Using a conveyancing lawyer

Your choice of conveyancing lawyer will be vital to the procedure of buying or selling a home that many people find one of the most stressful experiences of their lives. You will want to feel confident that your conveyancing lawyer can comfortably negotiate the various hoops you will have to jump through so that you can get on with the rest of your life.

To help ensure that your move goes as smoothly as possible has asked a panel of conveyancing lawyers what advice they can give to those buying or selling a home.

Why use a conveyancing lawyer?

A number of different options exist for those looking for conveyancing services - from licensed conveyancers and banks which employ paralegals to offer conveyancing advice to law firms which offer a more personalised service to clients.

People sometimes believe a conveyancing lawyer is not required for what they assume is a box-ticking process of bureaucracy. In reality your conveyancing lawyer will play a key role in a series of legal requirements that are growing increasingly complex.

Matthew Stubbs, conveyancing lawyer at London firm Balogun Kirvan, says different clients have different requirements when it comes to house purchase. “Some clients want a quick, easy and cheap fix and there are many companies who provide this type of service. Other clients, however, require a professional service.” He warns that many transactions turn out to be more complex than anticipated.

Paul Sams (left) , a lawyer at conveyancing firm Eric Robinson warns those considering doing it themselves of "the nuances of the work." He says that the complexity of the process requires a conveyancing lawyer capable of dealing with potential pitfalls and greater demands, such as those made by stamp duty requirements.

The difference between conveyancing lawyers and licensed conveyancers is reflected in the attitude of mortgage lenders who in the past, Sams says, have been concerned about how licensed conveyancers are insured and regulated. Although in recent years this has changed.

Large sums of money are at stake which makes it even more important to ensure that your deal is secure. Unlike a licensed conveyancer, as long as your conveyancing lawyer is a member of the Law Society they will be regulated via the lawyers Regulation Authority.

Lenders are likely to demonstrate a stronger preference for conveyancing lawyers in the credit crunch as they become increasingly conscious of rules and regulations, Sams says.

Sams also believes that the “well rounded service” that conveyancing lawyers can offer is vital. This means that when related problems occur - such as probate, litigation or tax ­ they can be dealt with within the same firm.

What does a conveyancing lawyer do?

According to Paul Sams "the role of the conveyancing lawyer is to provide certainty to the transaction.” You look out for the property¹s suitability for you whilst a conveyancing lawyer will examine the legal aspects.

According to Sams, a conveyancing lawyer will "ensure a good workable title" to guarantee your ownership and the ability to sell in the future. This involves your conveyancing lawyer asking the important questions, ensuring legal requirement are met and filling out the necessary paperwork.

What to look for in a conveyancing lawyer

Typically it is helpful if your conveyancing lawyer is someone you can have a good relationship with. The process is a collaborative one and as Rima Sachdev (right) of conveyancing lawyers Abbott Lloyd Howorth says you will need to work with someone approachable and capable of explaining things to you in ordinary terms.

Sachdev emphasises the importance of instructing a conveyancing lawyer who is easy to contact; someone available to respond to queries and, if busy, willing to return your call promptly.

Will Stisted (left) of conveyancing lawyers Anderson Longmore & Higham says that you should “meet with your lawyer face-to-face rather than rely on a telephone call.” He also suggests that your conveyancing lawyer should be someone with “good local knowledge of the area.”

How to get the most out of your conveyancing lawyer

To get the wheels in motion faster Stisted suggests that you compile any documents relating to the property prior to visiting your conveyancing lawyer. This will include copies of papers such as planning permissions and building regulation consents. “These will be asked for by the buyer¹s lawyer,” Stisted says, “so if they can be provided at the outset it can save a great deal of time.”

To speed the process up Sisted also suggests you line a surveyor and a lender up in advance.

How to pay for your conveyancing lawyer

All our panel conveyancing lawyers agreed that fees can usually be quite accurately predicted at the outset of the process. Indeed, Stisted advises individuals that under Law Society regulations your conveyancing lawyer “has to keep you informed of costs and any increase in likely costs should they exceed the original estimate.”

Sachdev does, however, add the caveat that your conveyancing lawyer cannot anticipate everything and occasionally costs will have to be reviewed.

Stisted says this is particularly the case for Leasehold properties where “the amount of work necessary will depend on the complexity and accuracy of the Lease and the amount and ease of dealings with Managing Agents.”

He cautions individuals regarding the use of conveyancing lawyers that operate 'no win no fee' arrangements. He warns: “it is a game of swings and roundabouts,” explaing that “clients with successful transactions often end up subsidising those with abortive ones.”

Sachdev adds that having already done the work it is also likely that if an exchange falls through your conveyancing lawyer will still charge you something. If it falls through just before the exchange of contracts then you will be charged most of the initial estimate.

Sachdev does advise, however, that to ensure fees are fair your conveyancing lawyer should break down the bill for you to explain how the final sum has been reached.

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