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Choosing the right solicitor for your property transaction

Ema Jones gives her top tips on how to choose the right solicitor for your conveyancing

Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important purchases someone will make in their life. You have found THE property, your offer has been accepted and you are ready to move forward but how do you choose the right solicitor to guide you through the process?

First, ask yourself, “what are you looking for in a solicitor?” Buying or selling can be a stressful situation for many individuals, therefore it is important that you find a solicitor that can provide you with a quality service, understand your concerns and can communicate with you effectively from start to finish, whilst also meeting your timeframes. The relationship between a client and their solicitor is predicated on trust and personal rapport.

Here are some factors to consider:

Price

Price and service transparency means providing information at the right time in order to enable clients to make informed decisions about the nature of legal service they require.

Price is not the sole arbiter, but for some, this is the determining factor. According to the 2015 YouGov survey, cost of services is considered the most important factor when searching for a solicitor – 75% report cost as an influence.  However, don’t always be tempted by the cheapest quote as it doesn’t necessarily mean the best value. Most clients of legal services are interested in value and understand that a firm can be more expensive, but still good value.

Get a few quotes before making a decision, but make sure they are like-for-like and compare the charges. Beware of hidden extras which can be added to your final invoice. Such hidden charges can include: a fee for dealing with leasehold transactions; completing the Stamp Duty Land Tax Return; and acting for a lender. Ensure you obtain a fixed fee quote and confirmation of all disbursements that are to be included, so that when your final invoice arrives, you don’t receive a nasty shock!

Communication

In this day and age it seems perfectly normal to “instruct” a solicitor on-line. However, why not call the solicitor before you instruct? If you struggle to speak with someone, it may be a reflection of the service you are about to receive. Communication is vital in a conveyancing transaction. Updates are essential to keep all parties within the transaction satisfied. It is also useful to know who will have overall responsibility for your transaction and whether they will handle your case personally.

Visit the firm’s website before instructing and see whether there are any ratings or reviews available for the solicitor/firm.

Knowledge

Are you at risk if anything unusual or unexpected crops up? If you need specialist advice because your lease needs extending for example, make sure you ask for confirmation that they have the technical experience to manage your transaction.

Timing

It’s important to speak with and instruct a solicitor as soon as is practicable. That way, when an offer is accepted you will be ready to start without any delay, as all administrative matters should have been addressed (such as taking ID, signing terms of business and so on), thereby allowing you to proceed smoothly and in a timely fashion.

Panels

If you have a mortgage or are taking out a new mortgage, ensure the solicitor’s firm is on your lender’s panel. If they aren’t, you may well end up paying twice as your lender would have to instruct their own solicitor to deal with the mortgage aspect of the transaction.

CQS

Lastly, check whether the firm you are instructing is a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS). This provides a recognised quality standard for residential conveyancing practices. Membership achievement is based upon the integrity of the professionals, the firm’s adherence to good practice and adherence to prudent and efficient conveyancing procedures through the scheme’s protocol.

This article was written by Ema Bryn Jones

Please note the contents contained in this article are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters.

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