Conveyancing fees explained. The low-down and the show-down
By Eddie Goldsmith
As a conveyancer of over 40 years experience, I’ve come across such a range of fees for conveyancing that it’s almost impossible to compare apples with apples! As a customer, you might find it impossible to properly compare quotes – the purpose of this blog is to show you how to do that and save yourself hundreds of pounds.
We are going to cover:
- How much does a conveyancer cost in the UK?
- How would conveyancers charge you?
- How are conveyancing fees calculated?
- Freehold: How much can I expect to pay for conveyancing fees?
- Leasehold: How much can I expect to pay for conveyancing fees?
- Standard additional charges when moving homes
- Don’t forget the disbursements
- How can you save money and time when moving homes?
1. How much does a conveyancer cost in the UK?
First, there are absolutely no rules as to what and how much conveyancers can charge. They are not exactly making it up as they go along but each practice will have their own sets of charges.
Second, initial quotes are rarely 100% accurate. For instance, at the start of a transaction your conveyancers may assume wrongly that the case is a straightforward freehold title (80% of cases) and it then turns out it is a messy leasehold with title issues. Conveyancers retain the right to charge for unforeseen circumstances but they should have a standard set of charges – what fees they charge for the core transaction and what they will charge for additional work.
2. How would conveyancers charge you?
- On a ‘fixed-fee’ basis (only becoming a trend now)
- On a scale depending on the property value (the most typical)
- On an hourly rate basis (fairly common)
3. How are conveyancing fees calculated?
Conveyancing fees include two elements:
1) The core transaction fee, which is the conveyancer’s basic fee. This is what you pay for your solicitor’s time and knowledge. This fee is also sometimes shown as your initial quote but beware of all additional charges that may happen.
2) Disbursements which are all payments to third parties that your conveyancer will transfer on your behalf. These fees are normally payable even if your conveyancing solicitor offers a ‘no move no fees’ guarantee. As mentioned above, unavoidable additional disbursements may come up during the course of the transaction and are sometimes hard to predict.
4. Freehold: How much can I expect to pay for conveyancing fees?
Let’s start with the basic transaction, a sale of a freehold property. Then we will then suggest a number of the more common additional fees. I will give you a range of fees for each category to help you decide if you are in the right ballpark with your own conveyancer.
Basic fee range £495–£875
Although the average fee charged for this transaction is £875, a quick internet search of conveyancing fees will throw up any number who will offer a lower core sale fee – some lower than £495. You need to be careful if you are looking at price as the only criteria as there are some fixed running costs of a conveyancing service and anything lower than £495 would lead me to question the quality of the service. I’m not just talking about the technical quality but as 80% of a transaction is admin rather than legal you need to make sure that there is a good degree of customer service. There is literally nothing more frustrating than waiting for days for a return call from a conveyancer only to be told that they are waiting for something to come in and you need to ring again in a couple of days.
Unfortunately there is no way of finding out what the service of a conveyancer is actually like until you try them. Online reviews are helpful but not necessarily reflecting current service standards which can vary tremendously especially in today’s frantic market. If you don’t have experience of the particular conveyancer and are picking one from the internet the rule would be to go for something in the middle – not bottom or top.
Basic fee range £695–£1075
Fees on purchase cases tend to be higher. There is more work to do and that is the rationale for the higher price range. When buying a house, your conveyancer needs to examine the title and report to you – that takes some expertise and it could mean reviewing a number of documents.
The conveyancer will also need to report to you on non title documents such as the local search, environmental searches and again this takes time. Finally they may need to raise enquiries on the title with the sellers conveyancers and perhaps take some measures (title repair or title indemnity) to ensure you end up with a marketable title. For all those reasons expect to pay more when you are buying.
5. Leasehold: How much can I expect to pay for conveyancing fees?
Basic fee range £695–£1075
You will almost always see a higher charge for leasehold sales (typically £200 extra) or a separate fee charged as a Leasehold Fee. Leaseholds are generally more tricky to deal with and certainly your conveyancers will need to send off enquiries to the Managing Agent, probably chase them a couple of times and then review and report to you. All that takes time and encourages a higher charge by the conveyancers.
Basic fee range £945–£1325
Going by the same principles you will be charged extra when you are buying a leasehold property. This is because your conveyancer will need to review and report to you on the lease. This could be relatively easy (if it’s a 999 year lease) or more complicated if it’s a 125 year lease. There will be provisions in the lease about notices on the sale and your conveyancers may need to ensure consent is provided to the sale to you. All in all, the fact that it is leasehold will add 4 weeks onto the time taken to get to exchange and around £250 extra in fees.
6. Standard additional charges when moving homes
You will often see a veritable smorgasbord of additional charges depending on whether you are selling or buying. There is no legal prescription on what to call the fees – you probably need a solicitor to explain what the charges mean!
Here is a selection of the normal charges – but beware there was a recent court case where the conveyancers produced a 3 page list of all their additional charges so make sure to read the small print.
Acting for Lender
Whether you are acting on a sale (and redeeming a mortgage) or acting for a lender on a purchase you will often see a separate charge when there is a lender involved. This will reflect the need for your conveyancer to deal with the Lender and maybe their own lawyers.
ID Checks and Source of Funds
These days conveyancers will often outsource their initial identification processes rather than ask you to send in your passport and driving licence. The conveyancers will tend to charge a fee which includes the cost of the service to cover their own administrative time.
Help to Buy (Sale or Purchase)
Whether you are selling or buying a property under the Help to Buy scheme there are administrative tasks which need to be carried out by your conveyancer. That includes correspondence with the administrators of the Scheme and all this can take time and take up the resources of the conveyancers. Expect to see this range of additional charges.
Again there can be a considerable amount of further work involved dealing with the sale or the purchase of Shared Ownership properties. This is because the lenders need to be take part in the process and quite often their own legal departments get involved. Conveyancers aren’t really that keen on dealing with Help to Buy or Shared Ownership properties so expect a bit of a kicking when it comes to fees.
Bank Transfer Fee
Although conveyancers routinely send money through the banks these days there is still a fair degree of internal administration to do so. Conveyancers will therefore charge for their time even though the charge by the Bank could be minimal.
There are as I mentioned above almost a limitless amount of other charges which could increase the size of your bill. The vast majority of conveyancers will tend to charge some or all of the above but I have seen lots of other ancillary charges from examining the title of your property to dealing with notices of assignment for leasehold properties. The regulators are keen on transparency and these days conveyancers are required to publish their fees when promoting themselves but transparency does not mean uniformity!
7. Don’t forget the disbursements
On top of the core fee and any additional fees which your conveyancer is charging you, there are payments to third parties which are collected from you and then paid on. These should not contain any fee element to the conveyancer – if they do then the conveyancer should not refer to them as disbursements.
The most typical disbursements are
- Local Search
The charge by a local authority to check their records to make sure there are no charges against the property you are looking to buy varies from council to council (there are 370 odd of them!) The price could be £50 or it could be £295.
- Stamp Duty – the big one!
You will know that Stamp Duty is in the news at the moment because of the Chancellors Stamp Duty Holiday but normally you will have to pay a percentage of the value as a tax when you are buying. The amount will depend on whether you are a first time buyer and the value of the property. Typically it will be hundreds if not thousands. Your conveyancer will of course let you know at the start of the transaction.
- Land Registry Fees
Not as much as Stamp Duty but you will have to pay to register the property. This is typically a couple of hundred pounds – again a precise figure will depend on the value of the property.
What is important to remember is that your conveyancer must distinguish between their own fees and disbursements – watch out for that distinction.
8. How can you save money and time when moving homes?
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