One has to be extremely cautious of conveyancers who quote their services starting from £99.00, £250.00, £500.00 etc for property transactions. These firms usually adopt a “conveyancing factory” set up and/or the work is outsourced abroad. Most of the time you need to check the small print and even worse, some conveyancers sneakily advise you of administration fees in lengthy reports (to avoid the up front advice) part way through your matter and as some people lose focus when reading too much legal jargon, they don’t notice and then receive the surprise on completion.
The term “conveyancing factory” is used by lawyers to describe firms who have large teams of unqualified conveyancers dealing with overflowing case loads, all at low fees. Each team is supervised by one qualified solicitor or licensed conveyancer who has to deal with all of their files as soon as something out of the ordinary arises, and always has to “sign off” a file before exchange of contracts can take place. “Signing off” a file involves a qualified lawyer ensuring that the case handler has conducted the transaction properly. If they spot something that the conveyancer has missed, which happens a lot due to lack of expertise, the outstanding matter has to be addressed and once it is, the file has to go back again for sign off.
The need for passing a file over to a manager could just be for a simple thing (at least it appears simple to a qualified solicitor) such as needing to extend a lease on a flat before or after completion, vary the terms of a lease etc. Anything out of the ambit of a straight forward freehold transaction is often passed over to a manager to deal with and as this manager is trying to with perhaps 10 or 20 other conveyancers’ queries at the same time, files are left on a huge pile for days thus substantially delaying clients’ transactions. ”Computer Says No…”
Another issue with these types of set ups is that you can never usually get hold of the actual “case handler” and end up speaking to various other operators for generic updates that are read from a computer. Don’t ever expect any technical questions to be answered straight away. We have acted for clients who have previously used these types of companies in the past and none have ever had a good word to say about them. We have also had to deal with such companies over the years who have acted for an opposite party to a conveyance and it turns the transaction into a complete nightmare, especially when you receive the “computer says no” type responses when calling.
Half of the time these companies are not even firms of solicitors, they are managed by licensed conveyancers and their staff may not be able to foresee litigious issues, advise you on planning and land development, tax implications, matrimonial issues, beneficial interest splits in matrimonial or cohabitation disputes, assist you with drawing up a will once your financial circumstances have changed after your transaction, or any other issues that cross over into different areas of the law. That is certainly not to say that there aren’t good licensed conveyancers out there, I have dealt with and worked with many. The mature licensed conveyancers who do not belong to factory conveyancing firms are extremely knowledgeable, thorough and professional.
Every time a memorandum of sale is received from an estate agent, there is always hope that the other party has not instructed one of these factory-type companies. Even though you will have a proactive solicitor acting for you on one side and a good estate agent following up on overdue matters, it doesn’t usually make a difference if you and the agent can never receive responses to your e-mails, letters, phone calls etc unless you lodge a formal complaint with the firm.
Some corporate estate agents are tied into contracts with these types of companies via the panel systems that they use. Some agents don’t like having to refer clients to those firms with the knowledge of how much of a hindrance they are but have no choice if their seniors tell them that they must.
Most factory conveyancing firms are usually located in Northern England, Southern England and towards Wales due to the cheap rent and cheap work forces; although there are a firm or two that exist in London.
Do not fall into the trap of saving a couple of hundred pounds on fees only for you to end up being on the verge of a nervous breakdown by the time you have to move home. What Makes a Good Quality Firm of Solicitors?
Good quality solicitors will deal with your queries directly when you call and will always speak to your estate agents and mortgage broker. Ola Leslie Solicitors do not have administrators assigned to only send quotations to clients as they usually lack practical conveyancing experience. When you telephone for a quotation you may have a number of queries and it would only make sense for them to be answered straight away by a solicitor to put your mind at ease. Call centre type administrators who have no legal or conveyancing background would have to pass your query on and you would have to wait for a call back. Ola Leslie Provide Reasonable & Affordable Fixed Fee Conveyancing
On the contrary, there are some extremely proactive, experienced and friendly conveyancers out there who aren’t solicitors or licensed conveyancers. They are usually found in medium or small sized high street firms who provide good training and guidance, not in huge factory set up type companies where clients seem to be just treated as a file rather than individuals. It is very worrying that solicitors and licensed conveyancers’ governing bodies tolerate such set ups.
At the other end of the spectrum you will find corporate firms and some high street firms who grossly overcharge for their conveyancing services and the service will still be slow so you end up feeling frustrated as well as ripped off. Fees usually exceed £2,000.00 plus VAT (excluding administration fees) for a very straight forward matter, or only hourly rate fees are charged. Misleading Quotations
I have seen quotations from other law firms which I found rather distressing. The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s Rules clearly state that when solicitors provide clients with quotations the fees must be broken down and split into two categories, legal fees and disbursements (third party costs, i.e. costs that have to be paid out to other companies/bodies e.g. HM Land Registry, HMRC etc). I have seen quotes where telegraphic transfer fees, SDLT fees (an administration fee charged to file your SDLT return online), postage costs, bankruptcy search fees (note that bankruptcy searches at HMLR are £2.00 per name and OS1s which protect the title once you have exchanged contracts are £3.00) and ID verification check fees (amongst other things) are listed as disbursements and the VAT element is hidden. These types of quotes are designed to fool you into thinking that a firm has charged a lower fee then another one has, when in actual fact they have dishonestly disguised your figures. The Solicitors Regulation Authority impose serious sanctions on solicitors for compiling misleading quotations however as it is still happening the repeating offenders have obviously not been identified yet.
At Ola Leslie Solicitors we pride ourselves on providing a reliable, professional and personal service at reasonable fixed fees. We provide you with free initial advice with your conveyancing queries when you contact us for your fixed fee quote, you will always be able to speak to the solicitor who is dealing with your matter either by way of direct line or by mobile phone and we also respond to e-mails as quickly as we can. We treat all of our correspondence in this way so that we can speed up your transaction so that it is not put at risk; it makes the process stress-free for you, your estate agent, your mortgage broker and for the solicitor who is acting on the opposite side. Do I Need to Have a Local Conveyancing Solicitor?
It occasionally helps to have a local solicitor but it is not paramount, especially if the firm handles its matters as efficiently as we do. If you can never get hold of your conveyancer or ever receive responses to your queries it is useful to have the option to hunt them down and have it out with them. It isn’t entirely necessary to visit when you are signing your documents etc as everything is dealt with by way of e-mail and post. If you would like to visit us regardless we don’t mind at all and we do not charge you any extra if you feel like popping in; it is always nice to put a face to a name.
Local knowledge of London does actually assist with conveyancing matters but factory conveyancers disagree with this. I once dealt with matter where a factory firm made a mountain out of a molehill over the Kings Cross redevelopment, also about Westfield Stratford on another matter and the Birmingham to London high speed rail on another! Solicitors in London are aware of most of the railway and development proposals here, as are estate agents, mortgage brokers and mortgage lenders as you at least read about it or see the proposals on the local news.
A good experienced conveyancing solicitor no matter where they are based will also have knowledge of other parts of the country such as the need for carrying out coal mining searches in the Midlands, tin mining searches in Cornwall, commons registration searches for rural properties and properties that are situated on several acres of land and when flood searches are advisable etc.
Some firms don’t even submit all of the recommended searches so that your total fees end up being lower than other firms’ in the similar way that clients are misquoted negligently and dishonestly at the outset. Where to Find the Best Conveyancing Service
Some of the firms of solicitors that you will find by searching online are excellent but some are not.
One way to test the waters when you are looking for quotes is compare as to how long it takes for someone to respond to your request, whether by e-mail or by phone. If you call, see how long you are left on hold for, or if you have to leave a voicemail or a message, how long it takes for a solicitor to call you back. This will help you foresee what the service will be like during your transaction. Furthermore, see if you will be transferred straight onto a qualified solicitor rather than an unqualified administrator. Call us on 0207 183 0084 !
As a client you can assist with speeding up the process of your conveyancing by instructing solicitors as early as possible, even if you haven’t had your offer accepted on a property yet or if you have only just started marketing a sale property. The day that everything is finalised you won’t have to worry about rushing around trying to find a lawyer and sometimes make a decision on who you are instructing in haste because you don’t have time to compare and contrast firms and the level of service that you have received with your queries. Your solicitor will then immediately be ready to start communicating with all other parties involved once the estate agents have issued their memorandum of sale.
We do not charge our clients for organising their instruction forms, opening up a file and writing a couple of initial letters! The fear of being charged by instructing early should therefore not be there.
You should take the following into account when you are deciding on which firm of conveyancing solicitors to instruct:
- Do not base your choice on price. The suspiciously cheap solicitors and licensed conveyancers firms that you will see advertised are often overworked and can delay the progression of your matter, or worse.
- It isn’t paramount to instruct a solicitor just because their office is on the same road on which you reside.
- NEVER consider a solicitor who charges residential conveyancing out by the hour.
- Do not instruct a solicitor who is ancient in their approach. These types of lawyers even refuse to speak to estate agents and mortgage brokers when they telephone to ask if they can be of any assistance.
- You can check as to whether a firm is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority by searching the Law Society’s “find a solicitor” section on their website. Alternatively, the logo and SRA registration number will be clearly displayed on firms’ websites.
Please call us on 0207 183 0084 or email us on email@example.com for a quotation and to ask us about any reservations or queries that you may have; we are always happy to assist.
Ayesha Leslie, Partner
Ola Leslie Solicitors