Type the phrase “UK solicitor” into Google and you will be given over 30 million search results and a great multitude of choices. How do you go about picking the right solicitor to carry out the “conveyancing” for your property transaction?
Here is our mini-guide to help ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible.
* Phone a friend
Get recommendations from people you know. People are often very happy to suggest a good solicitor and just as ready to steer you away from one who caused them problems.
* Find a solicitor that’s CQS-accredited
What’s CQS? It’s the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme, a register of solicitors who are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority when it comes to conveyancing (i.e. the buying and selling of houses). Read up on it at the Law Society website, www.lawsociety.org.uk, 020 7320 5650.
* Is there a full list of solicitors?
Yes. Visit the Law Society’s free-to-use Find a Solicitor search facility, atwww.lawsociety.org.uk/for-the-public/using-a-solicitor/find-a-solicitor. However, at the last count, there were 145,781 names on the official Law Society database of legal professionals.
* Shop locally
Yes, you are free to choose a solicitor who is in the Outer Hebrides but it will be easier to choose a nearby firm, so you can drop into their offices and deal face-to-face if the need arises. Solicitors in the area will also have a good grasp on local issues and potential problems. Your estate agent might be able to point you in the right direction (if they recommend only one, you can always ask if they earn commission for referrals). This is an added benefit of using a traditional, locally based estate agency firm over an internet-only agent. The main thing is to check in advance that the firm you choose is experienced in handling conveyancing and has a clearly-identifiable conveyancer.
* Avoid relatives
Even if your cousin is a solicitor and giving you “mates’ rates,” don’t give in to family pressure. Conveyancing is not a social engagement, it’s a business. And when you’re in a contract race, you need a solicitor who is on the ball and not doing your conveyancing in between more lucrative jobs.
* Ask how much it will cost
A crucial question. If a firm is vague about its charges, don’t hesitate to get quotes from other solicitors. Some solicitors have their own in-house conveyancing departments, which charge lower fees than the firm’s senior partner. There’s nothing worse than, at the end of the process, getting a surprisingly large bill for “disbursements”, i.e. expenses the solicitor has incurred making enquiries on your behalf. Sometimes this is inevitable if problems arise, but at least get a written quote that will give you an upper and a lower figure.
* Ring round two or three firms
When you are getting quotes, listen if one firm sounds more helpful, or keener on getting your business than the others.
* Keep nagging
Silence from your solicitor isn’t always a good sign. It might mean a rival bid is being pushed through, without your knowledge. Keep in constant contact – by email and by phone. Before exchanging contracts, check that any agreed remedial works have been done. And once you’ve exchanged contracts, get buildings insurance straight away.
* There are winners and losers
By no fault of your solicitor’s, you could lose out to a rival bid (perhaps they put in a higher offer). At the same time, though, you will have to pay your solicitor for their work.
* Chapter and verse
The Government website www.gov.uk/buy-sell-your-home/transferring-ownership-conveyancing makes it very clear what the vendor and the buyer is each responsible for.
* Don’t delay
If you find a house you like, put in your offer, insisting on exclusivity and requesting that the property be taken off the market. Make sure you have your finance in place beforehand.