Would ‘no sale no fee’ conveyancing help speed up housing transactions?

Ed Mead

There’s so much talk about how stakeholders in the property buying and selling process perceive conveyancers/solicitors.

We all know good ones and for those still recommending duff ones simply to make an extra few quid, not only are you creating headaches for the rest of us, but you’ll end up bringing the whole shooting match crashing down as you give ammunition to the anti-referral fees brigade.

The buying and selling process is, as we all know, seemingly getting longer. As an agent for many years, I’m well aware of where the delays can be caused, but for this article I’d like to prod the legal wasp’s nest – whether conveyancers or solicitors.

I’m not aware of any that charge solely on performance. Everyone else in the process is paid on a successful close, namely the agent and mortgage supplier. Conveyancing is still paid on either fixed fee or by the hour and is the part seemingly receiving most of the brickbats. The good ones will be on here responding and will no doubt have their defence/reasons well sorted BUT, what is wrong with suggesting to a client [buyer or seller] that they’ll charge a bit more but only if the deal goes through.

Most conveyancing suppliers in the industry will have data to support their fall through rate and so could adjust their charges to take them into account. It would also give them vital skin in the game and be fully aligned with other agency and finance stakeholders.

I would like to know if this already happens anywhere. Most buyers and sellers I’ve spoken to would pay more knowing their service was no sale no fee and that their solicitor was only going to get paid IF they bought or sold their dream home.

Am I missing something here?



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  1. mattfaizey

    It’s how it should be.
    Although presenting such common sense, never mind having a situation where reward only comes with results ain’t gonna (broadly) go down well with conveyancers.

  2. Rob Hailstone

    Maybe conveyancers/solicitors should take a leaf out of the estate agents book, and charge 1% – 2% on completion only. £500,000.00 purchase, legal fee now say £1,000.00 plus. On a percentage basis the legal fee would be between £5,000.00 and £10,000.00.
    If only it was that easy Ed. A fee like that would be great (and is justified), but it won’t speed up the process. Neither will a ‘no sale no fee’ structure. The problems, issues and legally technical challenges conveyancers face won’t just disappear by throwing money at them.

    1. jan-byers

      I do not know any agent who routinely charges 2% you are taking rubbish

      1% seems to be the norm now

      The process would be hugely improved if sols went to work in an office rather than from home

      I wish I had £1 for every time one of our sales people has been told ” oh I have just popped out for 5 minutes”

      or has been on a call and is interrupted by some lawyer’s child care issue or a screaming kid in the background

      or of they learned to pick up a phone and ring someone rather than send a bloo dy letter

      Why would anyone be against a lawyer being paid on completion – what is the problem with that

      Everyone is less paid on results why not them

      Conveyancing  is a basic low skilled admin job – the reason it is so slow is often the ineptitude and slothfulness  of one or more conveyancers  in the chain

      Just one example below
      Oli Pearce, a director at Guild Mortgage services, in Wellingborough, Northants, is caught up in huge delays. He and his co-director wife Liane have struggled through a “shambolic” buying and selling process that started in April.
      His conveyancer emailed basic enquiries to their sellers’ conveyancer on May 23. On June 8 they were finally passed onto the seller, who hand delivered their responses back to their conveyancers on June 10. They were only emailed back to Mr Pearce’s conveyancer on Friday.
      “It shouldn’t take almost six weeks to deal with some standard legal enquiries,” Mr Pearce, 35, said.

    2. jan-byers

      Rob’s mentality is exactly to problem.

      Dare to suggest payment by results and he sits on a defensive wall bigger than Hadrian’s.


      1. mattfaizey

        sssshhh, just tell the Emperor he looks great. You don’t want to be the one who points out he’s naked.

    3. jan-byers

      But of course he cannot give one reason why sols should NOT be paid only if a transaction completes

      He just avoids that subject like the plague


      1. Rob Hailstone

        You really do live in cloud cuckoo land Jan, “conveyancing  is a basic low skilled admin job”. Not every conveyancing transaction is difficult, agreed, but normally at least one or more in every chain is. You only need to look at our (the BLG) online forum for a few hours a day to see the complicated issues that conveyancers are dealing with.

        As I am “avoiding it like the plague” I will let a conveyancer comment on why conveyancers should not be paid only if a transaction completes:
        “It would compromise the ability to fully act in the best interests of clients as you could argue we then have a conflict of interest, I.e. we have a vested interest in the transaction completing.”
        Couple more comments:
        “Parties pull out generally for good reason, often, but not always, because of sound advice that they have received from their lawyer who should not be incentivised to disregard the issues in the interests of being paid.”
        “Oh no just when I thought it couldn’t get more ridiculous this little gem comes up first thing on a Monday morning! I would love for all those that come up with such preposterous articles to sit in a Conveyancer’s chair for one week.”
        Oh, and if I, when I was a front line conveyancer, I had been paid on results, I would not still be working (and trying to improve the process) at the ripe old age of 65.

  3. Robert_May

    In my opinion no,   the stuff I got involved with a few years back with UPRN provided an insight into what was causing the delays. It isn’t the people who are causing the problems but a mixture of the old and the new. The law society are understandably desperate to retain a control over their profession and are fighting as hard as agents did to push back disruption. They turn up to the HSBG meetings then  quietly thwart anything that might threaten the status quo. Then there’s the commercial providers who want their solution to be THE solution to all the ills that exist- they  pooh pooh anything at all that isn’t their solution. How things are done is going to change, there is a £300million business that produces as much profit as Rightmove so it’s understandable why  the various factions want control of that and why there’s a lack of cooperation getting in the way of progress.   The delays in conveyancing are; too many files piled on too few desks, the practical issues that some local authorities aren’t very good at returning searches and  chain transaction are so extended its difficult to put complete chains together. It’s easy to blame the conveyancers but it isn’t them. Mixing the traditional way of doing things with binary digital systems that will not  move on till all the ones and zeros are in the correct order is a recipe for exasperation and delay, blame and excuses  



    The fall through issue is because, basically, the property transaction process is back to front. If you want more completions then there should be a lot more work done by Solicitors for seller before a property is marketed and for the buyer before the offer is made.

    If lenders could improve the loan approval process then exchange could take place within days of offer accepted and in an ideal world as part of the offer accepted process itself (just as with auctions).

    Law tech and focussing on fees isn’t the answer-although referral fees are a poison that should be outlawed and criminalised.

  5. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

    Just for clarity, most panel agreement dictate a no sale no fee approach.

    It’s here already but clearly the panel work with its high volume is the main contributing factor; no sale no fee clearly doesn’t fix THAT issue!

  6. DrEvil5501

    Lawyers are paid to provide legal advice in respect of the proposed transaction. If it is not in the client’s best interests to proceed to completion, then we are obligated to advise them in the plainest terms that this is the case. We do not GAIN from a fall-through (we would likely charge a reduced fee which does not reflect the actual work done) but why on earth should we not get paid for the work done to arrive at that regrettable conclusion?



    1. AgentBen

      This is absolutely the correct response to this.

    2. jan-byers

      How many times do you advise a client not to proceed in a year?

      Some you win some you lose – except if you are a conveyancer

      1. AgentBen

        Do you not see the conflict of interest Jan?

  7. Gonzo38

    But the largest conveyancers and panel managed law firms ARE No Sale, No legal fee?

    A bit like estate agency (where fees are also probably lower than they should be), the problem isn’t commercials, it’s process and when the volumes hit historically high numbers, people.

    The process is problematic at best, requiring the collaboration of multiple stakeholders, including of course estate agents themselves.

    When volumes peaked above ‘normal’ in ‘21 & ‘22, there simply weren’t 20% more skilled and qualified people who could do the work.

    There are no quick fixes, no panacea. Ultimately it comes down to collaboration, which means every party taking responsibility, and supporting each other, in making the transactions (the whole chain), happen.

  8. GlasgowDave

    The prevalent issue seems to be the lack of consistent communication and transparency between conveyancers and their clients. For instance, when a conveyancer goes on holiday for two weeks without prior notification to their clients, this results in a pause in the transaction process and contributes to longer waiting times. The nonchalant attitude towards client engagement, as illustrated by such instances, is not in line with the professional standards I would expect in most businesses but seems to be perfectly acceptable in law firms. I’ve seen this first hand and couldn’t honestly believe that a client was having to wait 2 weeks for answers because their conveyancer went in holiday.
    An interesting piece of information in a 2020 report by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers found that nearly 37% of complaints received were tied to failures in communication, specifically the lack of progress updates.
    It’s clear that adopting a more proactive and transparent approach to communication could alleviate much of the client frustration we currently see and possibly improve conveyancing times.

  9. GreenBay

    We are tidying up the chairs on the titanic!! There is already lots of bo sale no fee conveyancing!!

    The process is damaged and I think what Robert says above is spot on. There are too many people who are against change.

    Therefore, the only real way forward is a political solution, but given what parts of the estate agency did to HIPS I can’t see any politician wanting to get involved!

  10. Anonymous Coward

    In a perfect world the property would not be listed for sale without all the relevant information being immediately available.

    For such a huge financial commitment, having to take the first steps on faith is ridiculous.

    I’m currently buying a house.  The missing paperwork includes: gas certification, electrical certification, FENSA documents, Building Regs Completion Certs for the basement conversion and more.  Prior to marketing, the owner told the agent that everything was done properly.  The agent took that to mean that the paperwork exists.  On the viewing the owner said they had the documentation.  The owner has just told their solicitor that they “can’t find it”.  My guess is that they’ve never had it.  By this stage I’m at about £5k in costs if I want to withdraw.  I want to buy the house but it’s going to cost me extra to sort this all out after the fact.  So I want a reduction.

    If everything was dealt with in advance then nobody would be put out or surprised or renegotiated.

    What a waste of time!

    And this is just a little house.  It’s even worse for flats where all you are actually buying is a piece of paper that gives you the right to live in somebody else’s building.

    The current system is bonkers.  However, it isn’t broken.  It’s working exactly as it was designed to.

    Therefore it needs to be radically overhauled.  But the vested interests will lose their gravy train and are fighting hard to avoid it.

  11. Rob Hailstone

    “In a perfect world the property would not be listed for sale without all the relevant information being immediately available.”
    That is very easily doable surely? Agent and conveyancer working together when a property is first listed.

    1. Robert_May

      The problem they conveyancing industry has is that agents do not need an external and independent conveyancer  to do the collecting of all the material information.

      That’s the bit the Law Society and the commercial conveyancing service providers are trying to defend.


      1. Rob Hailstone

        I agree they don’t Robert, but legal input on day one would help. Especially when phases B & C come in.

        How are TLS trying to defend? I’ve not seen any evidence of that.


  12. Woodentop

    Spin it onto its head. Why do agents do no sale = no fee? They spend so much time, effort and overheads = often nothing in return. Yes I know that’s why we charge a commission rate, some you win, some you lose balances the books (hopefully).


    I know many a solicitor who do not charge for abandoned conveyancing that was not their clients fault. However some and the others who do charge, require recovering costs for searches etc and why not?


    The down side to commission charges structure is, it can make some people lazy …… “it ain’t going anywhere so why bother”. Which really brings to the fore the real problem …….. attitudes. Good conveyancers are not the problem, its the archaic system and poor performers.

  13. GreenBay

    Rob Hailstone



    They worked, no argument. Its not rocket science in my opinion!

    1. Rob Hailstone

      With you on that GreenBay.

    2. Woodentop

      But the down side was the system wouldn’t allow the data to be compliant once shelf life expired, so jobs needing doing twice and paying twice. The bits in HIPs that had no real shelf life are freely available and no fee on the internet, a click of the mouse. So HIP’s is a red herring.

  14. GreenBay

    Woodentop.HIPS are not a red herring. So many transaction and therefore chains get held up because  of :

    No solicitor instructed by vendor at point of sale agreeD, this can easily lead to a two week delay.

    Issues with title, such as non registered, still in probate,access  issues.

    Mortgagee and second mortgage and secured loan issues,numerous other issues that the conveyances on this forum are far more qualified to comment on than me.

    Searches are the main issue, but that could easily be resolved.

    HIPs have a legal pack and a contract, plus other information that meant the transaction was ready to go and there shouldn’t be any title issues for the purchaser to contend with.

    If the law was changed and the seller was made legally responsible for ensuring the property was in a transferable condition, that would speed things up no end!

    HIPS 3?

  15. RetiredConveyancer

    Firstly, Ed Mead, where have you been for the past 26 years?? No sale, no fee and no purchase propositions from lawyers have been the norm, not the exception.

    HIPs.. what a wasted opportunity. Those against them always banged on about paying for searches twice.. in reality, most lawyers took out a low cost insurance to cover an out of date search. Claims as a result have been negligible.. ask any title insurer.

    I’m now in the role of customer on a sale.. full contract pack, anticipating enquiries, already sent, buyer is cash and anxious to proceed, done his ID and paid for his searches.. but lo and behold .. Buyer’s lawyer has done NOTHING with any of the above.. a High St firm too, not receiving any referral fee, so you can’t bash large panel firms / referral fees here.

    It takes both legal firms to be proactive, but if one is incompetent or unmotivated, no wonder we continue to have problems..



  16. ImpressiveConveyancing

    Or another way of asking:

    Do consultant conveyancers perform conveyancing more quickly?

    Of course not.


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