Do I need a conveyancer?
Technically no (This website 100% always recommends you always use a conveyancer no matter how small the property transaction. But for the sake of being open and informative technically you do not require a conveyancer if you are dealing with a transaction without a mortgage.)
There is no legal requirement to use a solicitor/conveyancer when you buy or sell a house.
Preparing a transfer or making an application to the land registry to register a property transaction is in fact a regulated activity under Schedule 2 of the Legal Services Act 2007 and can therefore only be done by a regulated person such as a solicitor or conveyancer. However one may do so if they are an individual not doing so for, or in expectation of, any fee, gain or reward. So there is no legal barrier to completing a property transaction without a conveyancer/solicitor if you do so for yourself.
You can be your own conveyancer in the same way you can be your own mechanic and fix your own vehicle, be your own builder and build yourself an extension, or be your own accountant. But remember when buying or selling a property you are likely dealing with one of, if not the most expensive, thing you will ever own and doing so without the right expertise can be disastrous. Would you dabble with your super car worth a few hundred thousand pounds by following a YouTube guide or e-book or would you spend a few hundred pounds to have it done right?
If you buy, transfer or sell a Property with a mortgage, your mortgage Lender will require that you use a Solicitor/Conveyancer and you cannot proceed without one.
YES – for so many reasons
There are so many reasons why you should always use a conveyancer, and given the choice, use a Solicitor regulated by the SRA.
- They know what they are doing and even though it may take time, it will be done correctly. If for some reason your chosen conveyancer makes an error and it costs you, every conveyancer dealing with property transactions must have very thorough professional indemnity insurance which ensures that you have the ability to recover your losses for their mistake. In the industry and legal media this is often referred to as “gold plated indemnity insurance” because it is so comprehensive.
- Conveyancers prefer dealing with other conveyancers. If you decide not to use a conveyancer your buyer/seller will likely use one themselves and you will have to deal with their chosen legal representation yourself. They will likely be required to carry out the same regulatory checks on you that your own solicitor would, for example checking your source of funds and identity documents.
- Conveyancing is not just about drawing up the correct transfer deed, paying/taking the money and handing over the keys. 90% of conveyancing is due diligence and risk management, checking that what you are buying is what you expect and checking for potential hazards or legal risks so you know what to expect. If you don’t know what you are doing and miss something a seasoned professional would spot without thinking, you could end up with a horrific surprise in store.
- There is someone to blame if it goes wrong and there it is safe to believe that you will ultimately be compensated. This is a pretty cynical point but it is true. If you pay a builder to renovate your home and it goes wrong, you can sue them for breach of contract or negligence, and sure enough you might win and recover your money, or they might just liquidate their company and evade any legal claim you make or be unable to pay you and go bankrupt.
When using a Solicitor or conveyancer there are a number of options if something goes wrong. If they make an error and it costs you, you can sue the Solicitor/Conveyancer or go to the Legal Ombudsman. All conveyancers and Solicitors must have mandatory Professional Indemnity Insurance which means you can also sue their insurer. (This works much the same way as car insurance, if a driver hits your car, you claim against the driver and their insurer). Even if the Solicitor or conveyancer cannot pay your compensation their insurer will be able to. In the very very rare instance where both a Solicitor and their insurer cannot pay, it may be possible to make a claim against the SRA directly for compensation from the Solicitors Indemnity Fund. (Non SRA regulated firms may not have this option available and this is ultimately one of the benefits of using a Solicitor regulated by the SRA over another organisation).
- Conveyancing correctly takes time. Reviewing the documents, communicating with the Seller/Buyer’s conveyancer, drafting documents and agreeing them with the other parties involved. For a purchase even after you get the keys your conveyancer has to register your purchase with the land registry and ensure the correct tax returns are filed with the HMRC. With conveyancing fixed fees as low as they are today, just the time it will save you if you tried to do it yourself is very good value.
I work as a conveyancer. I know the legal ins and outs of buying and selling properties and can do it myself but I will always use a Solicitor to act for me when I buy or sell; why? Because ultimately if something goes wrong or even if the transaction is a tad bit complex a conveyancer has the resources and offers the protection to keep the risks to me, minimal.