There are cheap conveyancers and there are good conveyancers but rarely will you find a conveyancer that is both. Certainly at Fridaysmove we do not describe ourselves as cheap although we are good. The old adage of “ what is cheap is dear “ rings especially true in conveyancing on two fronts. First, most conveyancers advertise cheap headline figures but will levy on your final bill many additional fees not outlined in their quote or Terms of Engagement. Secondly, and just as worryingly cheap conveyancers may not have the risk management systems in place or experienced enough staff to review the legal documentation to spot a defect in title or a problem waiting to happen. Remember you only know how good the quality of the work of your conveyancer is once you sell your property with no legal problems identified by your future buyer.
You are entitled to ask the question : "Why is it so hard to find a cheap but good lawyer?"
It is almost a contradiction in terms to suggest that you should find a cheap and good conveyancer. Cheap and good do not go hand in hand and often you will find that, as a rule of thumb, a cheap conveyancer is poor but a good conveyancer is good. Clearly there can be the odd exception to the rule.
The reason why it is hard to find a cheap but good conveyancer is due to commercial realities. Take for example a firm that is making a margin of £200 a case. (the type of firms that are advertising fees of £295 on the internet – believe it or not their marketing costs for a referral base could be as high as £200). The conveyancer in that firm is being paid £2, 000 a month it means that conveyancer has to complete 10 transactions just to break even. As you will appreciate, most businesses, let alone law firms, are not in the habit of breaking even.
The accepted convention amongst law firms is that a lawyer (whether or not it be conveyancer or solicitor) should bill in excess of three times their annual salary. Therefore a conveyancer in such circumstances- with a margin of £200 - be expected to complete on 30 conveyancing transactions a month.
Bearing in mind that any of these cheap conveyancing firms operate on a No Completion, No Fee basis and that the Government statistics indicate that a minimum of one third transactions abort a month that conveyancer would be handling in excess of 40 transactions a month. This boils down to that conveyancer liaising during the course of the transaction to more than 40 clients (often properties being sold or purchased jointly), more than 40 solicitors (sometimes a lender will separately represented) and more than 40 estate agents (often a lawyer can expect to receive calls from a number of different members from the Estate Agency office ranging from negotiator, valuer to branch manager). It is unrealistic, in such circumstances, to expect that conveyancer to provide a high quality service. Something has to give and normally it is a service, or even more frighteningly, attention to detail.
It is no small wonder that often a cheap conveyancer may : Fail to alert you to any potential problems and lack the time to be proactive, Put the success of your house move at risk, Fail to read important documents carefully, Ignore your phone calls, Fail to answer your questions in plain English, Take longer than necessary to complete the work. You have to be realistic. If you were to purchase a car and have £5, 000 in your pocket are you really expecting him to purchase a Bentley or Ferrari? Conversely, those lawyers that charge a high amount on the whole intend to ensure that their conveyancers are not overloaded to the same extent as the cheaper conveyancers and therefore the conveyancer has the breathing space to speak to the various parties involved and concentrate on the detail. Please note that a property purchase is normally the most expensive acquisition you are likely to make in your lifetime. Choosing a conveyancer key to the ease and success of that transaction. Taking a risk in order to save £100 or £200 may not be the wisest move.
You don't have to pay through the nose for good conveyancing though !
5 things to consider when choosing a Conveyancing Service
Whether you find your conveyancing online or through other means, the following check list should help you benchmark your conveyancing solicitor:
1. The company/firm must specialise in residential conveyancing.
Alternatively they must have a specialist conveyancing department. Solicitors that specialise in litigation, divorce, family, employment or even commercial property law seldom provide the best residential conveyancing service
2. When you choose a cheap conveyancing solicitor, experience is more important than qualifications.
Ask to speak to the lawyer dealing with the case. You should be given their direct line (and full contact details) If you can not speak to the lawyer before the case starts it begs the question as to what chance of communicating with them once the transaction gets going! Please remember that just because a fully-fledged Solicitor handles your case, it doesn't mean they'll do a good job.
3. Avoid cheap conveyancing firms operating under a "dedicated team" set-up. In our opinion the 'dedicated team' system falls apart in the large conveyancing factories (providers of cut-priced volume conveyancing services). These cut-priced legal call centres often have 'team members' that are little more than glorified computer operators. Their websites swear blind that they provide a speedy and personal conveyancing service however, we have witnessed many instances where this is simply not the case.
In our opinion we'd say that conveyancing factories are fine for simple stuff, like re-mortgaging work but for anything more complicated (especially the sale or purchase of a leasehold property) you might be better-off going elsewhere. One of the largest conveyancing practices actually outsourcers its leasehold work as they simply do not have the expertise in house
4. Choose a firm which operates on a "Fixed Fee Guarantee" basis.
In the past, conveyancing solicitors have charged for conveyancing work on an hourly basis. Not surprisingly this allows bills to escalate out of control. A 'Fixed-Fee Guarantee' lets you budget accurately. Even if you run into unexpected complications, you're protected. Contrary to some of the advice on the Web, using a lawyer who operates a “ No Completion, No Fee “ policy is not always a wise move. In this economic climate you may find that in order to avoid wasting time on a file that may abort they wait for the mortgage offer to be received ( especially in this difficult climate ) and therefore sit on their hand. No sale no fee is a great justifier for procrastination.
5. Extended hours.
Check that the lawyer handling your case can be contacted outside of office hours. It is possible to find conveyancers that keep the phones manned or their mobile switched on until 8pm weekday evenings and most of the weekend.