The government advises home buyers and sellers to check for 'hidden extras' when choosing a conveyancer in 'how to' guides published today.
The guides follow an announcement by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government last year as part of its promise to improve the home buying and selling process in England and Wales.
Buyers are told in their guide to get multiple quotes from 'legal professionals'. It advises: 'You should expect to be told the full price upfront, but you should check if there are any hidden extras and if they have paid a referral fee for your custom. Ask what fee you will be charged in the even your sale does not go through.'
If conveyancers have online reviews, buyers are told to read what customers think of the service they provide, and whether they have the specialist skills to handle leasehold, shared ownership or listed building properties.
On service, the guide asks if the purchaser will have a named contact and what the communication options are. 'Do you prefer online or in-person service? Do their opening hours suit you? Do they have experience conveying properties in your local area?,' it asks.
Buyers are told to check if the conveyancer is on their mortgage lender's panel and refers them to the Legal Choices website to check the conveyancer is regulated by an appropriate body.
The guide says: 'Once you have agreed that a legal professional will act for you, they should provide you with a letter of engagement which sets out the terms of your agreement with them including the instructions you have given them, the fee they will charge, the timescales for the agreement, and other relevant information.'
The sellers' guide states that legal representatives should be chosen shortly before the home is put on the market or as soon as possible once it is up for sale to reduce delays.
On price, sellers are also told to check for hidden extras and whether the conveyancer will be paid a referral fee. It also suggests checking whether the conveyancer has a 'no-move, no-fee' service.
Both guides tell buyers and sellers to contact the legal ombudsman over unresolved complaints about a legal professional.
Meanwhile, the Financial Conduct Authority says mortgage firms will be limited to factual information only when discussing panel solicitors with consumers under proposals to improve mortgage advice and selling standards.
The city watchdog's consultation paper, published today, states that such information could be, for instance, whether or not a particular firm is on the lender's panel, and what legal fees are or are not included in the mortgage offer.