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Are Online Conveyancing Fees Always Cheaper? | September 16th, 2012

The rise in online conveyancing has revolutionised the conveyancing sector, taking it out of what used to be dusty solicitors’ offices and putting conveyancing fees in the hands of the client.

As more conveyancing firms battle for your custom, conveyancing fees seem to be spiralling downwards to unbelievable sums like £99 conveyancing or £199 conveyancing fees.

It is unlikely that online conveyancing for £99 or even £199 is going to fulfil everything required of the conveyancing process. However, online conveyancing tends to be cheaper than using a high street firm of conveyancers or conveyancng solicitors because all the various stages of conveyancing are handled electronically, meaning that the traditional face-to-face meetings and phone calls are no longer needed.

The conveyancing process operates via an online account which the homebuyer has with its conveyancer, enabling the progress of conveyancing to be checked by the client 24/7.

This also means that less correspondence is needed as everything is done digitally.

Records like title deeds are now also stored electronically, making obtaining deeds and information about relevant planning applications much quicker.

The only time when title deeds might have to be in the form of a hard copy would be with historical or listed buildings, because in these cases deeds are not usually available as electronic files.

Although generally online conveyancing has the potential to be much cheaper, there are some situations which might mean more costly conveyancing fees.

Leases usually attract an extra fee called a Leasehold property surcharge to cover the time reading and dealing with enquiries about a lease. If this stage of the process requires more time or an enquiry turns out to be contentious, then it might mean higher conveyancing fees to sort out the problem.

Problems with surveys or property chains causing delays can also mean higher conveyancing fees, as these are situations which will impact on the conveyancing process.

Many homebuyers also fear hidden costs in conveyancing fees and the sort of charges which conveyancers might add to online conveyancing fees include photocopying or public liability insurance.

Always check before agreeing to accept a conveyancing quote if there are any hidden fees in the small print of a quote or the initial contract of engagement sent by a conveyancer.

If you need to contact your conveyancer by phone because of an issue, the time and cost of phone calls might also be added to the final bill.

Check beforehand how any extra costs will be charged – whether hourly pro rata (usually every quarter of an hour is charged, but some professionals like solicitors will charge by even a proportion of a minute for their time); or whether a set fee agreement would be possible for extra conveyancing work, including sorting out a problem with a planning application which might affect a property.

Generally, however, online conveyancing is cheaper – and many high street conveyancers and conveyancing solicitors will offer an online conveyancing service to homebuyers via their website, so check with your local conveyancing firm whether this service is possible to help save on conveyancing fees.

The Law Society has launched a Conveyancing Quality Scheme, so look for the CQS logo in the windows of conveyancing firms or on websites offering online conveyancing fees.

Hidden Costs In Conveyancing | August 24th, 2012

Conveyancing is a process which goes through five main stages, from first agreeing to buy or sell a property, to a property’s new owner being registered at the Land Registry.

The process for vendors and buyers involves a contract being drawn up by the vendor’s solicitor and then being sent to the buyer’s solicitor with a property information pack.

This might include information about fixtures and fittings, energy efficiency of the property and any disputes involving the property, including disputes with neighbours.

In leasehold property transactions, the buyer’s solicitor will have to read and explain the lease to the buyer and therefore estimating the conveyancing fees for leasehold property transactions can be more difficult if an enquiry about the lease has to be dealt with.

The most likely scenarios for a hike in the estimated cost of conveyancing fees involve unforeseen situations like a covenant in the lease which might affect the property sale (eg no pets allowed, or a public right of way across land belonging to a property, or planning restrictions which prevent development of the property).

Disputes between buyers and vendors can also increase the fees for conveyancing – and the sort of issues which might lead to a rise in conveyancing fees might include the vendor wishing to remove a fixture of the property like a period fireplace or a bath, which the buyer considers should be left in situ.

A conveyancing solicitor’s time spent on processing conveyancing is the most likely cause of a rise in conveyancing fees, as the result of a dispute or enquiry – because of this it is crucial to discuss extra fees before agreeing to accept a conveyancing deal.

Even photocopying and postage stamps or phone calls are charged for by conveyancing solicitors, which is why fixed fees or online conveyancing fees can be much cheaper.
Conveyancers may also a charge for professional indemnity (PI) insurance cover – ask what extras might be added when you receive a conveyancing quote or query anything which you are not sure about.

Online conveyancing does away with the need for face-to-face meetings with a conveyancing solicitor or phone calls, as the process is handled remotely. The client will be updated on their conveyancing via an online account, which they can access 24/7 to check on the progress of their conveyancing.

However, if there is a problem not covered by the conveyancing fee quote, it is likely that the online conveyancing fee will not cover this.

This is also true in the case of fixed fee conveyancing, so make sure you know how extra time will be charged – and that incidental costs such as photocopying and postage are included in the quote, as well as VAT.

The worst case scenario for an increase in conveyancing fees might be if a property were subject to dispute and the buyer was not made aware of this before making an offer.

Such disputes might involve the state of repair of a property and any liability for this (eg a freeholder which has failed to effect repairs under the terms of the lease) – or even a claim on the property by a mortgage company, loan company or even former partner of a previous owner of the property, which comes to light during the initial searches.

These situations are rare but can cause a property deal to fall through.

However, untangling the issues can mean more work for a conveyancer, as well as a more expensive structural survey, or extra correspondence with a mortgage company or the Land Registry or representatives of any party with a claim on the property.

Most conveyancing is conducted smoothly and efficiently – legal documents and planning applications are now stored electronically and this can save time and money in the conveyancing process.

But always make sure you know how any extra conveyancing fees will be charged (eg set fee or hourly rate) before you accept a conveyancing deal, just in case as this will eliminate any hidden conveyancing costs at a later stage.

Cheap Conveyancing For Buyers And Vendors | July 16th, 2012

The Internet is now overloaded with cheap conveyancing for buyers and vendors, so it is important to make sure that a bargain conveyancing deal will actually cover all the services you require.

The process of conveyancing for buyers and vendors varies – and leasehold properties usually attract higher conveyancing fees because the lease has to be read and there may be queries to answer or further searches required.

The vendor’s solicitor also has to prepare the contract pack, which includes the draft contract, a copy of the Title Deeds and the property information form (SPIF) – which covers information such as energy efficiency ratings, boundaries and any previous disputes about the property.

Both vendors and purchasers pay disbursements, as well as legal fees to the conveyancer, but whereas the purchaser will pay disbursement which include searches and Stamp Duty, the vendor will not pay for these; but may, for example, have to pay a redemption settlement on an existing mortgage, which the conveyancer will have to arrange to pay along with the mortgage.

Routine costs like photocopying and phone calls will also be charged with legal fees – although online conveyancing tends to limit the amount of hard copies required in the conveyancing process, as most property documents are now stored electronically.

The different options regarding conveyancing for buyers and vendors include:

  • Conveyancing solicitors
  • Licensed conveyancers

and out of these:

  • Conveyancing panel member (usually the mortgagor’s panel).
  • Local conveyancing firms
  • Online conveyancers.

Online conveyancers usually offer the cheapest deals – some deals are available from £99 plus VAT – but it is crucial to check what this would cover and it may be that if you are buying or selling a leasehold property or a property with historic deeds (which are not stored electronically usually), then you may need to use a high street conveyancing firm.

Local firms offering conveyancing can be useful for buyers and vendors because they are most likely to have local knowledge, which can speed up any enquires about planning applications or developments near the property which might affect the sale.

Using a conveyancing panel member may be an option which is forced onto buyers or vendors by the mortgagor (lender) – in some instances, buyers and vendors can end up paying two sets of conveyancing fees if their lender has its own conveyancing panel and they decide to choose their own conveyancing firm independent from the lender’s conveyancing panel.

Make sure you shop around for the best deals on cheap conveyancing for buyers or vendors – and check what is covered by any conveyancing service offered, as well as how any extra work required outside the quote will be charged (eg hourly).

If you have to use your lender’s conveyancing panel and fees seem excessive, again enquire what is covered and compare with any other quotes you have obtained.

The Law Society has set up the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) as an accreditation scheme for conveyancers and members carry out work to best practice standards, so using a firm with the CQS logo can help make sure you obtain a professional service.

If you obtain a comparable or cheap quote for conveyancing for buyers and vendors and your mortgagor’s panel member’s fees are considerably higher, ask your lender why and consider contacting the Law Society for more advice.

Ways of Obtaining Cheap Conveyancing | June 3rd, 2012

Everyone likes to obtain value for money and therefore looking for cheap conveyancing is an obvious activity for anyone looking towards buying or selling a property. Whilst in many cases cheap conveyancing is readily available and offers exactly the same services that are available from the more expensive conveyancing companies. That said, there are still considerations that need to be had when it comes to opting for cheap conveyancing if you are not to end up paying more than you banked on!

Tips for Obtaining Cheap Conveyancing

As there are so many different types of cheap conveyancing services being offered the key to obtaining cheap conveyancing that is appropriate to your needs is identifying your requirements clearly. Many cheap conveyancing providers will be particularly efficient at a type of property or type of conveyancing service such as first time buyers or development purchases. By identifying these special services it is more likely that you will obtain the best cheap conveyancing company for your needs.

When obtaining cheap conveyancing it is also important to get good reviews and word of mouth is a fabulous way of managing this. In most cases conveyancing is actually relatively simple and straight forward therefore there is little wonder that there are an increasing number of people looking to use cheap conveyancing services. Bear in mind that it is not always necessary to have a highly qualified solicitor undertaking conveyancing and an experienced legal executive can often offer cheap conveyancing with all the experience necessary to provide you with the services required.

Pitfalls with Cheap Conveyancing

Although there are some excellent companies offering cheap conveyancing there are also some pitfalls that may arise where cheap conveyancing really isn’t the best option. Where the conveyancing is complicated in some way such as with a listed building or there are numerous links to the chain, cheap conveyancing may not be the most appropriate option. That said, cheap conveyancing can be available for even the trickiest of situations but more care needs to be taken to ensure that these types of situations are included in the quotation provided. Always make sure that any cheap conveyancing quotes tell you exactly what is, and what is not included in the price. It is also worth finding out from the cheap conveyancing provider as to whether you are going to have a point of contact or whether your transaction will be dealt with by a team of people.

Cheap conveyancing is often, not all the time, provided through a call centre or large team in order to allow them to benefit from economies of scale and whilst this is no real problem for the more straight forward transactions it may make cheap conveyancing a false economy for those with particular requirements or for those on a tight deadline. Do your research and it is highly likely that you too can enjoy cheap conveyancing without losing out on any aspect of your transaction.

The Benefits and Pitfalls of Online Conveyancing | June 3rd, 2012

With increasing reliance being placed on online facilities such as online communications and online banking, it is little wonder that online conveyancing is also becoming increasing popular. Gone are the days where your conveyancing had to take place on your local high street and by opening up the virtual doors to online conveyancing, the opportunities are there to get so much more for your money!

What is Online Conveyancing?

Essentially there is no real difference between the process of online conveyancing and the process of ‘standard’ conveyancing. The real difference with online conveyancing is that it allows the professional to draw upon all of the various aspects of the conveyancing process that are now facilitated through online services. For example, searches in local areas can now be undertaken online, money can be transferred online and communication can happen online. All of these facilities add to the potential for online conveyancing and allow the professionals to operate considerably more efficiently than they would otherwise if waiting for traditional communications.

Benefits of Online Conveyancing

The most obvious benefit of online conveyancing is the fact that it is considerably quicker. Decisions can be made instantaneously and many processes can be undertaken in conjunction with other processes. Online conveyancing also allows for much of the record keeping to be done automatically. With online conveyancing records such as search returns can be obtained automatically and passed onto the client where appropriate. As being more economical with time is a by-product of online conveyancing, this also has the impact of making the process more cost effective, something which is beneficial for both the online conveyancing professionals themselves and the customer. Furthermore online conveyancing makes matters easier for other professions such as surveyors and banking professions who can obtain information online in a quicker way than would otherwise be achievable.

Disadvantages of Online Conveyancing

There are of course disadvantages associated with online conveyancing. For many individuals online conveyancing feels like it is too distant and they have too little control over their case. Furthermore online conveyancing is often undertaken by larger companies that simply do not offer the personal touch that some customers value to a large extent. With online conveyancing it may well be the case that local knowledge is lost and with some properties or regions this may prove to be more problematic than others. Whilst online conveyancing is, on the whole a quicker process than more traditional conveyancing there may be times where the professional requires documents quickly and being able to take them to the office on the day may be a real advantage to those not going for online conveyancing.

Online conveyancing is a real opportunity for many customers to gain efficiency in their transaction, but it isn’t for everyone! Consider your own position first before opting for online conveyancing automatically.

Three Things To Look For When Looking For Conveyancing Solicitor | April 16th, 2012

When you decide to buy a property, you will find out that there is a definite need for an experienced conveyancing solicitor to speed up and smooth out your purchase process. Finding such a solicitor is not a problem at all. However, finding a good conveyancing lawyer who is really experienced in this field is something to really look out for.

 

The three major things that will determine that you get the best conveyancing services are guarantee, fixed prices and experience.

 

When looking for a conveyancing solicitor, it is very important to look for a no transaction, no pay guarantee. This is to make sure the conveyancing solicitor does his best to quickly facilitate a transaction. If the sale fails to get through, the lawyer will not be paid. Poor conveyancing services are often the reason why sales fail through and so, to make sure you get the best service, this guarantee is very reassuring.

 

Fixed prices are also very important to look for when looking for conveyancing solicitors. You will often find conveyancing quotes on many websites that seem to be very low. However, what you don’t know is that these are just the fees for the basic lawyer services that you get. There are many hidden costs in that. The bill that you will be presented later will be a lot higher than the basic quote you first agreed on. Hence, it is very important to get a fixed price quote. Although the fixed price quote will be a lot more expensive than an hourly rate or a basic rate which mentions that other costs and taxes are exclusive, but it is still a lot cheaper overall since these conveyancing firms seem to be an expert at creating huge invoices later. Also, if you get a fixed price quote instead of an hourly quote, the conveyancing solicitor will try to speed up everything since dragging the time could only mean charging himself.

 

Experience is something that is very important if you want everything to go smoothly in your property purchase transaction. Don’t fall for low and cut rates and instead ask about the experience and expertise of the conveyancing firm you are hiring. A low quality service from someone who doesn’t know anything about conveyancing can present many problems for you later. Look for past experience of the particular conveyancing firm you are interested in and then make the decision.

The Future of the Housing Market | April 7th, 2012

The future of the housing market has been the subject of much speculation and worry amongst individuals and businesses throughout the UK for some time. Concerns over the continued unrealistic valuation of properties within the UK and the number of people buying such over valued properties with significant loans that may leave them in negative equity, is commonly voiced by many critics. In reality the housing industry has already undergone much change over recent years as the market has embraced the internet. As well as estate agents using the likes of rightmove, there has been a gradual shift towards online conveyancing sites.

 

A key part of the home buying process, online conveyancing seems to be challenging the traditional method even for the older generations, who many would expect would be more resistant to online conveyancing sites over local solicitors. Online conveyancing sites will perform all of the same functions of a traditional solicitors but by lowering the overheads by not needing a “shopfront”, these online conveyancing sites are able to pass these savings onto their customers. Many worry that online conveyancing sites won’t have the personal touch that most solicitors do but with many online conveyancing companies having a dedicated online conveyancing helpline, more and more are coming round to the benefit of online conveyancing rather than local solicitors.

 

Online conveyancing websites are almost always run by individuals who are just as qualified to provide conveyancing services to clients throughout the UK whereas many online conveyancing brokers will connect you with solicitors local to you who will perform the service at a cheaper price than most local solicitors would normally do it for. The development of online conveyancing seemed a natural step due to the nature of the work, and as estate agencies became increasingly virtual, the need for online conveyancing services began to grow. One of the primary benefits of online conveyancing is the lower costs but it can also be quicker and easier than having to visit a solicitors, as it can all be managed online or via the phone from the comfort of your own home.

 

Houses may be bricks and mortar but it seems inevitable that as the world leaves the high street behind, online conveyancing will just be another part of an entirely virtual process. The days of homebuyers visiting local estate agents to view catalogues and discuss their requirements are almost over and as many estate agents have already done, it seems only a matter of time before property buying becomes solely internet based. In fact it is not just online conveyancing services that are likely to become predominantly internet based services, many legal and professional services can be offered without the need for a visit to the firms office and with the success of online conveyancing as well as other legal services such as wills, it seems very likely that the legal profession will become increasingly online.

The Future of Mortgages And The Conveyancing Process | April 6th, 2012

Once upon a time mortgages were handed out like they were going out of fashion. Then 2008 came along and one of the biggest financial crisis’ since the great depression. All of a sudden getting a mortgage from any bank in the UK was harder than ever before and the previously quick home-buying and conveyancing process suddenly became a thing of the past. The government have introduced new measures to try and encourage mortgage lending in recent months through schemes such as NewBuy and by helping to fast track the conveyancing process, but the housing market in general remains weak.

 

In a similar manner to the way the conveyancing process can now be done entirely online, mortgage providers may also look to move online to reach an increasingly youthful market. The conveyancing process has changed drastically over the last few years but getting a mortgage remains the same, with concerns over mortgage fraud preventing the move online that the conveyancing process had achieved. Nowadays the whole conveyancing process can be done online with all aspects of the conveyancing process from the legal work to the checks done by solicitors you may never meet. The conveyancing process does require qualified professional as many aspects of the actual conveyancing process focusing on the legal issues of buying a house.

 

Mortgage providers have failed to take advantage of the growing change from the high street to the online shopfront and whilst they may advertise their services online, they are a long way of the fully automated system that conveyancing process has achieved. The future of virtually all industries seems destined to move online and mortgages are likely to be no different. The success of the online conveyancing process will surely encourage mortgage providers to try and further move their operations online, especially seen as the conveyancing process was typically seen as being just as complicated (if not more so) as the mortgage process, and still succeeded.

 

The way the conveyancing process has adapted to the needs of online consumers has set a great precedent not just for mortgage providers but all aspects of the property and legal industries. In fact it’s not just the conveyancing process that has been simplified by online solicitors, most houses are initially found online and in fact it’s not unheard of for homebuyers (particularly investors) to buy houses without actually viewing them in person. The future of the mortgage providers and their willingness to offer mortgages to homebuyers with smaller deposits but with the lower overheads that and wider reach that can be gained online (as evident by the start-ups offering a simpler and cheaper conveyancing process), the mortgage providers will be forced to adapt to this new online world.

What To Expect From Conveyancing Solicitors | April 1st, 2012

The conveyancing process has changed recently to enable mortgage lenders like high street banks to appoint their own panel of approved conveyancing firms – including conveyancing solicitors – to handle the mortgagor’s (the lender) side of the conveyancing process.

 

Homebuyers can still choose to use their own conveyancing solicitors instead of their lender’s approved conveyancing companies, but may have to pay for both sets of fees if they do.

 

It is important to check whether this would be the case – and also to choose a competitive quote for your own conveyancing if you are paying for both sets of conveyancing fees.

 

After agreeing to instruct a firm of conveyancing solicitors, you will be sent a Letter of Engagement to sign and Confirmation of Terms of Business, together with a request for fees to cover the initial conveyancing process, including disbursements such as search fees.

 

Conveyancing process

 

1. The first stage of the actual conveyancing process after the vendor (seller) has accepted your offer is to obtain a survey on the property you wish to buy and begin negotiating the contract – ie the terms on which you are prepared to buy the property and on which the vendor is prepared to sell it.

 

These might include details about which fixtures and fittings would be left and agreeing to the lease, if the property is leasehold.

 

The vendor’s solicitors will send your conveyancing solicitors a pack including the draft contract, a copy of the Title Deeds, information about the property – including energy efficiency ratings – and details of the fixtures and fittings included (eg cupboards or light fittings).

 

At this stage you can ask for further information about the property

and negotiate over certain fixtures or fittings you might like to buy from the vendor or wish to have included.

 

Other matters your conveyancing solicitors will raise with the vendor include:

 

  • restrictive covenants (anything forbidden on the property such as chopping down listed trees or demolishing outhouses)
  • any applicable building guarantees like NHBC (National House Building Council)
  • boundaries and access paths (paths giving the public rights of way over the property grounds)
  • shared utilities (eg water pipes which run through neighbours’ gardens)
  • previous disputes with neighbours (eg noise or other intrusions).

 

Your conveyancing solicitors will also arrange pre-contract enquiries such as searches of the Land Registry and planning applications at the local council to see if there are any factors which might affect your chosen property in the future – and which could mean:

 

  • not being able to buy the property (eg if someone other than the vendor has a claim on the property, such as a previous mortgagor)
  • not being able to obtain a mortgage on the property (eg if the property suffers from subsidence or a serious structural problem)
  • not being able to resell the property (eg if the property were sitting on flood plains, contained asbestos which would be difficult to remove – or a refuse tip were planned at the bottom of the garden).

 

If the survey and the searches are satisfactory, at this stage a mortgage offer from the lender will be issued and accepted by the buyer.

 

2. The second stage of the conveyancing process involves agreeing to the contract and exchanging contracts, when both the vendor and purchaser sign the contract of sale which has been agreed. Once this has been done, the purchaser pays the deposit to the vendor’s solicitors.

 

The purchaser’s Mortgage Deed – the agreement under which a buyer receives the mortgage from the lender – also needs to be signed; and any last-minute searches (eg checking Land Registry entries against the property’s title deeds or planning applications) are also made by the conveyancing solicitors to ensure nothing will stand in the way of the sale.

 

3. Stage three of the conveyancing process involves the vendor receiving the balance of the monies owed – known as completion – and handing over the keys so that the buyer can take possession of the property (ie move in).

 

This usually occurs soon after the monies are transferred from the mortgagor to the vendor’s conveyancing solicitors. A completion date is usually agreed in advance once the mortgagor has all the paperwork in place and is able to release the monies, so the purchaser will usually know the exact date completion will occur – sometimes this might happen a day or so earlier or later, however.

 

Sometimes the vendor and purchaser can negotiate when the vendor moves out and the purchaser moves in – but the purchaser cannot take possession of the property until the monies have been transferred to the vendor, who then hands over the keys.

 

It is advisable to let conveyancing solicitors handle this stage to make sure that the monies have been transferred to the vendor by the mortgagor before purchasers move in, as the property will not belong to the purchaser until the financial transaction has taken place.

 

If a purchaser moves in before the monies are transferred to the vendor, the property is not actually theirs until the vendor has received the monies under the terms of the contract.

 

Sometimes vendors try to delay completion and moving out if they are waiting to buy a property in a chain and conveyancing solicitors are used to negotiating these situations for purchasers keen to complete and move in.

 

Finally, the vendor and purchaser will pay their conveyancing solicitors’ fees and any disbursements (eg Stamp Duty) and the property will be registered in the purchaser’s name at the Land Registry, although the mortgagor will retain the Title Deeds.