Should I instruct a solicitor before I find a buyer?

Fri 10 May 2013 by Lorraine Imhoff

Written by Lorraine Imhoff

It is surprising how often this question arises and how the conveyancing profession has failed to propagate what would seem to be the 'no brainer' of an answer.

Clients often ask solicitors this question.  However the tendency for sellers to leave the appointment of a conveyancer to the last minute endures.

This may be due to the fact the solicitors don't clearly communicate the benefits of being prepared.  It may also be that the fact that most solicitors work on a no sale no fee basis, the seller has nothing to lose.

What are the benefits of instructing a solicitor before accepting an offer?

A seller to appointing a conveyancer before an offer is accepted has a number of advantages.

Conveyancing can be fraught with delays, some avoidable and some not.  However there is nothing more irritating for a buyer than having to wait days (sometimes weeks) before their solicitor receives initial contract papers.

This is really getting the transaction off on the wrong foot and it is not unheard of for delays to go on for so long that the buyer either gets cold feet or finds another property.  

The seller’s solicitor may find himself in the firing line over such delays.  However, if they only received the instruction days after the vendor has accepted an offer, they must complete a number of tasks before any papers can be despatched to the buyers solicitor.

Yet the majority of these tasks can be completed in advance of the acceptance of offer – even as early as the initial marketing phase.

These include:

  • Verification of identity
  • Sourcing of property Deeds
  • Sourcing of the lease
  • Solicitor writing to the client with terms and conditions
  • Vendor completion of conveyancing protocol forms and formal solicitor instruction
  • Formal instruction of the solicitor

There is no doubt that completing these steps in advance can shave weeks off the beginning of a transaction, but it doesn’t end there.  The earlier the solicitor is able to familiarise themselves with the property, its title and any potential defects or problems, the more they will be prepared when the issues are raised by the buyers solicitor.

Should the seller still be unlucky enough to loose their buyer they wont have incurred any legal fees – assuming of course that they chose a solicitor who works on a no sale no fee basis.

It is a wonder why more estate agents do not ask for the name of the seller’s legal representative at the point of drafting sale particulars.  This would seem a sensible course of action, irrespective of whether then agent wishes to recommend a particular solicitor or not.

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