Independent or Dependent...?

Buying a family home, a weekend bolt hole or property investment is an important undertaking, often not just practically and financially but also emotionally.  Much will rely on the advice of professionals, including mortgage advisers, surveyors and solicitors prior to any final decisions to go ahead.  This advice is crucial as a key professional can make the difference between a successful outcome and a disaster, but are you getting the best, most impartial advice?  Sometimes it’s not always clear.

How do you choose the right solicitor to help you?  Surfing the web offers a variety of options, from large internet based organisations with low fixed fees and 24/7 assistance, to smaller firms offering bespoke services on an individual basis.  Whomever you like the look of, it’s important to check the qualifications of the person who will be responsible for the day to day handing of your transaction and, not only the quoted fees, but all the likely disbursements that will be payable.

Some lenders are beginning to insist that certain mortgage products are only available to you if you use a solicitor nominated by them, effectively removing your freedom of choice.

A recommendation from a friend or colleague is easily the most painless way to find a good and experienced lawyer.  Estate agents are often happy and keen to recommend law firms, either in the vicinity or with whom they have arrangements. These arrangements can include the firm of solicitors paying the estate agents a referral fee (usually around £250-£400) for each recommendation.   The payment of these referral fees in conveyancing transactions is still permitted (unlike the referral fee scheme in personal injury cases, which was prohibited in September 2011).  In such cases it is important that you are fully aware that a referral arrangement exists, including the amount of the fee, who pays it and that it does not impinge on a solicitor’s obligation to act in your best interests at all times.

Some lenders are beginning to insist that certain mortgage products are only available to you if you use a solicitor nominated by them, effectively removing your freedom of choice. How, I often wonder, independent can a law firm be when a significant proportion of its work (and fee income) is generated by a particular lender?

It pays to be fully in the picture about your property purchase and you must always ask yourself if you are satisfied that the solicitor you intend to instruct will act solely and impartially in your best interests.  Hopefully the answer will be “Yes”…  If not, look elsewhere.

If you would to speak to Barbara about one of her articles, or are looking for advice on the sale or purchase of a property, please feel free to call us.