High Street Solicitor or Specialist Conveyancer?

When you are looking for a lawyer to carry out your conveyancing you basically have two options. You can either choose a traditional high street solicitor’s firm or a specialist conveyancing company. There are advantages and disadvantages to both and which you choose should depend on a number of factors such as cost, your personal circumstances and perhaps how quickly you need the transaction to proceed.

A high street solicitor and a specialist conveyancing company will basically do the same job, they will protect your interests and ensure where you are selling that all mortgages and paid off and you receive the net proceeds and where you are buying that you are the legal owner of the property, but they may do it in slightly different ways.

Conveyancing Fees

Cost is a major factor for many people in deciding which lawyer to instruct. A specialist conveyancing firm will tend to be cheaper than a high street solicitor because the specialist conveyancer deals in high volumes whereas the high street solicitor might have only a handful of conveyancing cases at any one time.

A high street solicitor is more likely to charge by the hour (or rather in blocks of 6 minutes) whereas a specialist conveyancer will charge a pre-agreed fixed fee. Watch out for referral fees though. Specialist conveyancing firms get a lot of their work from estate agents or mortgage brokers who refer clients in return for the payment of a referral fee. This fee is payable by the conveyancer however it can be quite high, sometimes £200 or more, and it is likely the conveyancer’s fee will be increased to reflect it. This is not always obvious from the quote.

Attending Your Lawyer’s Offices

The vast majority of high street solicitors will see their clients in person whereas the vast majority of specialist conveyancers will not. Some clients will prefer to talk face to face and will enjoy the comfort of knowing they can pop in to see their solicitor any time, whereas others will prefer the convenience of not having to attend appointments, during their own working day, and indeed some will be nervous about a face to face confrontation.

Appointing a specialist conveyancer who is prepared to deal with everything via phone, post and email gives you flexibility because it means you can search nationwide for a quote – you’re not tied to using only the firms in your local area. Having said that, it can cause delays because certain documents cannot be deliverable electronically so however urgent the matter is they still need to be posted to you and then by you before a transaction can proceed, unless you can get to the firm’s offices (and even then they may not have the facilities to see you).

Some transactions will inevitably go badly and it is easy for a conveyancer to hide behind the telephone. You can’t march down to the office and demand to speak to someone if that office is 300 miles away!

On the other side of the coin, having to make an appointment to give initial instructions, go through the title documents and sign the contract can cause delays too. Any appointment would almost certainly be during office hours so you may need some notice to arrange time off work and your solicitor may not have a slot in his diary immediately.

Working to a Deadline

Almost everyone wants to move as quickly as possible when buying or selling a property but sometimes there will be a genuinely important deadline. Typically a house builder will insist that contracts are exchanged within 28 days of contract papers being issued or a mortgage lender who has repossessed property will insist that exchange happens within 28 days of an offer being accepted, and will continue to accept offers in the meantime. You might be about to start a job in another part of the country and need to relocate by the time you start or you may have been given notice to quit your rental property.

Whatever the circumstances, a high street solicitor is usually the better option where there is a deadline. A specialist conveyancer’s workloads often mean they cannot prioritise your case as you would like. A high street solicitor on the other hand, while he may charge you extra, often can. Also, specialist conveyancing firms tend to have set procedures which they will not waiver on, particularly when it comes to things like money laundering and identity checks and this can sometimes cause fatal delays. High street solicitors are more likely to treat each case on its merits.

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