Top Tips for Choosing The Right Solicitor
Finding a solicitor is an important step in setting out to buy a home. There’s a great deal of choice available, but how do you choose?
In our latest blog post, ASPC Chairman, John MacRae shares his thoughts on how to select your solicitor.
Finding your solicitor
For many, the first occasion when a solicitor is needed will be on deciding to enter the property market to purchase a home. Until that point, most of us will not have needed a lawyer. Buying a home may well be the biggest financial transaction we are involved in. For most of us, it also involves large scale borrowing. Both of those are significant life decisions. It is very important, therefore, to have help embarking on the venture.
How, though, do you select a solicitor? I am going to try and help.
First of all, try and decide what you want from your solicitor. The range available is quite wide. At one end there are old faithful family retainers who have acted for your parents for years, very satisfactorily, and at the other end there are bureau agents who will do everything online – you may never actually meet your solicitor or paralegal. In between, you will find several varying types of lawyers. It can be very difficult to decide who will be best for you.
The best recommendation is a satisfied client. Ask friends, work colleagues and family what they think of their solicitor. If no luck there, try a direct approach to one or two firms. Check their website, looking on ASPC at properties for yourself, you can assess those firms who seem to do a good job on the presentation of properties. Look at the photographs. Avoid firms with poor displays. Check the descriptions. Are you impressed by the descriptions?
A good solicitor should be available reasonably often, should not be difficult to contact, should get back in touch if asked and should keep you advised as to what is going on. Most importantly, a good solicitor will let you have, early in the process a written explanation of what they will do for you, who will be doing the work, what the solicitor’s charges will be and will also detail the “outlays”. Outlays are the third-party expenses that have to be paid by you, through the solicitor. Examples for a purchaser are Land & Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) and Land Register charges.
Find someone who will “go the extra mile”
Most firms are prepared to help and guide you through the process from start to finish and beyond. There are some firms, however, who are not so benevolent, and you should sound out potential firms on this point.
If your budget is very tight you may have to go with the firm with the lowest charges, but this can prove a false economy if any post-purchase queries arise. It is not unknown for some “budget firms” to wash their hands of any post-settlement issues.
In the NE most firms are the type that goes the extra mile. On this last point see what I have to say in point 4, also.
Speak to a couple of firms
Do not be afraid of contacting 2 or 3 firms direct. You can learn a lot from how your initial approach is dealt with. You are perfectly entitled to ask if you may speak to someone about the possibility of using their firm. Most firms will be very willing to give you a brief outline of what they can offer and how they will charge.
Use someone local
In nearly every case a local firm is better placed to know their local market. It makes sense to use someone local, therefore. I have come across cases where a non-solicitor agent has been acting in the sale and the client is “placed” with a firm of the agent’s choosing, and not local. That can be problematical.
A local firm will be able to help guide you through negotiations, once you have a property in mind and can save you considerable amounts on the price you pay for your house or flat.
Agree what’s included upfront
Under Law Society of Scotland practice rules, legal firms require to issue an “engagement letter” to clients at the start of any work.
This should explain what is going to be done for you, who will be carrying out the work and how much it will cost. In transactions involving house purchase, this should mean a fixed fee, stated in the letter, vat and, in addition, the bills that your solicitor will require to pay on your behalf.
In a purchase, this will include Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, and registration dues payable to the Land Register of Scotland in respect of the transfer deed and mortgage security deed
Trust your instincts
After you have done all this, the most important consideration is to trust your instincts. How did the firm respond to your questions? Were they pleasant, informative and friendly, whilst coming over in a knowledgeable and professional manner?
You want to build a long-term relationship with the firm so make sure that you have met the person who would deal with your case if you were to instruct the firm.
At ASPC, we want to help both buyers, renters, and sellers across the North East. Our team has created a range of insightful blog posts and information pages that will inspire, inform and guide you.
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