If you’ve started looking into buying or selling a property, it’s likely that you’ll have heard a couple of different terms: conveyancing solicitor, licensed conveyancer… same thing, right? Not quite.
These are two types of legal professionals qualified to assist you in the purchase or sale of property. However, there are some fundamental differences between the two that are worth considering when deciding which is right for you. After all, buying or selling a property is usually no small matter – you need to make sure you’re in the right hands when it comes to the legal work.
What’s the difference?
In the simplest terms, a conveyancing solicitor is fully trained in legal services but specialises in conveyancing, and a licensed conveyancer is trained in conveyancing only. Solicitors and conveyancers are subject to different governing bodies:
- All solicitors in the UK are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and are required to be members of the Law Society.
- Conveyancers, on the other hand, are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). Licensed conveyancers can also work for a solicitors’ firm, but would be regulated by the SRA.
The differences between the SRA and CLC are not likely to have much of an impact on you as a customer both regulators exist to ensure high standards and protect the public. However, there are a few practical differences:
- Conflicts of interest
Solicitors are forbidden from acting for both sides of any case without informing you, as this is known as a conflict of interest. Conveyancers, however, are technically allowed to act for both the buyer and the seller in a transaction, which may not be ideal for some. Using a separate Conveyancer to the other side party ensures that whoever is dealing with your case is doing so with your best interests at the forefront of their priority. This is something that might become complex when the same person acting for both the seller and the buyer – especially when there are certain risks involved in the transaction.
- Disclosure of referral fees
Solicitors are also required by the SRA to disclose any payments made to referring agencies. This rule doesn’t apply to conveyancers.
- Training & Qualification
The path to becoming a solicitor is significantly longer as solicitors are trained in a wide range of legal services and are subject to a longer and more rigorous qualification process. Conveyancers have fewer hoops to jump through, but their training is all property-focused.
Using a conveyancing solicitor
- A solicitor can assist you when the unexpected happens. When a transaction meets complications, or even needs to be taken to court, your solicitor will be able to help.
- Solicitors are usually more expensive due to their level of qualification.
Using a licensed conveyancer
- Conveyancers specialise in conveyancing only. This means they live and breathe the everyday work that goes on during the process of buying and selling property – they have the experience that comes with carrying out the same kind of legal work on a daily basis.
- Although licensed conveyancers will be able to take you through a straightforward property transaction, they may not be equipped to deal with any hiccups. In this case they will need to refer you to a solicitor – this can add time and cost to the process.
Things to watch out for
- Beware of solicitors or conveyancers who advertise an hourly rate for conveyancing work – it may seem like a low price at first but the fees can soon add up.
- All solicitors are qualified to carry out conveyancing work, but not all solicitors’ firms are property specialists. It’s important to choose a firm that has a lot of experience in conveyancing as well as a good reputation in the field.
- Some of the ‘budget’ licensed conveyancing firms out there may advertise a cheap rate but we would advise you to be aware - this could mean hidden costs later on and poor customer service. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Which is right for you?
Property transactions can vary a lot. Where some may be straightforward and can be handled by a licensed conveyancer, others have the potential to require more complex legal work – for example, defining the terms of a leasehold or resolving a dispute. It is crucial to assign somebody who is competent in their field.
In any case, it’s important to get a communicative, cooperative professional to support you through the process. There is nothing more annoying than trying to get a simple query answered and not being able to get through to someone who can help.
At Bird & Co, customer service is at the heart of our business. Our legal experts have years of experience in property transactions, so whatever the case, you can be sure you’ll get an excellent value conveyancing service from people with real expertise. We also work on a ‘no sale, no fee’ basis, which means we’ll do all we can to successfully complete the sale – and if things fall through, there’ll be no nasty surprises from us.
To get your free quote, call our hotline on 01636 600 656 or get an instant quote online.
If you have any other questions or would like to discuss your options, give our friendly team a call on 01476 591711.