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Hidden Costs In Conveyancing

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.

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