Choosing the best solicitor when buying a new property

Moving home is already a complex process, but selecting the right solicitor or conveyancer to help handle the legal aspects of buying or selling can make the process far easier as they can take care of some of the hard work for you.

We all want the best possible solicitor to act in our interests when buying a new property, but what makes a good solicitor, and how do you know what to look for when searching for a firm to help you with what is probably one of the most important transactions of your life?

1. Ask around

One of the best ways to find the right solicitor for your property transaction is simply to ask around. In particular, try to speak to people who have recently bought or sold property to see who they would recommend and how that process was for them.

Friends & Family

Speak to friends and family who have recently moved house to see whether they would recommend their solicitor or licenced conveyancer and why. This is a really simple way to start narrowing down your search, with the added benefit of speaking with people you actually know and trust, so you don’t need to worry about a biased review.

The Selling Agent

The agency responsible for selling the home you’re looking to purchase is likely to be dealing with solicitors and conveyancers all day long, so they’ll have a good idea as to what to look for and which local firms are particularly good (or not) when it comes to property transactions. Asking for their recommendations can elicit a useful professional opinion which is likely to benefit both of you. The vendor or their agent will also have to speak to your chosen solicitor or conveyancer so they will share your motivation to get someone who is efficient and thorough.

That said, be careful when asking the selling agent for their recommendation as some may receive a commission for recommending particular firms and this could end up being an expensive option for you. While it can be good to get the opinion of the selling agent, check they’re not commissioned and that the recommendation is a genuine, unbiased opinion of the firm. If you’re unsure, ask around some more and do your own research into the firm to ensure you’re getting the best solicitor.

2. Localities

Although these days it’s not necessary to hire a solicitor who is physically located near you or the property you’re purchasing thanks to the internet, it can be a good idea to get someone relatively local so that if time constraints become an issue later on during the transaction, you know you can pop into the office to deliver documents or chase in person if required.

A local firm can also be really helpful as they will know the local area, have detailed knowledge of some property purchases in the area and are more likely to have one person responsible for the case management of your purchase. This is in contrast with online conveyancers who may not know the area or may have you speaking to a different advisor every time you call.

3. Check them out

Regardless as to your level of knowledge when it comes to what a solicitor or licenced conveyancer should be doing for you, always take the time to ask as many questions as possible and always try to speak with the person who will be handling your case.

You will need to understand the level and frequency of contact required, the speed of work and the estimated costs. This way, you will know where you stand with a firm before committing to engage their services. It also gives you a good basis on which to chase them up if you’re not receiving the service you were told you could expect.

In addition, if you’re able to speak with the solicitor or conveyancer who’ll actually be handling your case, you will have an excellent opportunity to establish whether you’ll be able to work well with them and start building that all-important rapport even before the work starts. Even the most professional solicitor or licenced conveyancer is only human and establishing a good working relationship with them from the outset may stand you in good stead in the event that they need to prioritise between two cases competing for their attention at any given moment.

4. Size and Capacity

One often overlooked aspect when it comes to considering hiring the right solicitor for your house purchase is the size of the firm. Whilst you might get a more personal approach with a smaller firm, consider the size of the team and whether they really have sufficient resources to cover your case if your case handler is off sick or on holiday, for example, as you don’t want your purchase to be neglected just because one person is off.

This is particularly important if your purchase is taking place during the summer or Christmas holidays when people tend to go away. A larger firm may be better placed to keep up the momentum and not leave your case languishing in an in-tray.

5. Get what you pay for

Although there is by no means always a clear correlation between the amount you pay and the quality of the service you receive, it may not be a good idea to simply go with the cheapest quote when you're looking for the right solicitor to help you move home.

As it’s such an important transaction, be sure you’re happy with the level of service you’re going to be receiving and consider whether it’s better to choose quality over cost here. For example, it may be better to pay a little more to receive round the clock care and support, rather than a firm which never updates you on the status of your purchase so you end up wasting your time chasing for updates.

The best solicitors and licenced conveyancers will go the extra mile to deliver exceptional service where required. Given the fragility of some property chains, expediting the transfer of documentation or the information for local authority searches can make the difference between a successful transaction and a chain breaking.

6. Shop around

Many of us are inherently reluctant to shop around. Even if you’ve been talking to one firm about your needs, it’s never a good idea to just stick with the first firm you’ve spoken to. Look around to get an idea as to what different firms are offering and the associated costs so that you can be confident that you really are getting the best value and best service for your needs.

7. Look for accreditations

Accreditations are awarded for a reason, so keep an eye out for firms with plenty of recent awards and certificates as proof of good service, although don’t let this be your only consideration. In addition, make sure that your chosen firm is authorised by the Law Society, Legal Ombudsman, Council for Licenced Conveyancers or similar so you know you have recourse, should anything go wrong during the process. Professional negligence is rare in the legal profession but it can happen. Solicitors and licenced conveyancers are subject to strict rules from the relevant regulator, all of which are there for your protection.

8. Can they do the job?

Although this might sound obvious, remember that a solicitor is able to cover more complex legal issues than a licenced conveyancer, and a local firm may have more capacity for difficult issues than an online conveyancer. As such, it’s important to double check the qualifications of your chosen firm or individual to ensure you’re not going to need to go elsewhere should the purchase become more complicated than originally anticipated.

What should I be looking for?

Still unsure what you should be looking for when it comes to finding the best solicitor for your house move? Why not speak to our friendly team of specialist mortgage advisors. Not only can we provide a wealth of help and advice with regard to choosing the right mortgage for your needs, but our team has years of experience in countless property transactions and can provide additional insight into other factors such as the choice of a solicitor or licenced conveyancer.

With a team of professional mortgage advisers on hand for telephone, face to face or online conversations, we are here to help!

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