As one might imagine, the process of selling a house involves various fees, payable before, during and after the sale. In this article, we’re going to look specifically at solicitor (or conveyancing) fees when selling a house.
Conveyancing is, in essence, the process of arranging and pushing through all of the legal paperwork required to enable the transfer of property from a seller to a buyer. Although not a legal requirement, mortgage lenders typically insist that conveyancing is performed by a fully qualified, insured professional, in the form of a solicitor, legal executive or licensed conveyancer, who will, naturally enough, charge a fee for the specialised service(s) provided.
Conveyancing fees can be divided into legal fees and other, third-party fees, known as disbursements. The good news is that conveyancing fees for selling a house are typically less expensive than those for buying one, chief due to the lack of disbursements. For example, local authority searches, such as drainage, environmental and planning searches, are the responsibility of the solicitor acting on behalf of the buyer, not the seller, and fees for them are charged accordingly.
The principal focus of the solicitor acting on behalf of the seller is to draft the official contract of sale, identical copies of which will ultimately be signed by both parties and exchanged between their respective solicitors, at which point the transaction becomes legally binding. The solicitor also maintains constant communication with both parties – in the case of the buyer, via their agent – so that the sale proceeds smoothly to completion without misunderstanding on either side.
Of course, a conveyancing specialist also manages the exchange of money between buyer and seller. If you want to guarantee that the proceeds of the sale arrive in your bank on a certain day, you will need to use the time-critical, same-day system known as the Clearing House Automated Payment System (CHAPS); your solicitor may well charge you a separate telegraphic transfer fee, in the region of £20 or £30, listed as a disbursement, for the privilege.
Bank transfer fees aside, according to the Homeowners’ Alliance, which provides practical, unbiased advice to homeowners and prospective homeowners in the United Kingdom, sales conveyancing typically costs between £500 and £1,500, depending upon the complexity of the transaction, for legal fees alone. However, conveyancing fees vary from one solicitor to the next, as does the quality of service, so it is wise to shop around for several conveyancing quotes, in writing, with a detailed breakdown of what is, and what is not, included.
You are under no obligation to use a conveyancing specialist referred by your estate agent and, in fact, when you factor in a referral fee, which is typically at least £100, and often more, doing so can prove to be a very expensive option. An over-priced referral may be less likely from a small, independent estate agent than a national corporate chain but, if you are in any doubt, ask your estate agent if they receive commission and, if so, how much. Of course, if you are selling your house and buying another, it may make practical and financial sense to use the same solicitor for both transactions; you should find it much easier to negotiate fees than if you use two different solicitors.
It is also worth noting that conveyancing fees are charged either as a percentage of the value of your property or on a flat, or fixed, fee basis. The latter is the more secure option insofar as it allows you to budget for expected costs, without the prospect of nasty surprises. Note, too, that selling a leasehold property involves more work on the part of the conveyancing solicitor than selling a freehold property, so expect to add between £150 and £400 to your conveyancing costs.