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Too Confusing for Consumers – Is the BBC right about Conveyancing fees?


So the BBC have suggested that Solicitors’ Conveyancing charges, along with having to pay for train station toilets and hospital car parks, is one of the 10 fees that make consumers scratch their heads. Writing in the recent edition of their news magazine, Lucy Townsend dismisses Conveyancing as “the process in which solicitors check information before a house sale” and says fees are “often grudgingly paid”.

Why is there such hostility to paying Solicitors for Conveyancing? According to the article it “forces the consumer to place their trust, and money, in the hands of a professional when they may not always understand the work involved. It is a situation referred to by economists as information asymmetry, and the result of such a knowledge imbalance for the consumer is often a sense of being ripped off. ”

Solicitors are clearly failing to communicate to the public exactly what it is they do for their money, and why they do it.

It appears that the writer herself does not understand that Conveyancing is more than merely checking information before a sale. Making local searches and checking the seller’s title before the sale are of course an important part of the work, but Conveyancing may be more properly described as arranging the transfer of the legal ownership of property to the buyer, and getting the transfer (and any mortgage) registered at the land registry.

It is disappointing if consumers equate buying a house with buying printer ink cartridges or popcorn in the cinema. You might think that what is usually the largest purchase any of us will make in our lifetime is worth taking a bit more care over, and paying for a professional to handle to process.

In my experience, most clients agree that Conveyancing Solicitors provide a good service at a reasonable price. True, things don’t always work as well as they should, but if you have a complaint about your Solicitor’s fees you can refer it to an independent ombudsman. That is more than you can do with, say, budget airline booking fees!

Perhaps the problem is that people object to paying for Conveyancing at all. It is a common complaint that you don’t need a Solicitor to buy a car or a packet of peas, so why do you need one to buy a house? This is a fair question, and one that I have addressed elsewhere.

In truth, you don’t actually need a Conveyancing Solicitor at all, and may under certain circumstances carry out Conveyancing yourself. Solicitors may warn you strongly against it, but then doctors warn against trying to remove your own appendix. Poorly performed DIY Conveyancing won’t kill you, but you have no-one but yourself to complain to if things go wrong.

When you get a quote from your Conveyancing Solicitor, make sure that you understand exactly what is included in the quote. This should not be a case of ‘head-scratchingly’ opaque charges and fees hidden in the terms and conditions. Your solicitor should make it clear what they will charge, and why.

Don’t be fooled by those £99 figures you see when you Google ‘Cheap Conveyancing’. You will find that you end up paying a lot more at the end of the day as these firms do often add on all manner of ‘extras’ for work that is common to all Conveyancing cases, and should be included in the basic price.


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