You’ve nearly reached the summit: you’ve saved up just about enough money to buy your first house — and in London, too, despite all the odds.
You can’t let your guard down, though, as there are a number of serious pitfalls which could stop you finally collecting your keys. The importance of instructing efficient conveyancing solicitors cannot be stressed enough in enabling you to buy your dream property in London.
1. Make your offer stand out from any others
When it comes to buying in London, you might be competing with twenty or more other keen first-time buyers — or even experienced property investors, eager to add to their portfolios.
The best way to do this? Instruct your chosen conveyancing solicitors and get your mortgage in principle. That way, the vendor of the London property knows you’re serious and ready to go after they’ve accepted your offer.
2. Choose a property solicitor with London experience
Conveyancing is the name of the legal process which accompanies the transfer of ownership of the property, from when your offer is accepted to when your new ownership is noted at the Land Registry.
You need to instruct a conveyancing solicitor whose communication and availability is excellent. Conveyancing can be a drawn-out process, with its many stages and possible twists and turns. If the unexpected happens, you’ll want to be able to get hold of your solicitor easily.
London has a particularly frenetic property market. The more experience your solicitor has of it and how it impacts on the conveyancing process, the more likely it is that they will carry out your conveyancing effectively.
You should listen to any strong recommendations from friends and family and check the Google reviews of any property solicitor you are thinking of using. Additionally, calling the firm’s office a few times is well worth it. That way, you’ll get a feel for how easy it is to get through to them.
To an extent, as with so many things in life, you get what you pay for. Don’t expect that taking up the cheapest quote among all the London conveyancing solicitors that you examine will mean you get speedy and quality conveyancing. Our past experience strongly suggests that, in retrospect, many people would have been prepared to pay more for their conveyancing if it had been conducted more efficiently.
3. Make sure your conveyancing is fixed fee
Getting a fixed fee quote — not an estimate — is an absolute must and, thankfully, fixed fees are gradually becoming more frequent.
You might be tempted to instruct a solicitor on the basis of an incredibly cheap-looking introductory price, but the chances are that as your conveyancing continues, many more items will be added to your bill, making the final sum much higher than the initial price. Note that an estimate is never a quote, as well, because an estimate can always be added to.
Conveyancing is often subject to delays and without a fixed fee, you will continue to pay more money if this happens. People have been known to run out of money to pay for their solicitors’ bills in this scenario
4. Make sure your conveyancing is No Sale No Fee
Sadly, property moves do fall through sometimes, with the curse of gazumping a continuing factor in this. With a No Sale No Fee conveyancing guarantee, you won’t have to fork out money again and again for conveyancing if your planned purchase doesn’t make it to completion.
No Sale No Fee is becoming the norm, with an increasing number of conveyancing solicitors in the country — London being no exception. But some firms charge extra for it and some won’t cover all of your costs if you have to start your conveyancing afresh. It pays to read the small print, as always.
5. Always book a building survey for London properties
Don’t confuse your mortgage lender’s valuation survey with a home buyers survey. The former is for the lender’s benefit, whereas the latter is for yours alone. You need to get a building surveyor to check your property out for defects. If there are any, depending on the cost of remedy, you may want to negotiate a reduction in price with the vendor or even pull out. Your solicitor can help you make a sound decision on this matter.
Your building survey examines the property for major issues such as subsidence, damp and rot, and includes checking the drains, looking for infestations, reviewing the roof and loft space, assessing the insulation and lots more. An experienced London building surveyor will have great knowledge of the types and styles of property in the area you are buying in, right down to the soil type and common defects which might be found in the locale.
Your property solicitor may make further enquiries about your property on the basis of the survey and, as stated, they can help you negotiate any subsequent changes in the terms of sale that you would like. The more facts they have to hand, the better they can work to your advantage.
If you are unlucky enough that your purchase falls through, keep looking at properties, arranging viewings and talking to estate agents until you successfully exchange contracts. As soon as you have an offer accepted, you can inform your solicitors and they can resume your conveyancing.
This is a great insurance strategy because if you’re unlucky with one London property, you’ll have researched alternatives and have less emotional attachment to “the one that got away”. And with fixed fees and a No Sale No Fee guarantee, you won’t have to keep paying out more money for conveyancing to add to any pain.
By Andrew Boast, Conveyancing Director at SAM Conveyancing