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How should you choose a conveyancing solicitor?

We often receive enquiries from people who are “ringing round for quotes” on conveyancing work.  In many cases it soon becomes apparent they think conveyancing is very expensive and that all Solicitors will provide the same level of service so it’s just a matter of finding the cheapest price. What these people have overlooked is that there is a huge disparity in service levels.

What does conveyancing cost

Firstly (and this will surprise many people) conveyancing is just about the cheapest part of the property moving process. Estate Agents charge in the region of 1.5% plus VAT. Few Solicitors charge even 0.5% plus VAT so in absolute terms the difference between the cheapest and the most expensive price is unlikely to be more than a couple of hundred pounds.

Why not choose the cheapest

Here is something the cheapest firms won’t tell you. They aren’t the cheapest because they want to be. Like all firms they charge what they can. They have to reduce their charges because that is the only way they can get work. The reason is obvious. They struggle to retain existing clients and attract new ones. Don’t forget these firms still have to make a profit. If they don’t they will go out of business. The only way they can balance the books is by compromising on the level of service they provide.

We are by no means the most expensive firm. Our prices are competitive but we are not the cheapest because if we were we could not provide the first class service that we pride ourselves upon. Our aim is and always has been to provide the best value for money with quality of service at the forefront.

But does quality of service matter? Isn’t conveyancing just a question of completing a few forms, getting the mortgage money and telling the client when they are going to be moving?

The simple answers are “Yes it does matter” and “No it isn’t that simple”.

Despite what people sometimes say, conveyancing is a complex and technical process.  This is borne out by the fact that more negligence claims are brought against Solicitors in connection with conveyancing transactions that have gone wrong than any other kind of work. Just think about that.  There is more chance of something going wrong in a conveyancing transaction than any other kind of legal work.

But surely Solicitors are insured so if my Solicitor makes a mistake I’ll get compensation?

Yes you will but only if you can prove the Solicitor has been negligent. You’ll have to get another Solicitor to act for you and he or she will have to be paid. At the very best you will face months if not years of stress and uncertainty.

How should you choose

So how do you tell one firm from the other?

The best way is on your own past experience of the firm. If you have instructed them in the past and been satisfied then that is a good reason to instruct them again. As a result most of our conveyancing clients are people we have represented previously who have been pleased with what we did.

Another way is  personal recommendation.  Ask your friends who they used when they moved house and whether they were happy with the service they received. If they were then the chances are you will be satisfied too.

Are there any other things you should consider?

Well,  firstly you can see whether the firm has any recognised quality standards.

Is the firm Lexcel accredited? If so they have been inspected rigorously and meet the highest possible standards of client service and practice management.  We achieved Lexcel accreditation in 2013.

Is the firm a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Standards Scheme (CQS)? If so then they have achieved the standard necessary to be considered experts in that area of practice. We achieved this in 2012.

When you first contact a firm notice how you are treated. Is the Receptionist helpful and friendly or do you get the impression she is not really interested?

Are you put through to someone who can assist you and how helpful are they? Do they answer the questions you have? Do they discuss and explain the charging structure or are they evasive? Do they offer to confirm the price in writing?

Remember to ask who will handle the work and what qualifications they have.

All our conveyancers are legally qualified. Many firms (especially the cheaper ones) delegate to unqualified staff who rely heavily on computerised case management systems  They will only be able to tell you what is on the screen in front of them.

Whilst careful preparation ensures that the vast majority of transactions are hassle free we pride ourselves on going the extra mile when that is required.  We had a situation recently where the purchase money on our clients’ sale did not arrive on Friday morning (the day of completion).  As soon as we realised there was a problem we started to make phone calls up and down the chain to find out what had gone wrong. We established that the delay was due to a mix up further down the chain which meant that somebody’s mortgage money had not arrived with their Solicitor.  We kept the clients informed throughout the day and eventually, we managed to complete just before the bank closed at 3.30pm so that they could move into their new  home before the weekend.  On the Monday morning the clients called in with chocolates for the member of staff concerned.

We haven’t mentioned recommendations by Estate Agents yet. Should you pay attention to what they say? Well the answer to that is yes and no.  We enjoy excellent relations with local agents and many of them are happy to recommend us.

However, if you do get a recommendation from an agent ask them whether they have a referral arrangement whereby the firm they recommend pays them money in return for clients being referred to them?  If so they have recommended the firm that pays them money not the firm they think does the best job (please remember firms don’t pay referral fees unless they need to).

If you still think cheapest is best ask yourself this. Would you base your choice of dentist on price alone or would you base your decision on reputation?

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