Podcast Summary: 024 Conveyancing with Sarah Dwight

This week Marion Ellis is speaking with Sarah Dwight who is a conveyancer, with the goal that surveyors learn more about the other aspects of the business that we are in, which is to help people with their hom

Qualified as a solicitor in 1990, Sarah Dwight has always focussed on trying to make the house moving experience better for all those involved. After establishing her own practice, dealing exclusively with residential conveyancing in April 2000, she has seen many changes in how conveyancing is done together with changes in the market. Sarah believes solicitors are at the heart of the house moving process and have a crucial role in making sure that the public receive good advice at a stressful time

For the last nine years, Sarah has been a member of The Law Society Conveyancing and Land Law Committee, heading the Residential Property sub group. She regularly speaks at various property conferences and she is The Surveyor Hub’s resident conveyancer.

What is Conveyancing

The first question that we ask is what a conveyancer does and what the difference is between a conveyancer, a solicitor and a property lawyer. It turns out it’s not so easy to explain. The conventional definition says that a conveyancer is a legal practitioner who specialises in the legal aspects of buying and selling real property, or conveyancing. However, there are nuances to this profession, as Sarah explains:

“This is a question that my daughters ask me when they ask what I do – am I a solicitor, am I a lawyer? A generic term lawyer is anybody who works in a lawyer’s office in a fee earning role. A conveyancer can also be a solicitor, so you can be a conveyancing solicitor, or you could be a licensed conveyancer, which means that you follow a different route to qualification and principally, just do conveyancing.”

“There are people that do conveyancing who started off as secretaries,” she continues, “and have worked their way through the firm, done the exams as they’ve gone along and became better qualified for this job. In conveyancing, being able to cope with the stresses that the public are experiencing when they are moving house is very important.”

How Conveyancers Can Work With Surveyors

Sarah goes on to explain how she interacts with surveyors:

“I always insist that a client has an independent survey done. I’m very conscious that when the mortgage lenders are doing valuation, sometimes the valuers don’t even go in the property, and clients don’t understand that, they assume that the surveyor always goes into the property and has a look around, and if the surveyor says it’s okay, then it’s okay. I’m really keen to make sure that my clients are educated to know that’s not how it is, and to guide them towards an independent surveyor. A few of The Surveyor Hub members have volunteered their services to me, and then I’ve started recommending work to them. Now the market has picked up again. 

Also, I always ask to look at the surveyors report, because as I point out to my clients, I’m pretty much the only person who never sees the house that they’re buying. All I’ve got is a pile of papers and a few photographs, so it’s really important for me to work with the surveyors and I say to my clients that if there are any questions they’ve got, if they’re thinking about extending, or are concerned about anything they’ve seen, they should tell the surveyor before he goes, because then he knows that you’re looking at it and thinking of buying that property for specific reasons. And clients like that guidance, they like to think that the surveyor and solicitor are on the same side and working together to some extent for their benefit.”

Paying Referral Fees – Yes Or No?

One of the things surveyors often do to get work is they pay an estate agent a fee if they’re referred work. Sometimes there are issues with that and a lot of customers worry about transparency and trust with this type of relationship. However, surveyors should build more relationships with conveyancers and solicitors, because they refer work to them as well. We wanted to know Sarah’s attitude towards referral fees.

“Referral fees are a big bugbear of mine. I know the local conveyancing firms that pay referral fees, and I have ongoing debates with some of them about how referral fees distort the market. I don’t believe in paying referral fees, because I think that if you’re good, you should get word of mouth recommendations. That’s the way that I’ve always worked. If you Googled me, you would find I don’t have a website or a sign over my door. Nobody knows where I am, and I’m very lucky to do that. 

I would hope that there’s the old fashioned relationship of ‘I will recommend somebody to you, and you would recommend somebody to me if needed.’ From where I’m sitting, I imagine that I would be recommending surveyors far more than they would recommend me because they come later in the process, and I’m happy to do that. If there’s somebody who I trust and I know that the clients have liked them, and we’ve built up a good rapport, I’m happy to recommend.”

Getting Involved With Awards

Sarah has been involved with some of the industry awards and she found it an interesting experience.

“The Law Society has their Excellence Awards every year, and a few years ago, I was a judge for the Conveyancing Quality Scheme, which is The Law Society accreditation for conveyancing firms. It was interesting to see what firms do, and I actually did the mystery shopper thing on the firm that has put their nomination in. I volunteered to do it and I absolutely loved it, because I pretended that I was buying a leasehold property, and I wanted to know whether they would tell me about leasehold information packs or if there would be additional fees at the end. I had a script as to what I wanted to be told, but nobody called me back, so that was interesting with regards to conveyancing quality. I won some solicitor award for Solihull about 15 years ago, and I was nominated for Sole Practitioner of the Year, the Law Society Excellence Award two years ago. I was shortlisted but didn’t win. Maybe next time!”

 

Qualified as a solicitor in 1990, Sarah Dwight has always focused on trying to make the house moving experience better for all those involved. After establishing her own practice, dealing exclusively with residential conveyancing in April 2000, she has seen many changes in how conveyancing is done together with changes in the market.

Sarah believes solicitors are at the heart of the house moving process and have a crucial role in making sure that the public receive good advice at a stressful time.

For the last nine years, Sarah has been a member of the Law Society Conveyancing and Land Law Committee, heading the Residential Property sub group. She regularly speaks at various property conferences and she is The Surveyor Hub’s resident conveyancer.

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