Are Solicitors and Conveyancers the Same Thing?

A look at the main differences between solicitors and conveyancers together with an insight into the conveyancing process.

If you’re new to the housing market, the number of different parties involved can be overwhelming and the different terminology can get confusing. Solicitors and conveyancers are often involved with the legal side of buying or selling properties, however, there are some distinct differences between the two. 

What is a solicitor?

Simply put, a solicitor is a fully legally trained expert and will generally have a vaster array of knowledge regarding the law. Solicitors may specialise in a particular area of law such as property.

What is a conveyancer?

Conveyancers aren’t fully trained experts in all aspects of the law; however, they have received extensive training regarding legalities relating to property. The role of a conveyancer involves the exchanging of contracts between buyers and sellers and the title transferring between the parties.  

What are the main differences between solicitors and licensed conveyancers?

Conveyancer with set of house keys

The main difference between solicitors and conveyancers is that solicitors are qualified experts in multiple areas of the law, whereas conveyancers specialise in property and may only be qualified to work on property related legal issues. Because of this, solicitors are typically more expensive to hire when compared to conveyancers. 

Which legal expert you choose to go with will depend on your personal situation, but there are pros and cons for selecting both. As solicitors are experts in multiple areas of the law, they may be able to help you with any legal issues that occur which are considered more complex. However, as mentioned previously, solicitors will usually be more expensive to hire.

On the other hand, as conveyancers specialise in housing law, they live and work with similar issues daily, so they tend to have the experience of dealing with the same situations. The main drawback for hiring a conveyancer is that if you run into any unexpected legal hiccups, they may not be able to handle the issue and refer you to a solicitor, which may add more time and expenses for you to deal with. 

One difference in terms of licensing is that solicitors and conveyancers are regulated by different governing bodies, however, both should be legally licensed and hold the necessary qualifications. Solicitors in the UK are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authorities (SRA) and must also be members of the Law Society. Conveyancers, however, are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). 

Conveyancing process explained for buyers

The conveyancing process essentially covers the act of making an offer for a property and lasts until completion day when the handover of keys is completed. The whole process usually takes around 12-16 weeks, but this can fluctuate depending on a number of factors.

The first step begins once an offer has been submitted and accepted, and you’ll need to make the decision of whether to appoint a solicitor or conveyancer at this point. Your legal expert will then obtain and review all relevant legal documents and provide you with advice on what to do next. You’ll also want to conduct a house survey during this part of the process to ensure there are no significant issues with the property. 

Your mortgage offer will be the next step in the process. If you had a mortgage agreement in principle already in place, then this timescale will be reduced significantly. It usually takes around a month from submitting a mortgage application to receiving a firm offer. 

Whilst the mortgage is being sorted by the lenders, your solicitor or conveyancer should be drafting up the contract for your property. During the contract drafting period, your legal expert will need to gather information and documents from the land registry, seller, and the seller’s representatives. Other processes such as surveys and searches may also be concluded during this period which can make it the most time-consuming part of the process.  

Once everything has been completed and confirmed, you’ll be ready to exchange contracts with the seller and to agree on a completion date. On the day of completion, your solicitor or conveyancer will organise for the funds to be transferred to the seller and you’ll be able to pick the keys up once this process is finished. 

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