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What are conveyancing fees?

November 2018

How do I know if I’m paying too much for conveyancing fees?

When we are buying or selling our home, one of our most pressing concerns is knowing whether we are paying the right amount for the legal and other fees associated with the house move. So how do we know if we are getting value for money?

The most important advice I can give you on this is to go with a personal recommendation from someone you trust. There is nothing better than word of mouth referrals (I should know, I have built my business on them!) I would also make sure you know that the solicitor will handle your sale personally. A cheap mass-volume conveyancer simply won’t have the time to get to know your individual case, is more prone to errors and will likely take longer to do the same work. Always remember that you will have to live with the consequences of any mistakes, not them, so it is worth paying that bit extra to make sure the job is done right first time.

If you don’t have a personal recommendation, then my guide to understanding conveyancing fees should help you to choose wisely.

What exactly are conveyancing fees?
Conveyancing fees are the total bill you will pay for a solicitor or conveyancer to handle the purchase or sale of a house. They are made up of two elements, the legal fees set by your solicitor, plus any extras charged by third parties for necessary services, known as disbursements.

How much should expect to pay?
How long is a piece of string? Conveyancing fees depend on many factors, and how many ‘extras’ you might need. For example, if you’re buying a house in a flood risk area or in a former mining area, then extra searches will need to be done to asses the risk to your property. I advise that you agree a preset figure for the legal work carried out by your solicitor or conveyancer, which can range from around £500 to over £1000. The disbursements will be on top of this.

On top of the legal costs, what are the main disbursements I can expect to pay?
It depends on whether you’re buying or selling a home, but extra costs can vary from a few pounds for things like bankruptcy searches, anti-money laundering checks and copies of the title deeds, to a few hundred pounds for local authority checks and the transferring of ownership. Then of course there is the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) which is due on properties worth more than £125,000 and is calculated as a percentage on a sliding scale, up to 12%. Of course, if you are buying a second home or as part of your portfolio, there is an additional 3% SDLT levy.

Are the fees different for leasehold properties?
Yes, because the legal work involved is more complicated. The length of the lease may need to be addressed and also issues such as legal agreements between the landlord or management company and the buyer, about who is responsible for things like maintenance of the building and communal or outside areas.

Is that everything then?
Not quite. These days, your solicitor would expect to see safety certificates for certain works that have been carried out on a property, for example electrical or plumbing work, loft conversions and double glazing. If the certificates can’t be produced, then an insurance policy will potentially have to be taken out.

Do I have to pay the fees even if the sale falls through?
It depends on what you have agreed with your solicitor. Some offer ‘No Sale, No Fee’, but you need to make sure you know what you are expected to pay, if anything, should the sale falter. If the solicitor has incurred any third party costs then you are likely to have to cover them, but they do sometimes reduce the legal part of the bill if a sale is reagreed down the line.

How do I choose the right conveyancing solicitor if one hasn’t been recommended to me?
Shop around and compare fees and what’s included in those fees. Conveyancing is a complicated business, so look for someone with experience. Be mindful that there are now internet conveyancing services, that can seem cheap, but personally I wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole. Buying and selling houses is a legal minefield and every case is different, so the ‘one size fits all’ approach of the online community can lead to serious problems down the line. You need an expert who understands the process inside out and who will handle your case individually.

Hopefully, these guidelines will help point you in the right direction, but if you get stuck, do get in touch.