Buying a house can be a daunting prospect for anyone, let alone someone who is taking their first step on to the property ladder. We all ask ourselves the same questions: Is this definitely the property I want? Am I paying too much? Can I really afford it? Buying a house or apartment is the biggest financial commitment of our lives, and with property prices so high it can be a scary proposition for anyone doing it for the first time.
With the bewildering amount of information available to first-time buyers it is essential that they make the right choices. Should they go for the Help-to-Buy option, or a shared ownership scheme? Is freehold or leasehold better? Who offers the best mortgage deal? These and countless other questions will be going through the head of every first-time buyer until they finally come to a decision on the property of their choice.
Once you have decided on the property you want it is time to put pen to paper. It is essential that you now make the right decision in choosing the person or business to carry out your conveyancing, the legal process of transferring the ownership of a property from one party to another. Two options are available for this, either using a licensed conveyancing-only business, or a firm of solicitors with expertise in the property market. Online conveyancing firms have grown in number over recent years and are sometimes said to be cheaper than solicitors firms. However, these call-centre operations lack the personal touch, and may make additional charges at the end of the purchase by way of “unforeseen” expenses.
Here are the reasons why you should choose a solicitors’ practice for your first time conveyancing experience:
Peace of mind
Property transactions are complicated and expensive, so you need to have confidence that the person you entrust with your money knows what they are doing. Having a properly qualified legal expert on hand, who is familiar with the local market and is available to answer your queries promptly, is essential. The alternative could be a distant call centre operative, who may be unqualified, and who you will be unlikely to speak to more than once.
Whoever you choose there are 6 main tasks which the conveyancer has to undertake, and you should ensure that you are given a comprehensive quote for the service you are being offered. Unscrupulous firms may leave out certain fees in their pricing offer in order to win your business, before adding these as exceptional items at the end of the transaction. Your quote should cover all the following tasks:
- conduct searches with local authorities, utility companies and other bodies to ensure that no future developments or financial liabilities fall on the property.
- advise you of all incurred costs, including statutory fees and taxes such as stamp duty, as well as more unusual charges such as river repairs for properties backing on to waterways.
- check the contract and responses to enquires relating to the purchase of the property.
- make sure your mortgage lender has copies of all relevant documents and information relating to the property, including from the vendors. They won’t lend unless this is all in order.
- ensure the payment of all fees on your behalf, including stamp duty.
- register the new owners and the mortgage with the Land Registry.
Local Conveyancing Solicitors
Local solicitors know the area. They will be aware of the searches which will be required (for example a coal mining or canal and river search), and consequently can tell you an accurate price for your conveyancing. Online conveyancers may seem cheaper initially, but will often add on extra fees and disbursements at the end arising from lack of local knowledge.
Regular contact and face to face meetings allow you to build up confidence and trust in your solicitor, and to have your queries and concerns answered quickly. Such a rapport is virtually impossible when dealing with an internet-based conveyancer in a call centre. Signing or dropping off documents, establishing proof of identity, and resolving last minute hiccups are also much easier to achieve when using a local solicitor.
Local solicitors rely on happy clients recommending them to other people and to build up their reputation as a reliable and trustworthy business. Instead of being greeted by automated messages at an internet conveyancer and speaking to a different operative each time you call, a dedicated solicitor will handle your case personally, possibly along with a legal assistant, to ensure you are kept informed at each step of the way. You will be treated as an individual client with real-world cares and concerns, and not simply another customer, the latest in a line of dozens of others making up a sales quota.
Anyone looking for conveyancing should be wary of other parties along the transaction chain who make recommendations as to which firm of solicitors you should use. Estate agents, mortgage brokers and mortgage lenders might all suggest the name of their favourite firm to you, but you should do your own research before making your decision. The recommended firm may well provide a good service and have a strong local reputation, but you should be aware that often there can be a commercial relationship or commission payment behind the endorsement. Recommendations from family, friends or social media groups can be extremely useful in finding the right conveyancer and the final choice of solicitor is always up to you.
A solicitors’ practice is the best choice if the transaction is a difficult one. For example, if there is a dispute over the boundary to the property, or if the sellers are going through divorce proceedings, having a solicitor with a broad knowledge beyond simply property law would be essential. If you are buying with your partner, you’ll need detailed advice about the options for co-ownership.
Low cost conveyancing can look tempting, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Low cost conveyancing services can increase the already stressful process of property buying, so why take the risk? Solicitors who reach consistently high standards of conveyancing can carry a kitemark-style logo approved by the Law Society, stating that they operate under the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS). With so much at stake it is surely better to have that extra peace of mind.
Bretherton Law have been serving the people of Hertfordshire for over 50 years. Our team of experienced Property Lawyers will ensure that whether you are buying or selling, the conveyancing process will run smoothly and professionally. We offer a same day response promise as well as fixed fee quotes. Bretherton Law are accredited under the Lexcel legal practice and the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Schemes. Contact Isobel Doherty or Lucy Madley on 01727 869293 or use the contact form below.
Law Society: Conveyancing Quality Scheme
Legal Ombudsman: Using a conveyancing lawyer – Ten helpful tips