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Instructing your Conveyancing Solicitor

What to expect when instructing solicitors in your Residential Property transaction.

In all the excitement of house hunting and arranging viewings it can be easy to overlook one central element – instructing the solicitors to carry out your transaction. When you are purchasing a property, conveyancing solicitors will investigate the legal aspects of the property you are buying and provide you with a legal report detailing what they have found and what you should be aware of. When selling a property, they will deal with enquiries about the property and provide the relevant legal information about the property to the Buyers solicitors.

  1. When to instruct?

While buyers and sellers generally only instruct once they have an accepted offer, you can begin that process much earlier by researching who you wish to instruct and providing the solicitors with some of the preliminary documents needed to carry out the transaction.

  1. Who to instruct?

This is, to some extent, a matter of personal choice but there are a number of factors worth considering:

All law firms must provide pricing information, but it is important to watch out for hidden fees. We will be happy to provide you with a quote tailored to your transaction; this will break down all the costs and includes a “fixed fee” for our services so that you have a clear idea from the outset how much the transaction will cost. You can obtain a quote by completing the online request form at the following link: or by calling the Residential Conveyancing team.

Beyond price, firms can also have additional accreditations which mean that they are qualified by certain associations. For example, the Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme Accreditation (CQS) to ensure that your solicitors adhere to quality standards for residential conveyancing. Many mortgage lenders now require that solicitors are CQS Accredited if they are to act for the lender in a transaction.

Similarly, ask your solicitors if they are an approved member of your mortgage lender’s panel, otherwise this could lead to delays later down the line. Most mortgage lenders will have a set of solicitors that they work with and they will only allow those particular solicitors to represent them on a purchase, this is called their panel. Some mortgage lenders have requirements that a firm must meet in order to be put on their panel and if the requirements are not met then you may have to instruct a separate set of solicitors to act for the mortgage. When taking out a mortgage and instructing a conveyancer it is important to remember that the conveyancer is acting on your behalf as well as the mortgage lender’s behalf and the conveyancer has a duty to report important matters of the property to you but also your lender too.

  1. The Engagement Pack

Once instructed, the first documents you will receive is our engagement pack, which sets out the services we will provide and asks you to complete a number of forms providing us with the details needed to carry out your transaction.

Our engagement letter sets out, point by point, the steps we will take in your transaction so that you have a clear idea of the documents to prepare and review, the correspondence with the other side, and how your transaction is progressing. It also explains the services which we will not provide; for instance, we will not be able to advise you on the capital gains tax consequences of your transaction if you are selling a second home, but we would be able to put you in touch with an accountant to advise you on this. We will also not be able to provide advice

For both buyers and sellers, you will be asked to complete a short client questionnaire providing your contact details and a little bit of background about the transaction; you don’t need to do any special research when answering these questions, but if you are unsure we are always on hand to help answer any questions you may have.

Buyers will be asked to complete a questionnaire in relation to Stamp Duty Land Tax; don’t worry, we do the number crunching but we will ask some questions about you and anyone you are buying with to determine how much Stamp Duty you will have to pay.

Sellers will be asked to provide detailed information about the property; we don’t need everything right away but the more information you are able to provide, the fewer questions for the buyer to ask later. It is important that you answer carefully as the buyer has the right to rely on your responses:

  • The Property Information Form asks for information about the property which may not be apparent from the title documents but will be familiar to you as a resident at the property. For instance, you will be asked about alterations to the property, whether there have been disputes with neighbours, what the parking arrangements are, and whether anyone under the age of 18 lives at the property.
  • The Fittings and Contents Form asks more specific questions about the utilities and appliances at the property. This is also an opportunity for you to specify what you will be taking with you, what you are leaving, and include a price for items that you have agreed to leave at the property.
  • If the property is leasehold, you will also be asked to complete the Leasehold Information Form, which sets out questions about any ground rent or service charge payable along with any information about notices received or consents obtained from the landlord.
  • Finally, you will be asked to provide any certificates and official documents related to the property, for instance:
    • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
    • FENSA Certificates for windows and doors
    • Gas safe certificate or CORGI (gas boiler service records)
    • Electrical certificates
    • Building works documentation (planning permission and building regulations consent).
  1. Identity Verification

Together with our engagement pack you will be asked to verify your identity.

We will carry out an identity verification procedure to make sure you are who you say you are – and it’s not just you, any potential buyer or seller will go through the same procedure. Given that your home is very likely your largest financial asset, it’s only right that we take every precaution to protect you against property fraud in all its forms.

You will need to provide two identity documents: one as photographic proof and one as proof of address; please note you cannot use the same identification document for both name and address. Usually, the easiest photographic ID is a passport or driving licence.

The proof of address ID may be a driving licence, a posted bank statement dated within the last three months (or an online bank statement you have had certified), a posted utility bill dated within the last three months, or a council tax bill for the current council tax year. If you have any difficulty providing these documents, please let us know as there may be other documents we can accept.

There are a number of ways we can verify these documents. You are welcome to attend the office in person or we can verify the documents online, either via video conference call or you can complete the ID verification in your own time using our online portal.

  1. Next Steps

This concludes the initial phase of instructing a solicitor in your residential property transaction. From this point we will confirm to all parties that we are instructed by you and begin drafting the contract documents on behalf of the seller or, where acting for the buyer, we will review the contract documentation which has been sent to us by the buyer’s solicitors and raise any enquiries.

Whilst acting on your behalf you will be kept appraised as your matter progresses and involved in the process – we enjoy being your project manager and that is very much how we view our role.

It is important to note that each firm has processes for instructing and they will vary slightly; the above lists our own procedures and practices in place when you instruct, but others will have their own similar systems in place. If you have any questions about the above, please feel free to contact our please contact our Residential Conveyancing team who will be happy to assist you.