The Question ….

Myself and my boyfriend are buying a new home in Bristol. I have been comparing quotes from solicitors local to me and online and they differ so much. What should I be looking for when comparing the quotes? They all seem so different … Confused??
— Abi from Bristol

The Answer ….

Well this is a very interesting question and one that actually gets asked quite a lot. Every solicitor or licensed conveyancer is going to have their own fee scale for residential conveyancing. In order for your compare prices and to make sure you are really comparing apples with apples, you need to know what the charges mean on your conveyancing quote.

  • Legal Fee – This is the solicitor or conveyancer’s basic legal fee for handling your conveyancing. This is essentially paying of their time and effort in dealing with your property purchase.
  • Disbursements – These are charges that your conveyancer may incur on your behalf and as a result will charge these on to you. Disbursements usually include charges such as Land Registry Fees, Search Packs, Office Copies, Bankruptcy Searches etc. – A little note: These charges should not attract a VAT charge on top of them! They are disbursements and as such they should be passed on to you without VAT.
  • VAT – If your solicitor or conveyancer is VAT registered, they will be required to charge you VAT (Value Added Tax) on top of their base legal fees and other services that they are providing to you. A little tip … If you can find yourself a solicitor or licensed conveyancer that is not VAT registered, you can save yourself 20%!.
  • Lawyer Checker / Lender Monitor Fee – In order to prevent client money being sent to a fake or bogus solicitor (and yes it has happened!), most solicitors or conveyancers will perform an online verification and check of your lender and lawyer of your seller. This is known as a Lawyer Checker / Lender Monitor Fee This makes sure that everything is above board and makes sure that any monies, goes to legitimate people.
  • Search Pack – Now this is where the real confusion lies. I will go into more detail about this below, but this is essentially your environmental searches, flood searches and any other searches relating to the property you are looking to purchase. It is not a property survey! Please always make sure that you obtain a property survey for the property you are looking to buy. Without it, you are essentially buying something that is unknown and could cost you lots of money!

How does the solicitor or conveyancer calculate their legal fee?

As I said above every solicitor and conveyancer has their own fee scale, so I would advise you to shop around, compare conveyancing quotes online and talk to people and make note of recommendations. In general a conveyancer will calculate their fee based on the value of the property you are buying and selling and the complexity involved in conducting your conveyancing. Added complexity can come from buying a leasehold property, buying a shared ownership property

Search Packs, Local Authority Search, Coal Mining Search, CON29DW Drainage and Water, Flood Risk, Chancel Repair Search, Tin Mining Search … Why so many searches?

I agree. Far too many searches. Quite often most conveyancers will actually break down each of these searches on your quote or provide you with something called a “Search Pack”. A search pack is a great way of performing the major searches in one bundled price for you. Either way is a valid approach and is usually dependent on your solicitor and how they generally like to conduct their conveyancing cases. Word of Warning  … If buying a search pack from a solicitor, make sure you know what is included. Sometimes some searches are not included in the pack and will be charged in addition to your search pack.

Specific additional searches are often a good idea if you are purchasing in the following situations:

  • Radon gas search in Somerset
  • Mining searches in Warwickshire
  • Tin searches in Cornwall
  • Environmental search from the Environmental Agency. This shows whether, for example, the plot that your property stands on, used to be a landfill site

Again these should be detailed on your conveyancing quote breakdown.

In summary …

Make sure you …

  • Get a detailed conveyancing quote, with a full breakdown of costs.
  • Get a fixed fee price. The price you see, is the price you pay
  • Ask, ask and ask some more … If you are not sure, arrange a callback from your conveyancer and ask your questions. Most are more than happy to discuss things in more detail if you do not understand something or you are not sure sure about something.
  • Don’t get fooled .. Make sure you know what’s included and what’s not. Watch out for really cheap conveyancing quotes. If it’s too cheap and too good to be true, it probably is. Quite often the quote is cheap, but the additional fees and searches will soon push the price up.
  • Listen. It’s important to listen to advice from friends, parents and various online sources. Make sure you shop around and do your research. It will pay off in the long run.
Previous post

Broadband, Phone and TV - Compare Prices

Next post

What is a Mortgage in Principle?