You might assume – and reasonably – that conveyancing costs would be more or less uniform, but this is invariably not the case, with different conveyancing solicitor firms often charging entirely different rates for carrying out similar services.
This short guide examines the conveyancing costs which accompany the legal aspect buying – or selling – a home and how these differ.
What are the main services in a conveyancing for which you are charged?
During your conveyancing process, in a normal sale or purchase (or both) these are the services which are normally involved and which you are charged for:
- Buyers: Legal fees, Stamp Duty, Land Registration Fees, ID Searches, Property Searches, Bankruptcy, Priority Searches and Land Notices or Charges.
- Sellers: Legal Fees, Office copies, Title Plan, Management information and Leasehold Pack (if you are selling a leasehold property).
Conveyancing solicitors’ fees, fixed fees and estimates
Your conveyancing solicitor’s fee is what they charge you for carrying out all the legal work required to complete your home move.
Generally, there are two methods used for charging purposes.
With a fixed fee, you get charged a set amount for your entire conveyancing and this does not change, whatever happens during your transaction. You normally pay a deposit at the start and the balance on completion.
If you get an estimated fee amount instead of a fixed fee, your initial – and advertised – estimated fee will be smaller than for an equivalent fixed fee quote, but not only will this fee keep rising if your conveyancer encounters any issues along the way, also you may find that you’re charged for various extras which will most likely be included in a fixed fee quote.
Below is a list of conveyancing costs that are often portrayed as additional costs, when in fact, they are actually part of the solicitor’s legal fees:
- Bank transfer fees
- Storage of documentation
- Archive fee
- Mortgage fee
- Accelerated exchange fee
- ‘Reply to enquiries’ fee
- Bankruptcy fee
- ID checking fee
- Postage and telephone fees
- Help to buy, right to buy, shared ownership and new build additional fees
It’s highly advisable to ask your solicitor for a fixed fee conveyancing quote which includes all of the legal work that they expect you to pay for so that there isn’t the potential for additional conveyancing fees which might eventually add up to something considerably more than you’d bargained for.
What services are involved up to exchanging contracts?
At the start of the process your solicitor needs to check your ID, and, if you’re buying, your source of funds. They then move onto drawing up a contract or inspecting a contract.
If you’re buying, they are also required to inspect your surveyor’s report if a survey has been completed on the property, check through the searches returned, make legal enquiries based on their findings and finally give you a report on title when all legal enquiries have been returned and/or exhausted which puts you in a position to exchange contracts.
If you’re selling, your solicitor must respond to any legal enquiries raised by the other side’s solicitors on your behalf and may ask you for additional documentation or evidences to this end.
If you’re buying and your conveyancing involves an estimated quote, a solicitor’s firm may add on additional fees when obtaining property searches on your behalf.
If you are selling with an outstanding mortgage your solicitor has to communicate with the lender to ensure matters regarding the mortgage are handled correctly and efficiently. And if you’re buying using a mortgage, there is similarly additional work for your solicitor to do as, in both cases, your solicitor is also acting for your lender.
This extra work, however, should not stop any solicitor firm offering fixed fees from offering you a fixed fee quote to include the mortgage work; you’ll simply pay a little extra.
Stamp Duty and Land Registry
Your solicitor is required to pay stamp duty to the Treasury on your behalf if the value of the property you are buying is more than £125,000 or if you or someone else you are purchasing with owns more than one property worldwide.
If you’re a first time buyer, you are entitled to first time buyer relief, which means that in most cases you won’t have to pay any stamp duty if the property you’re buying is priced at £300,000 or less. You need, however, to satisfy HMRC’s criteria which defines what a first time buyer is.
Your solicitor communicates with the Land Registry so that when you complete, your ownership of a new property is registered correctly into your name (or names, if you are buying along with other people). Whenever a solicitor pays money to a third party on your behalf, it is called a disbursement and involves a fee.
With a fixed fee conveyancing, the normal disbursements you can expect in a standard conveyancing transaction are covered. This is one of the areas where solicitors’ firms offering estimated quotes often add considerably to the initial figure quoted.
Shared ownership, Leasehold, Right to Buy, Help to Buy, New Builds
If you are purchasing a property that involves any of the above, your solicitor will have to carry out additional work which will also increase your fees. Regardless, a solicitor should easily be able to establish a fixed fee quote for all of the conveyancing work which accompanies these scenarios.
Varied conveyancing costs accompanying different kinds of solicitors
Online advertising from solicitors’ firms often concentrates on marketing seemingly low cost conveyancing fees to capture the attention of people browsing for a solicitor or conveyancer.
With any online quote you must dissect carefully the charges, small print and terms and conditions – in particular you should always get as clear an indication as possible what the final cost will actually be. With estimates, this is always going to be approximate, in comparison with a fixed fee quote.
You should also search for online reviews regarding online solicitors – you might find out whether any previous clients have had bad experiences or not and whether or not they’ve had unexpected fees charged during their conveyancing processes.
The best advice when deciding whether or not to instruct a solicitor based on a seemingly cheap conveyancing quote is to ensure that you are reading the small print and to also check the online reviews.
High Street Solicitors
Headline charges for conveyancing from high street solicitors are often a lot higher than those from conveyancers who predominantly advertise online. The costs can range from around £700 to £1,000 for a property valued at £250,000 and the fee will increase the higher the property’s value.
You may think that if you are paying more then you will be getting a better service, however, this isn’t always the case; there’s still no substitute for checking reviews carefully to see if previous clients were satisfied with the services they’ve received.
Bear in mind that running a physical office on a high street is a considerable overhead which an online conveyancing firm might not have to pay; this alone is often the reason for the higher charges.
Estate Agent and Mortgage Broker Referrals
Most buyers will use the solicitors that their estate agent or mortgage broker recommend in the hope that they’ll be in safe hands and that this will lead to a more efficient transaction.
This at least is how the estate agent or mortgage broker will sell it to you. In actual fact they are often hundreds of pounds more expensive than what you would pay for a high street solicitor and even more so compared to a purely online conveyancing firm.
You have to factor in that your estate agent or mortgage broker will be paid a referral fee or kickback from the solicitors for all of the clients that they introduce to them.
A solicitor generally works at the same speed as any other solicitor as they can only complete the work which accompanies each stage at the time that that stage arises. For example, they have to wait for survey reports to come in before they can examine them and similarly with property searches.
One inbuilt limiter, however, is that your solicitor cannot speed up how quickly the other side’s solicitor is working and this is similarly the case with how quickly your mortgage lender, management company or local council carries out the necessary tasks
You should never think that there’s any particular way in which a solicitor referred to you by an estate agent or mortgage broker can make the conveyancing process go any quicker for you.