Choosing a conveyancing solicitor
When getting on the housing ladder, or moving home, a conveyancing solicitor helps to safeguard your interests while handling the legal details of the sale or purchase.
If you consider that property is likely to be the most expensive thing that you will buy, it makes perfect sense to be diligent in your choice of conveyancer.
A conveyancer will help with everything from liaising with the local authority to conduct ‘searches’ (which show up known issues that could affect your use of the property) to drafting the contract which governs the sale and handling vital clerical duties around the transfer of the funds that purchase the property.
Are they on your mortgage lender’s panel?
Having a solicitor that is not on your mortgage lender’s approved panel of solicitors can lead to unnecessary complications or even a need to change solicitor before lending can be approved.
Make sure that your appointed solicitor is on the panel of the bank or building society you’re using for your mortgage. If the solicitor is not, you can ask them to register with that lender. Registration can take time and, in a time sensitive market this is not always possible. This is probably one of the first things you should check.
It goes without saying that any solicitor practising in England and Wales must be registered with the Law Society and will be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), however, choosing a qualified solicitor to help with your house sale or house purchase can still be something of a minefield.
How people generally choose
In a recent survey conducted by Zoopla, 32 per cent of people instructing a conveyancer already knew them while 22 per cent went with a personal recommendation. 14 per cent chose after searching online and a third chose a solicitor because they were local.
These findings would echo our advice on choosing a solicitor since having a good relationship with the person carrying out these key activities on your behalf will make the process as smooth as possible.
A sensible way of selecting a solicitor is to check what previous clients have said about them as a conveyancer. If a conveyancer has good reviews from people who have used them this is a good start.
Family and friends can be a good starting point. Most of us will have friends or family who have been through the process of purchasing or selling a house. Having a family-recommended conveyancer can give a great deal of confidence that the person you’re thinking of instructing will be able to do the job competently.
Would you ask an estate agent?
Estate agencies currently face a vast number of financial challenges and they sometimes forge financial agreements with solicitors for recommendations. If this is the case and you went with your agent’s recommendation, you would be choosing your solicitor on the basis of somebody else’s financial deal rather than on the research that shows you will be getting a good conveyancer.
It may be tempting to hire a conveyancer that’s part of a large, national operation offering low costs but there is often a benefit in hiring a conveyancer from your local area, especially when it comes to Cornwall.
A local solicitor will understand issues that relate to local properties (such as mundic block problems or issues around buying property surrounded by a landed estate). This puts them at an advantage because of their specialist knowledge and that is not to mention their local connections. Hiring a local solicitor could significantly speed up the completion process and is more likely to ensure you don’t miss an important local issue.
Check the solicitor’s credentials
Experienced solicitors are going to be better able to handle your conveyancing than a practice composed primarily of legal juniors. It’s no insult to ask your solicitor what experience they have and what qualifications they hold. A good legal practice will always be able to demonstrate its capability at being able to handle your conveyancing.
Solicitors charge a range of fees for the work they do. A property sale or purchase will be a trying time on your finances so make sure that you have allowed some budget for your conveyancing fees. The lowest-cost conveyancer is not often the best person to do the work so it’s worth close examination if the fee appears to be too low. Find out how your conveyancer’s fee structure operates and whether they charge a fixed fee or if they charge a percentage of the property value. Some will want to will charge a percentage of the value of the property you’re purchasing or selling which could drive up fees compared to conveyancers who agree to work for a fixed fee.
Even in this electronic age some solicitors are old-school in their working methods. It’s worth checking with the solicitor how they are willing to communicate. If you are left with one who is unwilling to use email, for example, the process could take a very long time.
Finally, it’s worth saying that selecting the right solicitor could be the single most important thing you do in your journey towards buying or selling your property. A well-qualified, communicative and informed, local conveyancing solicitor help you to minimise the stress of the process and allow you to concentrate on other important matters.
Good luck in your choice. To find out about Hine Downing’s conveyancing services, please click here