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How to find and choose a conveyancer

There are a few things to consider before instructing a conveyancer, including the type of service, location and cost.

Key points

  • You'll usually need a conveyancer for buying or selling a house, or both
  • Take recommendations from estate agents with a pinch of salt - they may end up costing you more
  • Compare fees to make sure you're getting the right service for your needs

Buying or selling a home can be stressful, or it could be quick, and painless. A good solicitor or conveyancer can make it go one way or the other.

Your legal representation plays a big part in the house-buying process. Once you've had an offer accepted on a property they're one of the first people you call, along with your mortgage adviser.

"A property is often the largest purchase anyone makes and there is a lot of responsibility involved in ensuring there are no issues either during the ownership of the property or when selling on," said Helen Barry, head of residential property at law firm Hugh James.

"All conveyancers will be capable of completing the administrative side of purchasing a property for you but a good conveyancer can make a real difference.

"Obviously the cost of your legal services will be a factor in choosing your conveyancer, particularly at such an expensive time. 

"However, there is a lot more to consider than just price and sometimes spending a little more on a quality adviser will save you money in the long run."

It's safe to say their role is integral, so instructing the right one for your needs is essential.

Think about what you want

The way we buy legal services is completely different to how it used to be. In the past your local solicitor would deal with your house sale, your divorce and your will, all under one roof.

Now, you can instruct conveyancers online, buy partial services and never see your solicitor in the flesh. While this type of conveyancing will probably be the cheapest, think about what you need from your conveyancer.

Most online conveyancing is done remotely, and your provider could be based miles away. If you instruct a large firm you might never speak to the same person twice, or have a direct point of contact for your case.

Alternatively, solicitors in your town or city may not have online case management, so you won't be able to 'check in' at any time to see where you are in the process.

Decide what kind of service you want and choose a conveyancer who you think is the best fit for your needs.

Solicitor or conveyancer?

While a lot of people might think the two terms are interchangeable, a solicitor is a qualified lawyer while a licenced conveyancer specialises in property. 

The service you're given won't differ much between the two. Even if you go to a solicitor they may have an in-house conveyancer, who does this type of work for them.

How to find a conveyancer

When you're buying a home, estate agents and brokers may recommend conveyancers for you to use. Be wary of these recommendations, as they'll usually be based on a commercial relationship and not on whether their service is good.

Conveyancers recommended this way may also be more expensive, so it's important to shop around yourself.

Better yet, ask family and friends if they can recommend anyone and check reviews and recommendations online before choosing a conveyancer.

Your mortgage lender may only work for free with solicitors or conveyancers on their panel. Ask what panels conveyancers are on, or speak to your lender about recommending one.

If your solicitor or conveyancer isn't on the lender's panel you can still use them, but you may have to pay extra fees.

Make sure whoever you choose is regulated by their relevant body. Solicitors are members of the Law Society while conveyancers must join the Council for Licenced Conveyancers.

Compare conveyancing fees

Solicitors work their fees out in different ways, but they'll usually be able to give you a quote once they know a few details. It's a good idea to get quotes from a few firms, before deciding which to opt for.

Make sure the costs are listed individually and include costs that don't go directly to the conveyancer. These are called disbursements, and include searches, stamp duty and land registry fees.

Double check whether disbursements are included and query any that aren't shown.

Make sure you take into account VAT, and question any quotes that are significantly lower than others. It might be because something has been left out.

Are they no move, no fee?

Unfortunately, house sales fall through frequently and it's usually the buyer who ends up out of pocket.

Check with your lawyer how much you'll pay if the sale doesn't happen. Some disbursements - such as searches - need to be paid up front and are sometimes non-refundable. Although some solicitors offer to conduct searches on your next property for free.

Some offer 'no move, no fee' deals, but check to make sure that this doesn't exclude things like disbursements. 

What conveyancing involves

Every house purchase and sale is different, but a conveyancer typically deals with a number of elements.

When you've found a solicitor you want to instruct, they'll send you a letter of engagement to confirm they're acting for you.

Let your estate agent know who's working for you, as they'll need to send a memorandum of sale.

The solicitor will then receive the property information form and the fixtures and fittings form - these detail everything related to the property. They'll go through this with you and make sure nothing is amiss.


Once this is done, they'll organise searches. These check different things, including local authority information which details local land charges, whether the building is listed and so on.

Your mortgage

Your lender will supply your conveyancer with details of your mortgage loan offer and deposit.

Signing your contract

Once all enquiries have been replied to, your solicitor will ask you to sign the contract and transfer your deposit into their account; so it can be cleared in time for the exchange.

Exchange of contracts

Your lender will need you to have a buildings insurance policy in place, before you can exchange.

Once everyone's happy, the buyer and seller will sign and exchange contracts and decide on a completion date. At this point things become legally binding.

Your deposit will be sent to the seller's solicitor and your solicitor will let you know how much you owe them in fees and when you need to pay.

Your conveyancer will draw up a transfer deed, which you'll need to sign and this will then be transferred into your name upon completion. 


On the day of completion your solicitor will work with your lender to make sure the money makes its way to the seller. Once this has happened the seller will then usually drop the keys off at the estate agent.

Get the most out of your conveyancer

Whatever type of conveyancer you go for, sometimes they're only as good as you make them.

Whether it's checking in with them regularly to ensure things are running smoothly or making sure nothing is amiss, buyers need to help their lawyer do the best job they can.

"A good conveyancer can also give you a significant competitive edge when buying a property where there is competition amongst buyers," said Barry. 

"Having someone on your side who is proactive, professional and efficient will reassure your seller and their agent that you are committed to a speedy and hassle-free purchase. 

"Conversely a conveyancer who is slow, difficult to get hold of and unwilling to communicate with other parties may frustrate your seller to the point they decide to look elsewhere for a buyer."

Talk and ask questions

While a good conveyancer is key to your property purchase, you're pretty important too. Your solicitor only knows what the legal documents tell them - unlike you, they won't go and see the property and will only deal with paperwork.

If you're worried about something or unsure about something related to your title plan - the full outline of what you're buying - or contract, tell them.

If there are things you want to know - such as information about planning permission, local authority information, etc - then ask your solicitor to conduct the relevant search.

Ask them what information they can find out and they should give you details of every search they could conduct.


Unhappy with your conveyancer? They may have been slow, uncommunicative or just plain bad.

Complain - you're paying them all that money for a reason, and if the service you get isn't up to scratch there are places you can go if you can't resolve your complaint with them. 

The Legal Ombudsman can deal with a complaint, as can the Law Society or the Council for Licenced Conveyancers.

By Emily Bater