DIY conveyancing: do you need a solicitor to sell a house?
DIY conveyancing - it's one of those terms that you'll very rarely hear until, you're considering selling a house without a solicitor. In fact, this form of conveyancing is much as it sounds: a way of you taking on the duties of the solicitor, including the legal responsibility for your house sale. Not exactly the most calming weight to have on your shoulders, but nevertheless one that could help you shave costs.
And what's more, with the recent Spike in popularity towards online estate agents (pardon the pun), it's not hard to see why the number of DIY conveyancers in the UK, is at an all-time high. Although that's not to say that this flat pack form of conveyancing is the way forward - in fact, many argue it's the complete opposite.
With housing deposits continuing to grow and speed being a key factor of a buyer's checklist, it's often said that the room for error with DIY conveyancing is higher than ever before. Question is though, does DIY conveyancing actually make financial sense? Or do you need a solicitor to sell your house? To find out, we've dissected DIY conveyancing so you don't have to.
After something specific about what a solicitor does or just curious as to whether you need one?
What does a solicitor do when selling your house?
In essence, a solicitor is a manager, who comes with the added bonus of legal expertise. It's their job to oversee the sale of your current property and work with your buyer's solicitor to usher the sale towards completion. Aside from this, they'll also be tasked with assessing your onward purchase to double check that there's hidden legal issues that the estate agent has 'neglected' to mention. Low leases, restrictive covenants and future plans for local developments are some of the most common.
However, that's only half of their role. With them being legal experts, they're also tasked with supporting sellers throughout what can be a very stressful and daunting time. Not to say that your solicitor doubles as a psychiatrist - they don't. It's their legal nous which can often be a great support, especially when you don't have much of it yourself. Think of it as a barrier to prevent against legal slip-ups. One that looks to ensure your sale reaches its final destination both on time and in one piece - i.e. goes from Sold STC to Sold.
A good solicitor will...
Give you their mobile phone number, so you can contact them out of hours.
Explain in full how the sales process works and ensure that you're aware what's required of you and at which given moment.
List all the documents you need to sell your house
Keep in touch regularly + advise you on what to do every step of the way
Communicate clearly with your buyer's solicitor to make sure the sale doesn't fall through
Does their best to act fast and resolve any legal issues that arise down the line
Is always open to you in person - a solicitor is a focal part of your property sale, so for them to be open to meeting up in person is a MUST!
And while a solicitor's job is rather varied, the majority of their duties can be summarised using just two terms. Nevertheless, these two terms are the reason why for the majority, DIY conveyancing is off the cards...
Searches - This is what a buyer's solicitor will do to confirm that your house is everything that you and the agent have made it out to be. So, this will include searches into things like flooding, drainage and whether your property is built on a landfill, as well as any future plans that the local authority has for the area. Usually, these take around 2-3 weeks to complete and set you back around £250-£300.
Enquiries - If during their searches, the solicitor flags up an issue, they'll likely do what's called raising enquiries. This is essentially them pointing out the issue to the seller's solicitor and waiting on their response. Enquiries can often be what slow up a house sale, as many issues can often require a few enquiries to resolve. The cost of enquiries can vary depending on the severity and also if your solicitor charges an hourly rate.
FYI: If you're selling with no onward purchase then you won't be hassled by these half as often. However, if you are making an onward purchase and the thought of searches and enquiries looks a bit daunting, then DIY conveyancing may not be the best bet for you.
Conveyancer VS solicitor
Don't be fooled into thinking that a solicitor is just a posh term for a conveyancer - there's a crucial difference between the two.
Conveyancing solicitors are typically the savvier because unlike the conveyancer, they've trained in a wide range of legal applications. From there, they then chose to specialise in conveyancing. And while a conveyancer is much the same, their awareness of the wider law in minimal - they specialised in conveyancing and that's pretty much it.
Now of course you could say that this doesn't actually make much of a difference. You're buying a house and going through conveyancing - both know it inside out, so why pay the extra for a solicitor? Well, there's actually a good reason that you would.
You see, when it boils down to it, not all house sales are straightforward. Some (mainly due to hiccups) can require certain legal attention and can even end up in court. A situation where a solicitor would be likely able to help you out and as a result go on to tie up your sale. Whereas, a conveyancer may not be as well equipped. In fact, they probably won't be able to assist you with any legal matters whatsoever, which would mean you'd have to seek independent help, all of which comes at a cost. Then, depending on how long that takes to find, your sale could easily fall through.
Its differences like this which are why conveyancers and solicitors aren't regulated by the same body...
Solicitors are required to be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) as well as members of the Law Society.
Conveyancers on the other hand are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). However, this doesn't mean they can't work for a firm of solicitors. To do so they'd just need to be regulated by the SRA.
However, regulation is just one of the differences that you need to be aware of. The 'conveyancers vs solicitors' debate is actually more complex than you'd think. So before you come to any conclusions, here are another two for you to consider...
Conflict of interest - Because solicitors have practised a wider suite of law than conveyancers, they're unable to act on behalf of both parties in the sale. However, this doesn't mean that conveyancers operate under the same restrictions. In fact, it's completely legal for a conveyancer to act for both the buyer and seller in a house sale. Perhaps something you'd look to shy away from, especially if you want to remain certain that your conveyancer has your best interests at heart.
Referral fees - Take up your estate agent on the recommendation of a solicitor and they'll likely be getting a fee out of it. The difference is that solicitors do have to disclose the fact they'll be getting a fee, whereas conveyancers don't.
How much should a solicitor charge for selling a house?
Just like the cost of your agent, the cost of a solicitor varies... quite substantially. As a rough guestimate, the typical quote comes in at around £800 and £1,800. Although, the gap isn't just solicitors playing a bidding war - there are reasons behind it. Here are just a few for you to digest...
Time - How long does the conveyancing process take?
In general, a straightforward conveyancing transaction can take anywhere from 6-12 weeks to complete, while a more complex transaction can take longer, often up to several months.
Flat Fees - With conveyancers being the cheaper of the two, they'll usually charge a flat fee. Typically this will be closer towards the £800 mark.
Additional costs - It's worth noting that while all legal professionals will quote you a fee, that won't necessarily be the fee you end up paying. Extra costs such as searches, perhaps additional surveys and other administrative costs could see the final amount you pay increase.
Situations where DIY conveyancing could make sense
As you'll soon gather, DIY conveyancing doesn't suit every type of sale. In fact, the types of sales it does suit are part of a somewhat select group. Nevertheless, there are certainly some situations where selling your house without a solicitor does make sense. Here are a few to consider...
You know a trustworthy conveyancer - Selling your house without a solicitor is by no means easy, but that's not to say it isn't doable. It is, only you stand a lot better chance of getting it right the first time if you have someone who you can call on for support. A friend, relative, past work colleague - whoever - just as long as they're someone with a solid idea about the legal side of a property sale. Basically, a lifeline, who's got the nous to help your out should you fall.
You or your partner have a legal background - Obviously, this is by far the safest way for you to sell your house without a solicitor, as you've got a rough idea of what's to come. But that's not to say that being semi-prepared is a good enough reason. As highlighted above, the type of property your selling or you're general lifestyle could still make DIY conveyancing less of a worthwhile option.
REMEMBER: Your financial information is sensitive, so you need to be very careful about who you put your trust. There are 'friends' and then there are friends - be sure not to confuse the two!
Situations where DIY conveyancing doesn't make sense
As you've probably gathered, how viable DIY conveyancing actually is can depend on both you and your sale. While in certain instances it makes sense to do conveyancing yourself, in other situations, it really doesn't. Therefore, to prevent you from making any simple (but costly) mistakes, we've outlined a whole host of scenarios where we feel DIY conveyancing doesn't make sense...
You're a busy family - Taking care of a family eats up a lot of time, so naturally for the majority of busy parents, downtime is already a rare moment. But when it does come around it's one to savour. Something that you can't do if it's piled high with conveyancing paperwork and late nights of reading up on the law. So really, DIY conveyancing would be more of a stress than a saving. Plus, no legal form looks good when it's been graffitied in wax crayon.
Your legal knowledge just isn't there - Conveyancing isn't for the fainthearted. The forms are deadly serious and require a lot of thought and attention - a schoolboy error is no laughing matter. So, if you're not exactly well-versed in the legalities of a house sale, DIY conveyancing may not be the wisest approach. Slip up and your house sale could get held back months or worse, fall through.
Tactical buyers - It's worth remembering that some buyers play their cards close to their chests. So while they may 'play ditsy' when it comes to the law, their legal knowledge may actually be up there with the best. All of which could see them try to take advantage of your DIY position. In other words, exploit it, be this by threatening to pull out completely or gazundering just before the exchange of contracts. Why? Because they know how much work (and frustration) it'll cause you, so they're more likely to get what they want.
Problem properties - Think a standard house sale is difficult? Try and sell a problem property with DIY conveyancing and you'll realise just how complex a property sale can get. Finding a buyer for a house that has underlying issues is never easy as it is, never mind having to deal with all the extra paperwork and surveys that come with it. If it were us we'd leave these sorts of sales to the pros.
Anything leasehold - Buy a property that's leasehold and you'll likely be dealt a few extra chores. Usually, these involve getting to know the terms of the lease inside out, as well as talking with the freeholder and fathoming out how to get your name added to it. All tasks that unless you're a legal professional can be a LOT to get your head around - the longer it takes you to do so, the longer your house sale will take.
Awkward situations - Let's be honest, selling your house isn't always the most pleasant experience, especially if it's due to divorce or the death of a loved one. So, in this situation, DIY conveyancing is the last thing we'd advise. All it does is keep the sale fresh in your mind (i.e. act as a constant reminder of what's happened), at a time when you should be taking a step back to focus on yourself - not completing a pile of paperwork that you barely understand, all just to meet a tight deadline. Really look at DIY conveyancing and you'll see it ultimately relies on you making smart and logical decisions. Not exactly something you'll be equipped to do when your mind is overloaded with emotion.
FYI: Opt for DIY conveyancing when you're in a chain and you'll also have the task of communicating with other solicitors besides that of your buyer. Not too bad if you're available 24/7 and are clued up on lawful language, but less so if words like notaries, apportionments and easement leave you feeling a bit bamboozled.
Do you need a solicitor to sell your house in the UK? Is DIY conveyancing worth it?
Yes, selling your house without a solicitor is not impossible. It's actually quite doable if you know how. Plus, it can also save you a good chunk of money in fees! However, with most of us, money isn't the real issue - it's time.
Granted, you pay money for an agent to sell your property, as you do a property marketing company to create a 360-degree virtual tour. But then you've got to ask yourself why - why did you pay them that money? What was it actually for?
Answer: their time, coupled with a solid chunk of expertise. In other words, their value. The same thing that we'd encourage you to look for when deciding if you need a solicitor to sell your house. It's also the reason why we advise against DIY conveyancing full-stop. Look at it this way...
Should your sale go not quite as planned, even a conveyancer isn't legally qualified to assist you - it's beyond their paygrade. That's someone who's clued up on the property, likely been in their job for X amount of years and has been through extensive training to get there. The point being, if they can't resolve a matter if things take a turn for the worse, then what chance do you have if you're a total novice?
Excuse us for being blunt, but I think you can probably guess where this is going.
If the above was to happen, you'd have to appoint a solicitor anyway, on top of any costs you've incurred from either choosing a conveyancer or going DIY. So, when you really look at it, by cheaping out on your legals, the only thing you're actually doing is increasing the risk of it costing you more.
Then factor in that when compared to a legal pro, you're far more likely to make a mistake (i.e. herd your sale into a sticky situation), and those extra couple of hundred pounds for a conveyancing solicitor suddenly don't seem all that much.
So if you want our advice, DIY conveyancing isn't worth your time and effort (sorry guys). Instead, shoehorn the job of legals off onto a solicitor and spend all the time you're saving with your family or working on yourself. Unlike conveyancing, you can't put a price on that.
FYI: If you haven't sold in a while, you may be surprised. Due to the internet, solicitors have become far more competitive, so you can actually find a good legal professional at a reasonable price. Although, in some instances, you don't even have to pay for them at all...
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