What’s the difference between a solicitor and conveyancer?

Posted by Simon Banks, April 30, 2021

What’s the difference between a solicitor and conveyancer?

You will hear the words “solicitor” and “conveyancer” bandied about during the property buying process. Yet, for many buyers, this is the point where confusion sets in. They end up asking themselves, “what’s the difference between a solicitor and conveyancer?”

It’s the sort of question you really need to know the answer to. After all, getting a mortgage is a big deal, and the process should be totally transparent for everyone involved. Because we’re all about simplifying mortgages here at Molo, we’ve put this guide together detailing everything you need to know about solicitors and conveyancers.

What’s the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer?

After having an offer for a property accepted, you will be asked to start the legal process of buying a home. This is where solicitors and conveyancers come into play: they handle the legalities involved with purchasing bricks and mortar.

What does a solicitor do?

A solicitor is a general legal professional who is well versed in law. They may have an area of expertise, but, ultimately, they have excessive knowledge on a variety of subjects and offer a full range of legal services. Solicitors are qualified lawyers.

What does a conveyancer do? 

A licensed conveyancer specialises in property but isn’t well versed in other aspects of law. That means they probably can’t deal with complex legal issues but can go through the property-buying and selling process, dealing with things like searches and mortgage completions.

How do I choose between the two?

Conveyancing is simply the legal term for transferring ownership of the property, whether you’re the buyer or the seller. Ultimately both a conveyancer and solicitor do the same job – to the point we just use the general term ‘solicitor’ here at Molo.

What’s more important is picking a good solicitor who regularly updates their client while providing support in what is often described as the most stressful part of buying a home.

That means the focus should centre around finding a qualified solicitor who can provide an excellent service. To do that, you need to have an idea of the conveyancing process and how it works.

How does conveyancing work?

As soon as you make an offer you will need to list the details of your solicitor, including their name and contact details. If the offer is accepted, you will then need to instruct a conveyancer to begin legal proceedings. Here’s what you can expect during the process:

  • Legal work – the solicitor will examine the draft contract and any supporting documents before raising the relevant enquiries with the seller’s solicitor.
  • Property searches – a series of property searches are required to ensure there are no issues with the property. Some of these include local authority searches to see if there are planned works near the property and checking the title to see if the seller is the legal owner
  • Mortgage conveyancing – your solicitor will receive a copy of the mortgage offer and go through the conditions. Part of this includes a mortgage valuation so they know if the property is worth the accepted offer
  • Signing contracts – before signing the contract, the solicitor ensures all enquiries are satisfactory, details the fixtures and fittings included with the sale, and sees that you have made arrangements to transfer the deposit
  • Contract exchange – you and the seller agree on a date and time to exchange contracts and complete the sale. The solicitor will arrange the time and date and finalise the details.

The above is a general description of how the conveyancing side of buying a property works. Each sale is different, however, and there may be a few extra steps required. But having the information above gives you a good idea of what to expect when hiring a solicitor.

It’s always important to remember that solicitors will handle contracts, give legal advice, carry out local council searches, deal with the Land Registry, and transfer the funds to pay for your property.

How do I find a solicitor?

Choosing a good solicitor is an essential part of buying a property. You can start by asking friends and family if they have previously worked with anyone they recommend. Other options include asking your lender – for example, here at Molo, we partner with solicitors and are happy to recommend them if you need one.

Alternatively, estate agents often have a good contact book of solicitors, so it might be worth asking the one who listed the property. Search comparison websites can also be useful for finding a solicitor.

Just remember to always check reviews for solicitors who don’t come recommended. Well, really, you should check reviews for any solicitor you work with, but it’s especially important if you have no prior knowledge of how they work. Trustpilot is a good place to start examining reviews.

How much should I pay for a solicitor?

Solicitors charge in different ways. Some have a fixed fee, while others charge at an hourly rate. Or they may take a percentage of the property price as their fee. It’s best to get quotes from a few different firms so you can compare prices.

The quotes should provide you with a complete breakdown of pricing, including what they charge for…

  • Searches
  • Bank transfer
  • Land Registry fees
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax, Land Transaction Tax and Buildings and Land Transaction Tax where applicable
  • ‘Disbursements’ – other costs including postage and courier services
  • Additional work if the process is more complex or urgent than initially expected.

How long does conveyancing take?

There’s no set time for how long conveyancing takes, and it’s usually the most time-consuming process of buying a home. As mortgage lenders here at Molo, we can have the application approved and ready to go fairly quickly. But in most circumstances, you will need to wait until the solicitor has finished all of the checks.

The average time for conveyancing is around 12 weeks but can be done in as little as four. It all depends on the searches and the property involved. For example, leaseholder properties usually take longer as there is more information to gather.

What’s so different?

Knowing the ins and outs of the legal side of buying a property will help you better understand the process. And when it comes to finding someone to handle the legals, it doesn’t really matter if they call themselves a solicitor or conveyancer. All that counts is that they’re good at their job and communicate with you throughout the process. If they do that, you can enjoy peace of mind and, hopefully, a stress-free approach to buying a house.

Now that you know the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer, feel free to explore our mortgage product page, so we can help you get the investment property of your dreams, sooner.

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