Do Cheap Conveyancers Benefit the Consumer?

Ever since it became commonplace for the ordinary men and women on the street to own their homes many law firms have seized on this huge market and placed great emphasis on their conveyancing departments. The resulting competition for work means that it is now possible to pay as little as £200 in legal fees and indeed, to pay nothing at all if the proposed sale or purchase never proceeds to completion.

On the face of it this would seem to be a great benefit to the average consumer, however is there a price to pay in terms of quality?

Cheap Conveyancing – How Can Firms Make it Pay?

It is fair to say that the predominance of registered titles as opposed to unregistered titles has made conveyancing much simpler than it used to be, but this cannot entirely account for the fact that it has become so cheap. For a firm whose major income is from conveyancing work to compete on fees and still turn a profit, the staff doing the day to day work have to handle a large number of transactions, perhaps as many as 200, at any one time. Think about that for a moment – that means that on average, in a 40 hour week a volume conveyancing fee earner will be able to spend just 12 minutes per week on each transaction.

As well as having such a large number of cases, the majority of fee earners in volume conveyancing departments will be unqualified, which of course makes them much cheaper to employ. It is perfectly legal for a non-qualified individual to carry our conveyancing work so long as he is only doing so whilst in the employment of a qualified solicitor (or licensed conveyancer).

You will not usually meet a volume conveyancer in person, all the correspondence being dealt with over the telephone or through post or e-mail. This saves spending time on client interviews as well reducing the office space that the firm requires.

So what effect do these issues have on the quality of the service the firm is able to provide?

High Case Loads

The firm will employ a number of administration staff to carry out the simpler tasks, so freeing up some of the fee earner’s time. The administration staff will often deal the majority of incoming telephone calls as well as making outgoing calls to update clients, chase other firms etc.

A case management system will be used which will produce many standard letters automatically and will provide a template for non-standard letters. It will also perform other tasks to save the fee earners’ time.

The department may have a “technical team” which will deal with the more complex cases. The technical team will have fewer cases and generally more experienced staff.

Unqualified Conveyancing Staff

Unqualified is not a byword for incapable (just as qualified is not a byword for capable) and there are now many highly experienced conveyancers who have no formal qualification in law. It is unfortunately also true that there are many inexperienced or just plain bad, conveyancers. These poor quality employees tend to move from firm to firm every couple of years. When a conveyancer makes an error it is often not apparent until the purchaser comes to try and sell the property on, so if the conveyancer keeps moving on their mistakes don’t catch up with them. Contrast this with a solicitor, licensed conveyancer or legal executive who may be reported to their professional body even after they have left a firm.

[ad name=”In content post 300×250″]

A good volume conveyancing firm will have a balance of experience so that the novices will always be able to speak to a more experienced colleague for advice.

No Conveyancer – Client Meeting

It is likely, if you instruct a volume conveyancer, that you will never meet the person dealing with your case. Initial instructions will be taken via a questionnaire that will be completed and posted and communication during the transaction will be by telephone or e-mail where possible and otherwise by post. It is perfectly possible to conduct a transaction in this manner though naturally some clients will fee much more comfortable having a face to face meeting.

Cheap Conveyancing That’s Not So Cheap

It will almost always be the case, whatever the original quote, that the conveyancer will reserve the right to charge additional fees if the transaction proves to be substantially more complex that first anticipated. Some firms take this a stage further however, and will provide a seemingly very cheap quote but then charge “add-ons” such as a fee for completing the SDLT1 form (which every purchase worth more than £40,000 will need) or a fee for dealing with redemption of a mortgage. It is generally considered that these charges, which will be added in most cases, ought to be included in the basic quote.

Any additional charges will need to be pre-agreed and will often be set out in the firm’s terms and conditions which the client will be asked to sign.

Complaints People Have With Cheap Conveyancers

Many people report that the service is too impersonal. Clients will often speak to many different people and find it difficult to get hold of the person actually dealing with their case. If the person dealing with the case is quite inexperienced some clients may worry that they are not getting accurate advice.

Although a non-qualified conveyancer may have a great deal of conveyancing experience they are unlikely to have any knowledge of other areas of law, such as wills and probate, tax or litigation which a conveyancing client may need advice on.

Conclusion

A good quality volume conveyancing firm can be as good, if not better, than a traditional high street solicitor and will generally be much cheaper, however too often the need to process transactions quickly and with the minimum of fuss, and a lack of experience, means that issues are often overlooked or misunderstood.

For a straightforward freehold transaction it is probably worth saving some money and going with a volume conveyancer however if it is more complex, or if a client requires advice on other areas of law, it might be necessary to bite the bullet and pay a proper fee.


You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

5 Responses to “Do Cheap Conveyancers Benefit the Consumer?”

  1. Adrew Hillel Says:

    Is it not the case that some online cheap conveyancers are cheaper because they are NOT giving the estate agents a bung of £300 ? Net net ( excuse the pun )they are doing the conveyancing at the same cost of traditional conveyancers ( but – dare I say it ) slightly less compromised.

  2. Peter Kingsley Says:

    I am afraid conveyancing is now where the bungs / referrals will increase yet further. Cheap solicitors can offer the same service as Andrew points out but not obligated to pay backhanders. Of course as its the law society everything is above board.

  3. Paul Mosely Says:

    We are already seeing the lawyers involved in property come out of their shells, especially those who were involved in HIPs to bring about a new deal. Believe when i tell you the terms and conditions are enough to shock even the most hardened life long property expert.

    It is a disgrace what they are allowed to get away with and the ombudsman needs to take alook at these remarkable offers. The shame is you will find many falling for them.

  4. i agree with the comments that a cheap online conveyancer doesn’t have to pay £xxx bungs to referrers so the consumer is the winner. with computer technology it is easier for everything to be done remotely which gives cost savings

  5. A basic conveyancing transaction can now be done fairly cheaply. Indeed, with new technology being progressed by the Law Society, Land Registry and HMRC it will not be long before it is possible in some cases to buy a house virtually as easy as buying anything else over the internet. However, when you have a more complex transaction (usually because of previous incompetent legal advisers) it is necessary to have an experienced lawyer – they cost money and it is stupid to think you can buy that for £200.00. Why do people worry about the cost of professionals such as solicitors when they pay an estate agent thousands of pounds for taking a few photos and putting them on Rightmove or similar web sites?

Leave a Reply

«
»