03 Nov 2018

Legal matters: Using a local solicitor vs online agents

Legal matters: Using a local solicitor vs online agents

Property Partner Chris Comfort explains why you get what you pay for when it comes to appointing a solicitor to take care of the biggest purchase you will ever make - your home.

By Chris Comfort

Recently, I met a client who had used an online estate agency and was told as part of the process they had to use their recommended solicitor or pay not to. 

They were told this would be “easier” - and the client thought a solicitor was a solicitor, so went ahead. But unfortunately, as things turned out, it wasn’t easier or cheaper at all. They ended up coming to see me a week away from their settlement date with a lot of correspondence they didn’t understand and were burdened with even more stress and uncertainty. 

Here's five things I think people should consider when making this decision.

1) Language barrier

Some solicitors tend to use five words when one may well do and this is especially prevalent when they communicate with each other and in title deeds. Face-to-face meetings at the outset will help prevent you becoming entangled in the impenetrable legal language.

2) Stress

Purchasing your first house and indeed selling property is a stressful time and what you want from a solicitor is someone to guide you through the process and alleviate/manage your stress levels. To do their job, your solicitor needs to speak to you and to take instruction from you to ensure you are aware of what stage the process is at, what happens next and what is your responsibility to organise. Open dialogue with someone local you can trust will make this much easier.

3) Convenience

Whilst paperwork can be posted out, signed and returned, it can often mean that you are not entirely sure what you are signing and also certain legal paperwork requires to be signed in front of a solicitor. A local high street office allows you to turn up in person to do so and ensure that any outstanding questions are answered. This will suit most people better than receiving paperwork and then having to ask questions over the telephone. 

4) Expertise

More often than not, a local solicitor can offer more of a valuable service in comparison to faceless firms where you may get responses from several different people and have no idea who is actually in charge of your transaction. The office which you can go in and meet with your solicitor in will be client friendly and not a call centre. Across Scotland different areas have their own economic markets and this can mean that the housing market varies significantly. A local conveyancing solicitor will therefore be better placed to advise of the market and assist you with negotiating the best price for the house you want to buy. It is this point that is key for anyone I have ever met and you will stand to save a lot more money on the house than you will pay in legal fees. Also, a local solicitors will know about the area and what searches will be needed, as well as answering general questions about schools and ongoing developments which you may be unaware of.

5) Cost transparency

When you deal with a local conveyancer you’ll know that the quotation provided will be correct and will take into account the costs of the required searches (these change from area to area), registration dues and other outlays (particularly if you are buying a new build property). Clients have advised me that online firms will initially quote low but then everything from dealing with a mortgage to obtaining ID classes as an extra and all of a sudden the total cost is not very competitive at all.

In conclusion, I would leave you with one main question to consider: Is it really in your best interest to use a solicitor you have never met and never will meet? The above is intended to act as a guide to points any potential client should consider and remember that with solicitors you do often get what you pay for. 

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