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Top questions to ask your property solicitor

If you are buying or selling a property, you want to make sure your conveyancing solicitor can provide what you need. Here are the questions to ask.

Top questions to ask your property solicitor

As conveyancing is a legal requirement, and affects the ownership of property, it's important to choose an experienced and reliable solicitor.

With that in mind, here are some of the first questions you should ask your property solicitor to make sure you feel confident that they're the right person for you.

How much will you charge and what does this include?

Most conveyancing quotes are made up of different parts - the solicitor’s basic fee (which covers time and labour), disbursements (services the solicitor will pay upfront), plus additional expenses and Stamp Duty Land tax.

Bear in mind that if a conveyancing quote seems very low, it may be that basic disbursements have not been included, and you’ll have to budget for these later.

Either way it’s important to understand exactly what you’re being charged for, and whether you need to expect further costs down the line.

For an in depth break down of what is included in conveyancing costs, have a look at our Solicitors Fees Explained article.

What can I do to keep things going efficiently?

Although the conveyancing process is primarily conducted between solicitors, there are some parts that will require input from you, such as signing and returning contracts.

Your solicitor can advise you about what you'll need to do, and any ways you can speed up the process. Simple things, like filling in forms in a particular way, or having particular documents to hand can help.

With the conveyancing process taking around 8-12 weeks with no delays, keeping things going efficiently is essential to a speedy and successful house move.

Get more tips in our article: 'What's holding up my move?'

Who will handle my conveyancing?

Developing rapport with the solicitor handling your conveyancing case is always a good idea as you’ll be more able to discuss issues openly. However, asking this question also ensures you have an experienced and reliable solicitor working on your case. Using a newly qualified solicitor may keep costs down in the short-run, but you may decide it’s not worth the risk and would rather use a more experienced practitioner.

It also means you'll have a main contact you can get hold of throughout the process, skipping lots of time explaining who you are and what you need every time you call the firm.

How will you update me and how often?

In some cases, you'll need hard copies posted to you, but most of the time your solicitor will communicate by email or by phone. It's quicker to send off an email than wait for days for a document to arrive. However, make sure you know how your solicitor is likely to contact you and confirm all your contact details.

You should also find out how often they will update you. Most conveyancers don't want to spend a huge amount of time calling to update you if nothing has changed - from their perspective everything is ticking along as it should. However, the waiting during the process can be really difficult for the buyers and sellers, who want confirmation from their solicitors that everything is as it should be.

If constant updates and communication is important to you, let your property lawyer know. If you'd rather only be updated when something changes, or when you need to do something, tell them.

What cyber security have you got in place?

Cases of conveyancing scams and diverting payments are becoming more prevalent, and conveyancing firms have had to take action. High level cyber security is really important for conveyancing firms - after all, the money is going to be stored in their account before it's sent to the seller's solicitor. 

Never trust an email telling you to transfer money to a different account, and always call up to confirm the account details with your conveyancer. You can also transfer a very small amount as a test, and check it's been received.

Ask your conveyancer what their process is to avoid conveyancing fraud and hacking.

How many conveyancing cases have you dealt with?

Your conveyancing solicitor may not have a direct response to this question, if they've been in business for years it could be impossible to count.

What you’re looking for is a proactive response on their part, offering information as to how long they’ve been in business and examples of property types they’ve dealt with. If you're buying a specific type of property (listed building) or a type of purchase (leasehold) then ask about their experience with these or what they've found to be easy or difficult about them in the past.

It’s easy to get a feel for whether a solicitor is right for you, and this question can help you find it out sooner rather than later.

Check out their reviews

Reviews and testimonials are very good indicators of responsible service and professionalism. People are unlikely to go to the time and effort of giving positive reviews unless the service has been superior, so check out your solicitors feedback. 

As part of our conveyancing quotes system, we include up-to-date and validated reviews from our customers. This means only people who have used the company can review, and the company can respond (which can tell you a lot too). 

Do you have holidays booked?

This might seem like an unusual question, but if you would like to complete between Christmas and New Year, you need to ensure the conveyancing firm is working and your conveyancer is contactable. Some firms shut over the festive period.  

Similarly, the summer months tend to be very busy with people moving home. If your conveyancer is going on holiday, ask who will be covering their workload and for their contact details. For some firms, nothing can move forward if the set conveyancer for your case isn't there to make the call on a decision.

What is your grievance procedure?

If you do your research and choose a reliable and experienced property solicitor, it’s unlikely you’ll need to follow a grievance procedure. But if you find the service you’ve received has been unsatisfactory, you’ll want to follow it up with the firm.

Sometimes a call to a senior partner is all it takes to get stuff back on track, but you’ll want to know precisely how to escalate a complaint so it’s dealt with by the proper channels. Most responsible firms will outline grievance policies in the client care letter, which is sent to you just before you give formal instruction.

Making a decision

You want to feel confident that the conveyancing solicitor or licensed conveyancer you've spoken to is right for you. Don't feel pressured to make a decision immediately. Have a look at reviews, compare prices, ask questions and if you need more ideas, have a look at our guide to picking a great conveyancing solicitor.

Updated January 2020.

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