Choosing a conveyancing solicitor to suit you is a tricky business.
There is such a broad range of service out there, from ultra-supportive to totally hands-off. Getting the right team onboard is all about knowing what your needs are from the outset.
When you select a solicitor to represent you in a house transaction it is vital to establish what you need to get out of this service, before you instruct. Is this your first house sale, or an unusual transaction, and you want the best advice about any risks you are taking? Are you the type who hates radio silence, and needs very regular contact? Or, is your purchase a simple and straightforward transaction and you just want the job done fast?
Different types of firms will bring different strengths to the job. And, some companies will process the transaction with the minimum of work on their part and as quickly as possible, without giving guidance on potential areas for concern – leaving their clients at risk of future problems.
To be frank, in the conveyancing market, you really do get what you pay for.
Once you have established the kind of service that you are looking for, the best way to scrutinise each firm and their offering is to ask a set of leading questions. Here are the three questions that we’d advise you to ask before you sign on the line.
Question 1: Who will be in the team handling my transaction?
The answer that you are looking for here will very much depend on the type of service that you want. But, suffice to say that some firms don’t allocate a dedicated team to each transaction. They will have a call centre handling incoming calls and a computer system where the details of your transaction is recorded, so that whoever happens to answer your call can try to answer your query. As you can imagine, this is far from ‘personal’ service.
We don’t have a call centre (we don’t even use voicemail). Every member of our team is up to speed on each transaction, so whoever you speak to when you call us (and our phone is always answered by a human being) will be able to provide you with up to date information about your transaction. Keeping the whole team briefed on every transaction also means that we can apply an ‘all hands on deck’ approach when a particular sale or purchase gets to a critical point and needs lots of attention to close the deal.
Question 2: What is your average email and phone message response time?
There is simply nothing worse than feeling as though you are totally in the dark about your house purchase. And, sadly, it’s not an uncommon feeling. If you prefer to avoid working with a conveyancer who will put you in this position, ask them what their policy is on returning emails and phone calls. Our experience of working with other solicitors on transactions, is that some of them don’t return our calls for several days. You don’t want to be on the receiving (or non-receiving) end of this treatment.
We have a strict policy on response times. We will always reply to clients on the same day, as long as we receive your message or email by 4pm. We don’t like getting left out of the loop, so we don’t do this to our clients either.
Question 3: Will there be any additional fees to pay at the end of the transaction that aren’t included in the quote?
Ask for a full and complete list of the costs that you will be paying your lawyer for handling the transaction. It’s not uncommon for the less reputable conveyancing businesses to give you a quote that doesn’t include the various fees that they know they are going to bill you for when the transaction is completed. These hidden fees, for tasks such as storing files, completing the standard Stamp Duty forms or for acting on a transaction involving a lender can more than double your eventual bill.
We never do this to our clients. We know that once you’ve moved into your new house you are likely to have put every penny you have into getting it, and a surprisingly large solicitor’s bill at this stage will be a terrible shock.
We include everything up front. This might make us seem like a costly option, but it’s how we prefer to do business. For example, we know that a high number of transactions involve a cost for putting an indemnity policy in place, so we include this in our quote – no shocks or surprises, just open and honest quotations. Make sure you are getting this from your solicitor too.
When you are choosing a supplier – in any market – it’s hard to know the right questions to ask. Especially if it’s for a product or service that you don’t have to buy very often. Conveyancing falls into this category. If you make sure that you ask the right questions before you commit you should ensure that you get the right service for you and for your transaction.
If you have any questions about this, we’d love to hear them. Give my team a call on 01403 710742. Remember, there’s no voicemail!