Given good reputations are hard won and easily eroded in an era of near-instant online feedback, Mohammed Khan is rightly proud of the heavy caseload shouldered by PLS Solicitors’ Islamic finance specialists.
A deluge of positive digital reviews has amplified traditional word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals from brokers and seen the specialist department become a sought-after source of advice for those wishing to purchase a property within the moral principles of Islam.
Islamic finance is based on a belief that money should not have any value in itself and that you should not make money from money, an approach which means that, wherever possible, interest – either paying or receiving it – should be avoided.
It is an ethical approach to financial affairs that effectively affords Muslims – or indeed anyone – a means to exchange products and services that do have a value.
And it is clear from the level of intensity of the business, that the Shari’ah-compliant mortgage expertise provided by PLS is highly valued.
“Fortunately, I’ve got big shoulders and relish a challenge,” Mohammed said, explaining how he and his staff were handling an ever-increasing number of instructions from both those attracted to Islamic Finance options purely on faith ground and those keen to take advantage of the competitive rates they offer.
“Our clients’ confidence in our services comes from the reviews people have posted on popular sites such as Trustpilot and through personal recommendations – we have built a reputation for getting deals done and property transactions across the finish line whilst adopting a complex made simple approach for our clients.
“Repeat business is common, with many individuals putting their trust in us to deliver completions on multiple investment properties to build their portfolios, and our track record means brokers and developers are also quick to refer us to their own customers.
“No matter how tight the timeframes, we always manage to turn it around and it is a source of professional pride that we’ve never had a case rescinded.”
This consistency of performance is all the more impressive considering the additional checks associated with a move or investment arranged using Islamic finance, which offers two alternatives to a traditional mortgage.
The first, a murabaha contract, involves a bank directly buying the property in question, which is then sold to the eventual owner at a profit and paid for in instalments.
Or a property can be purchased jointly with a bank – a musharakah contract – and over time the “borrower” gradually pays back the “lender” for its share.
In both cases, the bank charges additional fees to cover its costs and reflect the fact that it has people living in a property it partly owns.
“Although the conveyancing process is the same as any other property transaction, there is more work to be done to satisfy the bank and reassure them that their interests are protected,” added Mohammed, highlighting that high street lenders in the UK were slowly waking up to the popularity and demand for Islamic finance products.
“Rather than there just being a purchase and lender, Shari’ah mortgages are a three-way transaction involving the purchaser, lender and seller.
“There are lots more documents to prepare as a result, due diligence to be done and additional formalities post completion. The bank’s enquiries are always very extensive and can often take one fee earner a full working day uninterrupted to collate all the information to satisfy the bank’s requirements before they can release funds.”
In-depth detailed checks do not necessarily mean delays, however, with Mohammed having honed precedents with which to streamline the process for PLS customers.
“We have turned around a transaction in as little as ten days before, but generally you are looking at an average of eight to 12 weeks,” he concluded. “Shari’ah mortgages may not be the most common means of buying property in the UK but the principles behind them have stood the test of time and the team at PLS Solicitors are delighted to be able to play a part in securing others’ futures in a manner they feel comfortable with.”
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