With a myriad of conveyancing services to choose from, it can be confusing to know which to choose and whether there is really much difference between them all. With cheap deals and incentives to lure them in, too many people are tempted by bargain basement prices rather than choosing an experienced, trusted advisor for what is likely to be the largest - and most important - purchase of their life.
Whilst selling or buying a property can sometimes be a relatively straightforward transaction, things can and do go wrong. Delays in completion of the legal work are one of the biggest issues, accounting for one in five complaints handled by the Legal Services Ombudsman in the nine months leading up to December 2017. Such delays can mean that the client’s mortgage offer expires and the same rate of interest may not be available when a further application is made.
Other problems that can arise include issues with the legal title or problems found during a survey – both of which can prove difficult for factory conveyancing services to handle, compared with an experienced conveyancing solicitor.
Issues with the transaction itself also need careful handling: these can include gazumping, where a higher offer is received before exchange of contracts, and difficulties with chain transactions where a number of people are relying on a sale/purchase to be able to proceed. Whilst experienced solicitors know how best to handle these occurrences, unqualified paralegals working for budget conveyancing companies will rarely have the experience required to manage such situations.
The power of the internet has meant that conveyancing transactions can be carried out remotely, with companies vying for business regardless of the client’s location. Using an online service may be an attractive proposition at first glance, but as the Money Advice Service notes, there are many advantages to using a solicitor near to your home or work. Local services make it easier to drop off or collect documents where necessary; and the solicitor’s unique knowledge of the local area can also be a huge benefit.
If a conveyancer is recommended to you by another party involved in the transaction, remember that the party making the referral may be paid a referral fee. The recommendation is therefore unlikely to be based on the quality of service offered. In particular, be cautious about the offer of free conveyancing packaged into a mortgage deal - with lenders naturally looking to maximise their profits, it makes sense that they would choose the cheapest provider.
Conveyancers say they have been overwhelmed by referrals from lenders of late, with fears that interest rates will rise prompting thousands to remortgage while the rates are low. One such service recently admitted “… the company did not have much control over the number of cases it received. We had difficulty meeting demand and I’m sorry to say that led to delays, people being on hold too long, and inaccuracies in our work.”
A client who dealt with the same service said it would generally take an hour to reach someone on the phone and consequently, they ended up having to pay hundreds of pounds extra to their old lender. The whole process took four months. Another client was coming to the end of his fixed mortgage deal and was about to be switched to his lender’s Standard Variable Rate (SVR) which is typically much higher than an introductory deal. Delays in completing the legal work meant the client found himself on the SVR for two months, costing him an additional £250.
Work is often distributed to such conveyancers through a panel manager such as Legal Marketing Services (LMS) which is used by lenders such as Natwest and RBS. Chief Executive of LMS Nick Chadbourne notes that recently, “the industry was put under immense strain by the volume of work and, in some areas, service deteriorated, triggering complaints.”
Many borrowers are trying to agree their mortgage rate before May 10th which is when the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee will next vote on whether to raise the base rate. By using a quality high street solicitor such as Breens, clients can be assured that legal work will be completed promptly by a qualified, experienced solicitor, without mistakes or delays that could cost them an attractive deal.
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