Buying a home? Check your solicitor is on your mortgage lender's panel

When you get a mortgage to buy your home your mortgage lender will also instruct a solicitor to act for them. Do not assume that they will always instruct the same solicitor that you are using for your conveyancing.

The other day I saw an anguished plea from a buyer who had just been told that his lender would not be able to instruct the solicitor who was already acting for him. Completion of the purchase was supposed to be taking place in just a few days, so the buyer was in a real quandary.

He was faced with the choice of trying to find a new solicitor at short notice who could also act for the lender, or waiting for the lender to appoint a separate firm to just deal with the mortgage. Either way there were going to be delays, and the seller might decide to pull out.

The most common reason why this happens is that the buyer's solicitor is not on the lender's panel of solicitors. All mortgage companies maintain a panel of solicitors who they are prepared to instruct. When a firm is not on a particular lender's panel they cannot act for that lender.

It is generally quicker and cheaper if the same solicitor acts for both the buyer and the buyer's lender.

If a separate solicitor is acting for the lender the buyer's solicitor paperwork will have to be sent back and forth between them, causing delays in the conveyancing. The buyer will also have to pay two lots of solicitor's fees.

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Many solicitors have been removed from lenders' panels

In recent years many lenders have drastically pruned the size of their solicitor panels. They have also increased the level of their requirements for firms to stay on a panel – for instance a firm will be now required to have a minimum of three of four partners, and to be accredited to the Quality Conveyancing Scheme.

Just recently the Yorkshire Building Society Group (which includes several major Building Societies) announced that solicitors who did not have professional indemnity cover with an insurer approved by the Group would be removed from their panel.

It will cause delay if some of the conveyancing work has already been done by one solicitor before it is discovered that they cannot act for the buyer's lender. So buyers should check that their solicitor is on their lender's panel before proceeding too far.

If obtaining a mortgage through a broker then the broker should be able to check this out, but the best thing is to check with your solicitor before submitting the mortgage application.

The solicitors we work with are on the panels of the majority of lenders but you are welcome to check with us in any particular case.

We would also point out that the fees we quote always include the costs for acting in connection with any mortgage – some firms add an extra charge for this which is not included in their initial quote. So check what their quote includes when making comparisons.