Choosing the right solicitor can be the difference between making a house move successful or a breakdown in the process. During COVID19 lockdown, we have been working hard to ensure our customers’ house move is a smooth one. Every day we have been speaking to our customers to reassure them and during this process, we have gained insight into how they are feeling at this time of uncertainty.
Residential conveyancers are at the coal face of any house move transaction, liaising and negotiating with all the parties in the process – from the mortgage adviser to the estate agent and the other party’s solicitors. The critical success factor is that your solicitor is maintaining contact with the vendor and all of those who are required to make your home move possible.
Here are 6 things you need to know about how to choose the right solicitor.
1: Find your solicitor early on
Having your solicitor lined up and ready to go comes with a lot of perks! Finding a solicitor early in the process allows them to do all the prep work in advance, including applying for deeds and title documents which could take weeks on more complex transactions such as unregistered and/or leasehold properties.
For new build properties, there are often 28 day exchange terms and your solicitor will need to be experienced in working to these tight timescales imposed by some housebuilders.
In essence, having your solicitor appointed early, reduces the risk of any circumstances changing whilst you look for a solicitor.
2: Ask for recommendations
Ask your estate agent, housebuilder or mortgage adviser for a recommendation or even friends and family who have used a solicitor in the past.
Make sure to read the reviews! Whilst home move processes are not always smooth and some reviews may be negative, real client experiences will paint a picture of how the solicitor works in a broader sense, this will help you filter out the good from the bad. You should look for solicitors who have more than a 4* status [https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/www.pls-solicitors.co.uk]
We would advise not to always go with the first option and you don’t have to choose a solicitor which is local! Technology has moved on so much that many customers are undertaking their transactions from home without having visited their solicitor. Prepare an advantages and disadvantages list, but most of all, check them out (see point 4) and call them to see if they appear to be a professional organisation.
3: Ask for a quote
Find out how much it will cost and ask for a full breakdown. This will include things such Stamp Duty (otherwise known as SDLT [https://www.gov.uk/stamp-duty-land-tax/residential-property-rates]), and Registry fees [https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/land-registry] and Local Authority search costs. Find out how much your conveyancer charges for their work. Is it by the hour or can you agree a fixed fee? Whilst discussing this, check they have a secure method of making payments.
4: Check them out
An important part of your research.
- Is this solicitor accredited? Especially by the CQS.
- Are they Regulated? Either by SRA or CLC. Regulation will ensure that if something goes wrong you will be protected. [https://www.thersa.org/]
- Do they have a portal to allow full case transparency? [/https://portal.pls-solicitors.co.uk/login/]
- Are there at least 2 or more partners in the company? [https://www.pls-solicitors.co.uk/meet-the-team/]
- Can they undertake sale or purchase? Make sure they are able to do exactly what you need them to do.
- Are they on all mortgage lender panels?
- Do they have the necessary expertise to deal with HTB, HTB ISA and other government schemes?
5: Get to know your solicitor
Knowing that your solicitor will be able to do what you need them to do is almost as important as having a solicitor in the first place. It is important to find out if you have a dedicated case handler, and who will take over if they fall ill or go on holiday.
Find out their experience. How many transactions have they undertaken? Have they ever worked on a case like your own? Knowing this information will help you find the solicitor that suits your needs.
6: Agree communication terms!
Discuss how often you want to hear from each other. Some solicitors will want to inform you immediately after each step of the way, whereas other may want to update you every few days with their progress. Decide what would suit you.
During the Exchange of Contracts process, you should be speaking to your solicitor at least once a week. If they are not calling you – you should call them!
It may be that your solicitors utilise advanced technology which provides you with regular automatic updates [https://portal.pls-solicitors.co.uk/login/]
Decide how you would like to be contacted and then discuss that with your solicitor. Some like to stick to phone calls, many prefer email communication and some favour face-to-face interaction – or during lockdown, Zoom calls!
Choosing a solicitor can be daunting but if you put the time and research in to find the right one, everything else should run smoothly!