I have worked for solicitors handling residential conveyancing in South London for over five years and in both my professional and personal life I have been asked three questions numerous times:

  1. Why are conveyancing fees so high?
  2. Can’t I do the conveyancing myself?
  3. What do conveyancers actually do?

Not surprisingly, these questions are mostly asked by first time buyers who have discovered that it’s not only the purchase price they have to pay to become a homeowner; there are mortgage fees, surveyor’s fees, solicitor’s fees, Land Registry fees and of course stamp duty land tax. Also, it becomes apparent in the early stages of the transaction that it may not be as quick as expected.

With so many groups involved and payments to make it can become quite confusing to know what everyone actually does and what you are paying for. Therefore, I have outlined some of the work undertaken by a conveyancer when acting for a purchaser.

1. Advising on the title deeds for the property, the property information forms completed by the seller and the Lease (if the property is leasehold). Here we check there are no restrictions that may affect a client’s enjoyment of the property or its value. These include parking restrictions, restrictive covenants, whether pets are allowed, disputes with neighbours and many more.

2. Advising on the local authority search including whether all works revealed in the homebuyer’s survey have the correct planning permissions or building regulation sign off, whether there are any notices served which could affect the property and various other matters. No owner wants to cover the cost of rectifying the work of a previous owner who has failed to obtain the right planning permission or comply with other restrictions.

3. If the property is leasehold, we review the lease and service charge accounts (funds payable to the landlord or their agents to maintain the building/estate) to ensure that there are no arrears due from the seller. We also check for any major works planned in the near future, such as replacing the windows, as the cost of the works could run into thousands of pounds.

4. If a mortgage is required, which in most purchases it is, the lender requires a conveyancer to act on their behalf to confirm the property is marketable. At Anthony Gold Solicitors, we are authorised to act on behalf of the vast majority of mortgage lenders.

5. We also deal with the transactional procedures, which include exchanging contracts (making the purchase legally binding); reporting to your mortgage lender and obtaining all funds to complete the purchase; arranging for the funds to be paid to the seller’s solicitors and completing; preparing and submitting the stamp duty land tax return and paying the required tax to HMRC; and finally registering the client’s ownership of the property.

All good conveyancers should carry out these procedures, but the cost of the work varies from one firm to the next. Therefore, if a buyer is looking to save costs they may be tempted to choose the cheapest fees. However, buying a property is likely to be the biggest and most important decision a person makes, and can be very stressful. Therefore, you should choose a good conveyancer who will make the legal process as smooth as possible, be available to their clients and instil confidence since they understand their client’s requirements and are always acting in their best interest. This is one of the most important roles of a conveyancer and what we provide in our conveyancing team at Anthony Gold Solicitors.

So yes, a conveyancer is essential when purchasing a property, and yes fees vary widely across London, but when choosing your conveyancer, you should consider more than just the fees. You cannot put a price on peace of mind.