Buying a property and moving is stressful enough without having to question whether you’ve chosen the right conveyancing solicitor.
But there are literally thousands of solicitors to choose from. So how do you find the right one to handle your conveyance?
Here are some things to consider:
Although cost is an important factor, you should not let it become the only thing you take into account. As in so many areas of life, the cheapest course of action is not always the best one. Think in terms of getting value for money – so that if you’re paying more than the absolute minimum, you’re getting something extra for it.
Conveyancing costs can range from around 200 to 1,500, depending on the work involved and the value of the property. A solicitor will also charge for any additional costs they incur (called ‘disbursements’), like postage, VAT, etc.
Given the expenses involved, it is important to understand up front how a solicitor will charge you. Solicitors are required to give you an estimate of their fee for a particular matter, and unless they later update you to change it, their fees must be consistent with the initial estimate.
Even solicitors at the biggest, most prestigious law firms are accustomed to discussing costs, and you should be confident about doing so up front, before you agree to use the solicitor’s services. You can find more information about solicitors’ fees on the Law Society website.
Regulated and insured
The conveyancing solicitor that you choose to act on your behalf must be regulated and insured so that you will be protected if you discover any major legal defects following completion of the sale. Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority. If your solicitor makes any mistakes you can complain to the Authority and seek compensation via your solicitor’s indemnity insurance.
Experience and track record
Not all solicitors have experience in conveyancing. You will want to get an understanding of your prospective solicitor’s familiarity with the work, and there are a number of other questions you might want to ask. For example:
How long has the solicitor been practicing conveyancing?
How many clients has the solicitor represented?
Is the solicitor accredited by the Law Society? (You can also check this yourself on the Law Society website.)
What back-up arrangements does the solicitor have, if for some reason he/she is absent, unavailable or just overwhelmed with other work for a period of time?
If he/she works as part of a team of solicitors, how much of the work will be done by other members of the team? If it is to be a significant amount, who are the other team members who will be doing the work and what is their level of experience?
Availability (and affability)
One of the main complaints clients have about solicitors is that they can sometimes be slow in responding to clients. You will want a solicitor who can respond and meet your needs promptly. So the one-man band who is overwhelmed with clients might not be the best choice.
Often, good quality professionals will have a team, including more junior professionals and well-trained staff members. Not only can a team provide quicker response than the over-stretched practitioner, but it might also be more cost-effective, since junior staff can handle the simpler, lower-value tasks that you may need as part of the overall package.
It’s also good to have a good personal relationship with your solicitor. Only hire a solicitor that you trust and feel that you can work well with. If in your initial meeting you feel the solicitor is unhelpful or dismissive, consider carefully whether you really want to work with him or her. Make sure that the solicitor takes the time to explain everything to you properly and that you understand everything that they say.
Consider choosing a local solicitor or firm as they should know a lot more about the area than one working at a distance. A local solicitor will also know about the type of searches required, and whether there are any pending developments in the area that you are not aware of.
Finding the right solicitor
There is a lot of information about conveyancing solicitors available online and in various publications that collect client feedback on solicitors. Although such information can certainly be a good starting point, an individual who only rarely deals with solicitors might find it somewhat challenging to sort through the mass of data and make a selection.
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