Conveyancing fees are an essential expense when it comes to buying and selling property, and they’re also one of the most commonly misunderstood.
When you’re buying or selling a property, there’s a lot of money involved. For most people, it’s one of the largest financial transactions of their lives and one of the most significant. With such high stakes, you need to know if you’re paying what’s fair for the service you’re looking for and when you’re being taken advantage of.
If you’re not sure what a conveyancing solicitor does, you can check out our guide here.
Read on to find out all about legitimate conveyancing fees and what you can expect to pay, as well as some of the tricks some use to make you pay more. If you need help with any of this, we will go through any quote you have received free of charge and compare it to our own in terms of both price and service. You can’t say fairer than that!
What Are the Conveyancing Fees I Should Expect?
When you first approach someone to carry out your conveyancing, you should always start with a quote for their services. An accurate and transparent quote will make it much easier to budget and can help to avoid financial strife along the way. Any conveyancing quote should include two parts:
- Legal fees: These are the costs of the conveyancer.
- Third-party fees: Also referred to as disbursements, these are the payments to third parties that your conveyancer will pay out on your behalf to make things smoother and more convenient for you (such as local search fees if you’re buying).
Your total conveyancing costs will be the combined total of those two parts.
How Much Are the Solicitors’ Legal Fees?
This is the bit you’re really interested in in terms of getting a good service from your solicitor as this is the bit that pays them and their team for the service they deliver to you. All solicitors are legally required to display these fees clearly in a place that’s easy to find on their website (if they have one). Unfortunately, not all do, and this usually carries through to any quote they send you.
You can find our fee info here. As you’ll see, the cost of your conveyancing fees can vary depending on many factors, with the main ones being:
- Location and price of the property. More affluent areas and higher prices usually mean higher fees.
- Type of property. House conveyancing is cheaper than conveyancing for a flat and newbuilds usually attract higher fees.
- Whether the property is registered at the land registry. Registered property is cheaper. Most property is registered now but there are still many properties that are not – usually ones that have been in the same hands for many years.
Other factors include:
- Help to Buy. There is some extra legal work that needs to be done if you’re using a help-to-buy supplement intended to be used for buying a new-build property.
- Gifted Deposits. If you’re buying a property and you’ve had some help to get your deposit, your conveyancing solicitor will need to verify that the money is coming from a legitimate source. For example, if your parents have gifted you a percentage (or the entirety) of your deposit, you’ll likely see an additional cost on your final bill.
- Lifetime ISA. If you’re using some form of ISA for a property purchase, your chosen conveyancer will tend to have extra work to do during the process of the property ownership transfer. However, that amount has been capped at a set price of £50 (plus VAT).
What Disbursements Should I Expect to Pay as Part of My Solicitor Conveyancing Costs?
Disbursements are payments that your conveyancer will pay to third parties on your behalf (such as search fees if you are buying). Importantly, you will usually be expected to pay disbursements even if you’re using a conveyancer who has a service that offers “no move, no fee”.
In theory, the range of those disbursements shouldn’t change too much between conveyancers (as many tend to use similar third parties with fixed charges), but do be careful because some conveyancers charge well over the going rate for the usual disbursements you need to pay for. Some even invent unusual disbursements you don’t need to pay for as a sneaky way of charging you more.
Although there may be additional third-party fees to pay as the property transfer moves forward (this is particularly true of flats and other leasehold property), there are some common disbursements that you should expect to see on your itemised quote and final bill if you are buying a property. These include the following:
Local Authority Search
Often shortened to ‘Local Search’, this is a deep dive into the records held by the property’s local authority to find out as much about the property and the surrounding area as possible. A local search will uncover any red flags you need to be aware of in terms of planning, development restrictions, any enforcement action by the local authority, road schemes, etc. The cost of the local search will vary depending on the area. Expect a local search to be priced between £150 and £200 (including VAT).
Water and Drainage Search
This is a check into the records held by the local water board to check everything is in order with the property’s water supply and drainage and sewerage. You’ll also find out if it’s currently on a meter. The cost of the water and drainage search will again vary depending on the area. Expect a water and drainage search to be priced between £35 and £50 (including VAT).
Often shortened to ‘Enviro Search’, this involves several checks relating to the land the property is built on to look out for things you don’t want like flooding, subsidence and contamination. The cost of the enviro search will again depend on the area and can vary. Expect an environmental search to be priced between £60 and £80 (including VAT).
Bank Transfer/Electronic Transfer/TT Fee(s)
Known by a few different names, these are the fees charged by your solicitor passing on the fees charged by their bank for making same-day payments on your behalf as part of your transaction. The fee will be charged in respect of each payment made. The cost of a bank transfer fee will vary, but you can expect to pay between £40 and £55 (including VAT) per bank transfer
Land Registry Fee
A Land Registration fee is charged by the government to transfer the title of the property into your name. Land Registry fees are based on transaction type and property price. This will be the same whichever solicitor you choose. Click here to see what fee will apply to your situation.
Stamp Duty Land Tax (Land Transaction Tax in Wales)
Often shortened to ‘Stamp Duty’ in England, this can be hard to work out, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer and you’re eligible for government-backed discounts. You can find out more about Stamp Duty in this guide from the government.
It’s called Land Transaction Tax in Wales and different rates apply. Guidance can be found here.
Disbursements on Leasehold and More Complex Transactions
When the property is leasehold (most flats are leasehold, most houses are freehold) or when things are less straightforward (which is not always obvious at the outset) there can be more disbursements that come up. For more detailed guidance, see our costs info here.
How to Compare Conveyancing Costs
As with buying anything, it’s always best to compare prices from provider to provider. Once you have some initial quotes, start by directly comparing them. Make sure that the legal fees and disbursement fees have been included in your quote and that these have been fully itemised. Don’t forget to check the small print for any hidden costs that might take you by surprise at the end of the process.
When you start comparing solicitor conveyancing costs, the temptation will always be to choose the one with the lowest fees. While that seems like an easy choice to make, the fact is that low costs can also be a sign of poor service quality. A conveyancer that has too many clients to deliver a responsive, personalised service can slow down the sale of a property by months. A slow service may even result in a house sale falling through.
What Does ‘No Move No Fee’ Mean?
Plenty of conveyancing solicitors, including the team at Lockings, work on a ‘no move no fee’ basis. Should the sale of a property fall through for any reason, then you will not have to pay the legal fees associated with that property transfer. This is sometimes referred to as ‘no completion no fee’. If you use a solicitor that offers a ‘no move no fee’ promise, remember that you will still have to pay for any disbursements (things your solicitor pays out on your behalf like local searches if you’re buying) upfront and you won’t get that money back if the sale falls through.
Understanding Solicitor Conveyancing Costs
Now that you understand conveyancing costs and what disbursements means (and which ones to look out for), you will know what to look for on any quote you obtain. To make sure you don’t get caught out by any hidden surprises, we’ve also created this handy leaflet.
Remember that we are always happy to go through any quote you have received free of charge and compare it to our own in terms of both price and service. It doesn’t get easier or more convenient than that! So get in touch today for a chat with the friendly office team at Lockings.