So you've found a house you love and you made an offer. Amazingly, it was accepted and you're ecstatic but now what do you do? The first thing you must do is find a solicitor but which one and where do you find them?
Your estate agent will usually recommend a solicitor to you. "We've worked with these guys hundreds of times before", "They're really easy to get hold of", "You can trust them" is what you will be told and I have no reason to believe this not to be true; but I can tell you they will be expensive!
Often the estate agent will present their recommended solicitor as the only option and the only people that you can trust and why wouldn't you believe an estate agent. Forgive the sarcasm but they deal with them all the time right, so they'd know. The times I've been through this I was made to feel like taking the recommended solicitor is the normal option and doing anything else is a crazy dangerous idea.
This is just not true. Lets put this into perspective. This isn't a US drama where some pharmaceutical boss has threateningly told you to "lawyer up" or face a grilling in a court room where your every honest word is twisted by a sharply dressed guy in a suit. You're just buying a house. Sure that may feel like a big deal to you but remember people buy houses everyday and have been for centuries.
Which leads me to make an unqualified but almost certain claim that conveyancing solicitors are just glorified administrators. Their glorified tag comes from someone somewhere in that tiny law firm having a pass from law school. If you imagine law graduates are, just like other professionals, part of a spectrum of skill, you'd have defense solicitors and barristers at one end and conveyancing solicitors at the other.
Maybe this is unfair, I don't know exactly what happens behind the scenes so if someone has a law degree feel free to agree or protest in the comment box below. However, having spoken to solicitors many many too many times this is how I have found it to be.
With that in mind my advice on choosing a solicitor is as follows... They are all as bad as each other so just pick one that is cheap. They have some knowledge and they are used to dealing with the no doubt complicated forms but essentially, they are just filling in forms and making lots of phone calls. You can either spend £1500 on that or £200. Up to you.
Any caveats to that I suppose my cheapest is best policy may come into question if your case gets complicated and you may need someone a bit more capable. What is more complicated? Tough to say but you should know if your buy seems more complicated than usual, some examples may be: private road, repossession buy, built on sewage pipes, buying in a dilapidated condition. Anything different from buying a nice house in a decent neighbourhood and you should ask the solicitor if they have experience in this particular scenario and judge for yourself if they know what they are talking about.
No! You do not need to be able to walk into the firm, everything is perfectly manageable over the phone, post and email. One cause of delay I guess is having too large a part of the communications operate via post, which in this day and age is frustrating but worth a few hundred pounds of savings.
The lowest I've heard of was £200. I used one at £300. A friend's cost £900. My estate agent recommended one quoted £800 and I had a quote of £1500. The one at £300 I used left a lot to be desired but got the job done, slowly but with out a hitch. The friend's one that cost £900 was very positive about his solicitor and recommended him highly. So I guess you get what you pay for and it is up to your value of money to decided if a £600 premium is worth it.
When getting some quotes get a full breakdown of the costs and you will see the price of all the disbursements. Some sneaky firms mark these up by as much as double. If you get proper breakdowns in your quotes you can compare these too.
I'd recommend getting a load of quotes first. You will get one from your estate agents and do some searching online to get some more. I used this site personally http://www.cheapconveyancingquotes.co.uk which gets you a few decent quotes.
Do you have any solicitor stories to tell or any advise on the matter? How much did yours cost and more importantly would you recommend them?