If you’re asking yourself, how do I choose a solicitor? We’re here to help.
Some would argue that your choosing a solicitor is the most important decision you can make in the process of buying a home.
A slow or uncommunicative solicitor can cause significant problems and even result in the collapse of a deal.
To help you avoid this, we’ve put together our advice on how to find a solicitor when buying a house.
What does a solicitor do?
We advise choosing a solicitor before you even start the search for your next home. This ensures you have your greatest ally on side from the outset.
Your solicitor will be primarily responsible for communicating with the seller’s solicitor. However, they have numerous responsibilities, including:
- Organising the legal contracts required for transferring title (ownership) and all related paperwork involved in this transaction
- Ordering and reviewing the searches on the property which inform you about the house and any relevant local information (such as planning permissions or flood risks)
- Managing the information for the Land Registry (who hold all the information about property ownership in England and Wales) or the Land Register in Scotland
- Handling the transfer of the purchase funds for the property and attending to the payment of other costs (e.g. stamp duty and search costs)
- Oversee and advise on legal title to protect your investment for the future
- Offering you their opinion and advice on the details of the purchase and the property you are buying and how to overcome any problems that occur
How to get a solicitor when buying a house
Getting a solicitor can feel daunting, but it’s important! The sale will run much smoother with the legal help of an expert.
Since finding the right solicitor is essential, it’s important to do your research when looking for one.
Here’s some advice to find a solicitor in the UK:
Listen to recommendations
A good way to choose a solicitor is by asking friends and family if they have someone they can recommend.
Those that have sold a property before know the value that a good solicitor can add.
If you don’t have a personal recommendation, your estate agent or mortgage company might be able to suggest someone.
Don’t go with the first option
Speak to more than one solicitor and get a feel for how they will handle your property.
It’s best to pick someone that appears proactive. They should regularly communicate via email and have a ‘problem solving’ attitude, as this is what you will need as the transaction progresses.
- Don’t be afraid to ask them about their level of experience and their workload. This will help you to assess whether they have the necessary knowledge and time to make sure your purchase goes smoothly
- Costs vary hugely between legal firms. If you have two or more quotes, you should be able to work out what feels fair. Some solicitors will charge by the hour, but you may want to ask for a ‘fixed fee’ quote for your purchase. This helps as it means you know the cost from the outset. A fixed fee can also work in your favour if it transpires that there is more work involved than anticipated
Consider your individual needs
To find a solicitor, you’ll need to work out what’s right for you. What are you looking for?
Consider a particular solicitor’s area of expertise. Even if they have great credentials, they might not be what you need. So, remember that every situation is individual. Look for someone who specialises in what you need.
Property solicitors are easy to come by, but they might not be right for you!
Understanding solicitors fees for buying a house
A solicitor can charge in different ways, including:
- An hourly rate
- A fixed fee
- A percentage of the house price
So, it’s important you get quotes from at least three different solicitors to work out the most cost-effective option for you.
Also, when you get your quote, ensure you get a break down of what it covers, allowing for VAT. This can include charges for courier services and land registry fees.
Price isn’t always the best indicator of quality! However, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting a good service.
Maintaining a good relationship with your solicitor
To get the most from your solicitor, make sure you maintain a good relationship with them. Top tip: communication is key.
- Ensure you know how you can contact your solicitor, and what the best times are to do this
- If they’re on holiday or off sick, make sure you know who will take their place
- Will they keep you updated with the progress of the sale?
- Where are they located?
- Do you have all their contact details? If you can’t reach them by an email address or phone number, ensure you have some back up options
What are the downsides of using a solicitor?
Inevitably, a while the right solicitor is essential, a bad one can have some disastrous consequences.
Here are some of the cons of using a solicitor:
- Good or bad, using a solicitor is always more expensive
- Sometimes, due to workload, you can feel as if you’re the lowest priority on your solicitor’s to-do list
- A distracted solicitor can cause the process to fall through
- If their team is small, this can make work significantly slower if someone goes on holiday
- If your solicitor is located far away, this can make communication slow. Your solicitor should always be willing to see you in person
- A solicitor who doesn’t specialise in a particular area may not be the right choice for you
- An uncommunicative solicitor will never get the job done properly
What can slow down the process?
Despite the help of a solicitor, things can still go wrong. The house buying process can still be precarious even with expert guidance!
The following factors can significantly slow down the process:
- Despite all your efforts, being gazumped is always a possibility
- Problems uncovered during a survey
- Difficulty in getting a mortgage
- Someone in the property chain backing out
- The seller dropping out
However, while there are many things that can still go wrong, a good solicitor will help the house buying process run much more smoothly and lessen the risk of things not going to plan.
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