#1 Shop locally
Yes, you are free to choose a solicitor in the Isle of Man but it will be easier to choose a nearby firm, so you can drop into their offices and deal face-to-face if the need arises. Solicitors in the area of the property location will have a good grasp on known issues with a development for example and experience in resolving or overcoming them. Your estate agent should be able to point you in the right direction (they should recommend more than one, if not question if they are earning commission from referrals). This is an added benefit of using a traditional, locally based estate agency firm over an internet-only agent. The main things are to check in advance that the firm you choose is experienced in handling conveyancing and has a clearly-identifiable conveyancer, and that they are on the panel of solicitors that your mortgage lender will instruct.
2 Phone a friend
Get recommendations from people you know, but choose who you ask the question of carefully. Your laid back, easygoing friend may have been more accepting of standards of service and efficiency that would otherwise send you round the twist with exasperation. Ask for recommendations from people you think hold the same expectations of service that you would yourself. People are often very happy to suggest a good solicitor and just as ready to steer you away from one who caused them problems.
3 Avoid relatives
Even if your cousin is a solicitor and giving you “mates’ rates,” don’t give in to family pressure. Conveyancing is not a social engagement, it’s a business. And when you’re in a contract race, you need a solicitor who is on the ball and not doing your conveyancing in between more lucrative jobs. It's harder to be vocal, complain or apply pressure to meet deadlines when the solicitor is a family friend.
4 Ask how much it will cost
A crucial question. If a firm is vague about its charges, don’t hesitate to get quotes from other solicitors. Some solicitors have their own in-house conveyancing departments, which charge lower fees than the firm’s senior partner. There’s nothing worse than, at the end of the process, getting a surprisingly large bill for “disbursements”, i.e. expenses the solicitor has incurred making enquiries on your behalf. Sometimes this is inevitable if problems arise, but at least get a written quote that will give you an upper and a lower figure.
5 Ring round two or three firms
When you are getting quotes, listen if one firm sounds more helpful, or keener on getting your business than the others. Remember the lowest fees don't mean the best service. If you need a quick sale, choosing a solicitor quoting rock bottom fees means that you will be one of many clients and there's little incentive for them to make your sale top of the pile. As estate agents, helpful communication with solicitors on issues to be overcome and being able to get progression updates are often key factors to the success of your sale.
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