Buying a House – Avoid the pitfalls with 7 top tips to find the right legal adviser

Buying a house is one of the biggest investments you will make in your lifetime.  In this article we look at how to choose the right legal adviser to make sure the conveyancing process runs smoothly and you don’t get any nasty surprises after you move in.

What could possibly go wrong?

Having found the perfect property, the natural tendency is to rush through the buying process as quickly and cheaply as possible.  When you are spending all that money though, is the cheapest legal adviser the right choice?  The last thing you need is crucial details being missed, causing you major headaches later on.  Here are some pitfalls we’ve seen catch people out recently:

  • A neighbour putting a gate across the drive you thought you owned, restricting access to your property
  • Your local council serving notice that an extension to your house was built without planning permission and has to be knocked down. Suddenly that 4 bedroom home becomes a less valuable 3 bedroom home and to add insult to injury you’ve had to pay for the demolition work!
  • Restrictive covenants on the legal title stopping you from running your home business
  • And worst of all.. a property developer having an option to buy, forcing you to sell the property to him for a pittance!

Firstly, beware the conveyancing factories!

Dealing with some many property transactions, a complaint we hear every day is the client experience of the “cheap conveyancing factories”.  These are often recommended by an estate agent, mortgage adviser or housebuilder in exchange for a healthy referral fee.

Customers are often attracted to these factory outfits because the upfront fee quote is usually very low, sometimes half that of a typical solicitor.  What they don’t realise until later is that the final bill is full of “extras” which are actually an integral part of the process, such as dealing with the mortgage company, filing Land Registry returns, transferring money and so on.  A proper quote should of course include all of these upfront!

Here’s a top tip – with property transactions the legal fees are nearly always taken out of the property sale proceeds before they are passed on to you or up the chain.  This means it can hard to spot when you are being overcharged, so always check your “completion statement” (this shows where all the money is going) very carefully when it is sent to you for approval.

Another common complaint is that the client experience feels like being a number, not a human being.  This means phone calls not being returned, the work being carried out by a team of unqualified staff so you never speak to the same person twice, being baffled by legal jargon and general stress about when your sale is actually going to complete.  Why put up with this?!

Finding the right conveyancer – our 7 top tips

So how do you go about choosing the right people to look after your property purchase?  It’s not as difficult as it seems – here are our tips:

  1. Get at least 3 quotes for your conveyancing and make sure you give them the right information (and the same information!) so you can compare prices
  2. Ask for an all-inclusive quote including all fees, disbursements and Land Registry fees and get them to confirm in writing that nothing is missing
  3. Find out if you will be dealing with one person or a call centre – ask to speak to that person before you sign up
  4. Ask what qualifications your advisers have? Are they solicitors, legal executives or licensed conveyancers?  All of these will have passed exams and be members of professional bodies who require a high level of competence.  If not, there’s no guarantee that they know what they are doing!
  5. Ask yourself where they are based – will you be able to pop in if there are any problems or if documents need signing quickly?
  6. Look for membership of a quality standard scheme such as the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme or equivalent
  7. Ask what professional indemnity insurance they carry?  This is there to protect you in the event of a mistake and will also cover your money while it is being held by the firm during the transaction – fraudsters are very active trying to steal funds from conveyancing firms and it does happen

If you ask these basic questions, then it should be clear whether you are dealing with a professional and reputable business.  You can then expect your adviser to:

  • Explain the process, timescales and legal issues in clear language
  • Be proactive in their approach to your transaction, not wait to be chased
  • Advise you of any legal issues affecting the property, the practical consequences of these and work to resolve any issues for you
  • Keep you and your estate agent informed throughout so that the process is as quick and stress free as possible
  • Ensure that you have a good and marketable title to your property so that you can use it as you want

Get a conveyancing quote from Backhouse Solicitors

At Backhouse Solicitors we have been giving the home buyers of Essex great customer service for over 200 years.  If you choose one of our expert conveyancing solicitors to look after your property purchase or sale then you are guaranteed the following:

  • An IT savvy, modern conveyancing firm offering you access to your transaction 24/7 through our online, interactive portal on your phone, tablet or PC
  • An approachable “high street” firm with an open door service – you can pop in and see us any time
  • People who enjoy meeting their clients face-to-face – just what you need to work out any issues that might crop up with your transaction
  • No Move, No Legal Fees and Fixed Fee conveyancing without any “hidden” extras – what we quote is what you pay – guaranteed!
  • Qualified expert Solicitors and a dedicated support team looking after your conveyancing work
  • Membership of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme

So, if you’re looking to buy or sell a property, then make sure you get a conveyancing quote from Backhouse Solicitors.  It’s simple, just pick one of the following options and we’ll look after you every step to your new home.

  • Call us on:       01245 893400
  • Email us at:     [email protected]
  • Fill in the enquiry form on the Contact Us page above
  • Talk to us through the WebChat box in the bottom right of our website (you can leave a message out of hours)
  • Or just pop in to meet us at 71 Duke Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1JU (8:30 to 6:00 Monday to Friday)