place to protect your money. Does the solicitor use a secure platform for payments? Are there safeguarding measures against cyber fraud?

15. How often will I get updates?

Communication can ease the anxious wait during property transactions. Good communication is the most overlooked consideration when finding a conveyancer.

Whether through emails, phone calls, or a dedicated portal, you'll want to know how often you can anticipate hearing from them.

Enquire about the frequency and method of updates. Ask whether you can email or call when you want, and what the expected response time should be (hopefully, the same day).

16. How long does the conveyancing process usually take?

Setting expectations from the outset can mitigate potential frustration.

While no two transactions are identical, an experienced conveyancer will provide a general timeframe for a standard property sale or purchase. It should be between 8 and 12 weeks.

External factors can cause delays, but a knowledgeable solicitor can outline the milestones.

17. How do you address and manage disputes?

While everyone hopes for a smooth transaction, sometimes disagreements arise.

Understanding the grievance procedure helps you understand how potential issues might be resolved, which organisations might mediate, and the expected timeline for addressing grievances.

The sign of a good firm is that these questions will be answered in their client care letter.

18. How can we speed up the process?

A proactive buyer or seller can play a part in influencing the conveyancing timeline.

Ask your solicitor for suggestions. They may provide guidance on gathering particular documents in advance or tips to speed things up from your end.

With any property transaction, paperwork is inevitable.

A good conveyancer has efficient systems in place to manage, store, and retrieve documents. By asking this question, you're ensuring the security and orderliness of your vital documents.

20. Is the firm open during holidays?

In case you plan to finalize any transactions during the Christmas-New Year time or other festive periods, then you need to ask if your conveyancing firm will be open in that period.

Asking the right questions, such as the ones given above, at the very beginning will ensure that you have a smooth experience with the sale or purchase of your property.

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