So you’ve found the right house or agreed a price for someone to buy your property, and you’ve warmed up Google to help you find the right lawyer to do the legal work. Pause for a moment, put the kettle on and think about the issues which might affect this important decision….
1. What type of conveyancing service do you want?
It used to be the case that the way you picked your solicitor was similar to picking a football team – often it was the nearest one to where you lived. You’d simply walk into their reception and after a long wait you would see a Solicitor for 5 minutes and wait for months until the transaction was complete. But things have moved on – there are still many ‘high street firms’ of solicitors who will deal with your conveyancing transaction, but now there is also the choice to instruct legal service providers online and their service can be similar to a call centre. These modern alternatives might appear more cost effective as they have lower overheads by offering remote services – but beware as even what appears to be a simple property transaction can have built in delays – do you really want to lose out on the house of your dreams because you wanted to save a few pounds by choosing the cheapest service? Or wouldn’t you prefer to deal with a Solicitor who you can actually speak to?
Choose the type of service which suits you – we’re not all the same so what works for someone else may not work for you.
2. Cheapest doesn’t necessarily mean best value
It’s a good idea to get quotes, but remember that buying a house is likely to be the biggest financial outlay you’ll have in your life. Getting the cheapest quote may seem a good idea but if you’re spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on a house, do you really want a bargain basement outfit where the work will be carried out by unqualified paralegals and secretaries rather than an experienced lawyer? A low cost conveyancing service is likely to deal with a high volume of clients – they cut corners to do more transactions to increase their profit. Is it really worth exposing yourself to huge risks of it going wrong by accepting the cheapest quote for the legal work to be messed up, just to save a hundred pounds?
3. Watch out for hidden charges
A quote should include legal fees plus VAT and disbursements (charges payable to a third party). If you get a quote make sure that it comprises all the charges you are likely to have to pay for the entire process and that you won’t face further fees at a later stage should anything change (read the small print!). Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
4. Ask what costs you will have to pay if the deal falls through
Unfortunately, house sales and purchases can fall through for lots of reasons. Check with your lawyer when you get a quote what you will have to pay if the move doesn’t go ahead. In particular if there is no agreement the company might try to charge for the work they have done on an hourly rate – this could even be more than the ‘fixed fee’ quote! If you can agree a ‘No move, No fee’ deal with your lawyer, chances are you will still have to pay for search fees paid out to third parties, but this is a fraction of the cost of paying for legal services for a sale/purchase which doesn’t proceed, which would be adding insult to the injury of losing the home you wanted and that is only going to feel worse.
Watch out that you’re not being charged for an insurance policy that you have to purchase to cover legal fees on an aborted transaction. A genuine law firm will offer a genuine ‘No move, No fee’ agreement with no strings attached.
5. Beware referrals and recommendations from ‘service providers’ – they may not be doing it out of the goodness of their hearts
The best form of advertising is through happy clients – a recommendation from a satisfied client is the highest compliment a lawyer can receive…recommendations from family and friends are usually given with no ulterior motive. But there are lots of ‘service providers’ in a house sale or purchase; estate agents, mortgage brokers and lenders might all suggest you use their panel of conveyancing ‘experts’. There might be a commercial relationship behind the recommendation and a selfish reason why you are being recommended to them if there is a payment changing hands. Although it may sound like you are bound to follow their recommendation, you are legally free to choose your own lawyer, and often you might have a better relationship with the lawyer you choose as opposed to one foisted upon you.
6. Will your legal team actually speak to you?
The relationship you have with your legal team during the house sale/purchase will be vitally important to whether it all goes smoothly. If you opt for the online ‘call centre’ type service, what will you do if things don’t go to plan. Automated ‘portal log in’ services are all well and good if the transaction is trouble free, but what happens if there’s a problem. A good modern law firm will have a case management system which helps their Solicitor keep their client up to date with letters, emails and texts, but there is no real alternative to being able to speak to your Solicitor if you are concerned about delays. A cut price online ‘call centre’ like service, or a cheap package offered by a ‘volume provider’ law firm may not have the facility built in to the fee to allow a senior experienced solicitor to deal with the matter themselves, and clients have reported serious frustrations when being unable to discuss their issues with their lawyer.
If there is something that worries you, maybe an electricity sub-station nearby to the property you are buying, or rumours you’ve heard about new houses/flats being built on a field at the back of the property, for example, then you will want to discuss these issues with your lawyer. Make sure that the legal service provider is going to be someone you can speak to.
At Ellis Hass & Co Solicitors we feel that we have the right answers to your concerns. Feel free to call on free phone 0800 197 3560 (or local call 0121 709 1918), email us at [email protected] or click here to receive an immediate fixed fee quote and find out how we can help.