Choosing a good conveyancing solicitor
A critical part of property investment is legal support. The most basic form of support for the average buy-to-let investor is a good conveyancing solicitor, preferably one that specialises in the type of property you are likely to purchase.
The first step is to get references from people – you might try estate agents, other purchasers and investors. A good verbal recommendation is essential before you choose and instruct a solicitor. From my experience, it's is actually quite difficult to get a good experienced conveyancing solicitor – many solicitors choose to specialise in other lines of legal work that command higher rates and less hassles. If your solicitor is dealing with large commercial property transactions and gets your small residential job, they may give it less high priority than you would like.
The more thorough and nit-picky the due diligence is, the more chances you will have of getting a good deal. It may slow the process of purchase, but I have never known a deal falling through because my solicitor was asking awkward professional questions about the right thing for the purchaser – you are more likely to get admiration that you are a professional team that does not get “the wool pulled over its eyes”.
Check the legal rates as well – is it done per transaction or an hourly rate – what is the hourly rate? Generally in the UK, legal fees as a proportion of transaction costs are quite low compared to other European countries despite the large amounts of due diligence involved with searches, surveys, mortgage offers etc. This can typically be 750 pounds for a 150,000 pound leasehold flat, which is only ½ %.
From a business effectiveness stand-point, you might also find out whether the solicitor you work with is different to your traits and strengths. For example, if you are a creative person who likes starting things, are not a perfectionist, and don’t like finishing things, make sure your solicitor is the opposite – someone who likes implementing, finishing things, is a perfectionist and good at closing things out. This will provide you with a good check and balance.
It is also beneficial to make sure your solicitor is qualified to represent the major banks and building societies. Some solicitors choose not to deal with some banks and vice versa – so to prevent wasting time and hand-over of conveyencing activities if you know which bank you will be likely to borrow from, check with your solicitor that he/she deals with them.
Choosing a solicitor for Trusts, Commercial transcations, letting, PIFs etc
You may also require other special legal support to prepare things like family Trusts, Commercial arrangements, letting agreements, constructing PIFs, or setting up a company. These activities are likely to require a different solicitor to your conveyencing solicitor because these tend to be quite specialist activities. Some of them may also require the support of a professional Tax adviser for tax planning purposes.