What is Fixed Fee Conveyancing?
Fixed Fee Conveyancing is where a pre-agreed price is determined for the legal service being given - the price quoted at the start should then be the price you pay at the end of the process with the various disbursements included alongside the fixed fee. It is an alternative to the hourly rate service that some conveyancing solicitors still use.
Fixed fee conveyancing is common throughout the UK but there are still solicitors who will charge at an hourly rate. It’s important to make this distinction when comparing conveyancing solicitors so that you can budget accordingly and prepare for the final price.
Hiring a conveyancing solicitor is vital when buying or selling a property. It’s important to understand their service and the included costs before continuing. To help you search for the most appropriate solicitor for you, Compare My Move has created this guide to explain the meaning of fixed fee conveyancing and what it should include.
What is Fixed Fee Conveyancing?
Fixed fee conveyancing (also known as fixed price or flat rate conveyancing) is when a pre-agreed amount of money is decided and charged for the agreed conveyancing service. It's commonplace throughout the UK but not all conveyancing solicitors will use it as some still work at an hourly rate. A fixed rate service is often preferred by customers as it allows them to budget for the expected costs rather than to have an estimated amount with possible surprise costs added on.
When you’re looking to find the right conveyancing solicitor, ensure you have researched whether they’ll charge at an hourly rate or through a fixed fee so that there are no surprise costs once the process is complete. The term ‘fixed fee’ usually relates to the price of the legal services offered, it’s important to note that not all of the third-party costs will be included. Always ask for a quote from the solicitors that you’re interested in so that you can compare and work out an appropriate budget for buying a house.
What Should Fixed Fee Conveyancing Include?
When considering a fixed price conveyancing service, it would be wise to request a written quotation to outline what is included. Not only can this help when comparing services, but it will also explain what you’ll be getting for your money. Some quotes may exclude certain elements of the process, meaning additional costs could be added.
The fixed element of the quote doesn't usually include conveyancing disbursements as it’s difficult to assess precisely which conveyancing searches are required before the transaction starts. A reasonable estimate of the most common disbursements should be included in the overall quote you are first presented with but be aware that they are an added cost on top of the fixed fee.
Fixed Price Agreement When Buying & Selling a House
When receiving the quote, you should be presented with the pre-agreed fixed price for the legal service and then also any added disbursement costs. Some costs depend upon the expected time it takes to undertake the necessary legal work. Some legal firms may include an additional fee for photocopying and processing paperwork. It’s important to know that there are different costs included depending on whether you’re buying or selling the property.
To ensure you’re not being overcharged, we have included a list of a few elements that should be expected in the conveyancing quote. Below, we have listed a few standard items but it’s important to remember that every situation is subject to change and so there may be added extras not on our list.
When selling a property, the fixed price conveyancing quote should include:
- The legal fee charged by the conveyancing solicitor. This will be adjusted depending on whether the property is freehold or leasehold.
- A fee for copies of the necessary documents from The Land Registry.
- A Bank Transfer fee.
When buying a property, there are more checks and searches to be completed and so the fixed price conveyancing quote will include additional elements when compared to selling a property. These include:
- The legal fee charged by the conveyancing solicitor.
- Mortgage Administration fee (only applicable if you need a mortgage)
- Stamp Duty Return Fee
- Local Authority Searches
- Drainage search
- Bankruptcy search
- Environmental search
- Lawyer check fee
- Stamp Duty Land Tax
- Land Registry Registration fee
- Land Registry Search fee
- Mining search
- Bank transfer fee
- Chancel repair search
All these costs will vary depending on the type of property, the estimated time taken to complete the necessary legal work and the actual law firm themselves. However, your fixed fee conveyancing quote should give you a reliable exact price for all of these elements, allowing you to budget accordingly.
Pros and Cons of Fixed Fee Conveyancing
Like anything, there are both positives and negatives that arise when using a fixed fee conveyancing service. We’ve outlined a few important points to help you make an informed decision before finding the right conveyancer for you.
- It makes budgeting easier as you should have the pre-agreed price to save for, with no hidden charges to surprise you once the process ends.
- There is a higher level of certainty as you are immediately aware of what you should be paying.
- It is a transparent service that can provide peace of mind and ensure you know exactly what you’re paying for and how much.
- It reduces the risk of encountering added engrossment fees.
- Unclear communication with your solicitor can often lead to misunderstandings over the cost.
- Surprise charges can occur if you don’t read the small print of the quote and the conveyancer's terms and conditions. It’s important to be aware of these and to read everything carefully before continuing.
- The law firm still needs to make a profit and so not all agreements will be the same. Some can be rather expensive to ensure the solicitor makes a higher profit.
Avoiding the Risk of Being Overcharged
Using a fixed fee service can help reduce your conveyancing costs. It's important not to forget that the quote should include both the legal fee and the necessary disbursements.
To ensure you’re not being overcharged, you should:
- Carefully read the quote offered to you and ensure it includes the conveyancer's legal fee and applicable disbursements. Read each individual item on the quote and don’t be afraid to query any element you are not sure about.
- If there is a lack of transparency, then consider this a red flag. When comparing quotes, you should be told what services you’re receiving and how much you should be paying. Nothing should be hidden from you.
- As tedious as it may seem, it’s important to look at the Terms and Conditions as you don’t want to be surprised by hidden costs. If the writing indicates that you may be charged for something, question it.