Sam Dunn: 'Will DIY conveyancing save me any cash?'

House Doctor
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Question: A very tight budget for our house move has meant we're looking to cut costs, and I'm wondering if I can do all the conveyancing myself instead of paying a solicitor. It's not supposed to take more than a day's worth of man-hours. Do you think the effort is worth it? Jan Miller, Reading

Answer: Conveyancing – sorting out the documents to go with a property transfer from you to the buyer – might sound a simple enough task.

Yet the reality is a complex tangle that can leave you facing a hefty bill for liability if you make mistakes, says Gavin Brazg of property advice website

"There are two words to be aware of: negligence and insurance," he warns.

"As a private individual, you don't have any negligence insurance, but solicitors and licensed conveyancers do."

Say you were to make a mistake in your DIY conveyancing – overlooking major building works, for example, or road widening.

You would be held responsible if the buyer were to take legal action after deciding it had had a major impact on their property. A solicitor or licensed conveyancer would at least be covered by a professional negligence insurance policy.

While DIY conveyancing would likely save you between £400 and £500, it pales in comparison with the possible savings from trying to sell your home without the need for an estate agent.

If you were fortunate enough to find a buyer after one month's advertising online, you could save between £2,500 and £5,000 on selling a £250,000 house, depending on the size of estate agent fees.

A report by consumer body Which? into the need for reform of legal services highlighted many consumers' frustration with house moving and the delays in conveyancing.

Going solo for conveyancing means you've also to grapple with the nitty-gritty of every house move.

This usually includes the unpredictability of housing chains and fraught negotiation of completion dates; navigating local-authority planning departments; and picking your way through often-complex leasehold or increasingly popular "share of freehold" issues.

If you're still keen on saving money through conveyancing, your best bet for lower fees will be to use an online service.

Watch out, though: it's worth doing thorough research online. To start off, try reviews.php for recent reviews.