We all like a bargain, especially in these times of austerity. There is cheap, and then there is affordable. The continuing horse meat scandal currently reported in the media is a clear example of where ‘cheap’ can be hiding a horrible reality, namely, that you are not actually getting what you think you have bought.
The same can be true when looking to employ the services of a legal expert when you are selling or buying land and property. Will you actually have a legally qualified expert handling your property transaction? Will there be any hidden, and unpleasant charges? What is the quality of the service you are about to receive? How much extra stress could you incur by choosing poorly?
It is understandable that people may not think twice about the quality of their ‘lawyer’, yet conveyancing – the legal process when selling or buying property - is most definitely a service where you get what you pay for. Conveyancing, when done properly requires a number of thorough checks and processes to be followed. This is the only way to ensure a smooth and complete property transaction i.e. peace of mind for you that there will be no hidden surprises to do with your property at some future date.
However, only recently the Chief Legal Ombudsman gave a stark warning about the dangers of getting your choice of conveyance ‘wrong’.
The following sets out a list of things to consider when choosing a conveyancer:
- Avoid being pressurised into using in-house conveyancers employed by the estate agent or named in their Sales Agreement. Some may pressure you to use their lawyers who are miles away as a condition of having your offer put forward to the seller. (In that case resist and put your offer in writing through the letter box of the house addressed ‘Strictly Private and Confidential, To The Owner’).
- Choose a firm of solicitors to undertake your property transaction. Solicitors are accountable to the Law Society and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority with strict professional conduct rules to protect you.
- Always look for CQS (Conveyancing Quality Scheme) and Lexcel accredited law firms. Both demonstrate the law firms commitment to the very highest customer service.
- Avoid a call centre style of operation, run like a factory where you become a number or case. You should always expect the same lawyer to look after you from start to finish.
- Always ask WHO will be your conveyancer – Are they actually a lawyer? Do they have a legal qualification (i.e. a Solicitor or Chartered Legal Executive).
- Always ask for a lawyer’s charges to be sent to you in writing, so you can check for hidden and disguised charges (e.g. acting for a lender, ID checks, filling in a stamp duty form, unregistered land, photocopying, etc) which may look as though they are payments to third parties but are in fact just the lawyers own charge, making it look as though their headline rate is lower than it is.
- Ensure you receive your lawyers personal email and personal direct telephone number as a condition of employing them.
If you are tempted by ‘cheap conveyancing’ then do not forget that cheap meat is not always what it seems and is cheap for a reason.