Conveyancing Q&A with solicitor Jennifer McMahon
WhatHouse? does a quick Q&A with Jennifer McMahon, head of private client, Paul Crowley & Co solicitors on the homebuying process.
Hi Jennifer, please tell us a little about yourself and your role at Paul Crowley & Co
My journey to becoming a solicitor was a bit different from the usual route, having initially trained as a barrister. I enjoyed academic argument and legal research but soon realised I preferred a role with more client contact. I decided to cross qualify to become a solicitor whilst working in a busy litigation department focusing on contentious probate which led me to the area I specialise in today.
I was appointed head of private client at Paul Crowley & Co in December 2014. My role is quite diverse dealing with both lifetime planning and legal matters following death. I also carry out residential conveyancing which closely links with private client work.
Do you find that most of your clients have a rough grasp of the legal process before they instruct you?
No matter how much a client knows about the legal process of buying a property, understandably, it is a stressful time for them. In the main I provide an overview of the process at the outset and from thereafter deal with each client on an individual basis, some requiring more information than others as matters progress.
Are there many common misconceptions from first-time buyers?
More often than not first-time buyers know absolutely nothing about the purchase process, understandably, when instructing their solicitor. Some people research the process and find it to be different in practice. It is the responsibility of the legal representative to guide their client through the process ensuring they feel assured throughout, as after all, purchasing your first home is a massive step to take.
First-time buyers often find it difficult to understand the obligation their solicitor has towards their lender. When acting where a mortgage is involved the lender is the client as well as the lay client and the solicitor has a duty to report any matters which may affect the property. This could lead to conditions being placed upon the mortgage. This may occur where the lay client obtains a separate survey for the property (not through their lender) which raises defects – we would have to provide the mortgage company with the report and await their response on how to proceed.
How can buyers best prepare themselves for their first meeting with their conveyancer?
I always send documents to the client to sign together with a list of items we require from them to initiate the process. I personally would always suggest preparing a list of questions to ask the conveyancer to make sure they feel they have all the information they need to prepare themselves for the process.
What sort of fees and disbursements/expenses should buyers expect to pay for good legal services when buying a property?
Legal fees vary depending on the type of property being dealt with and the types of enquiries that we need to raise following information received. We always recommend a client should ‘shop around’ for a competitive fee as we do ourselves to ensure we are in line with other legal providers.
What happens and what will it cost if a purchase falls through?
Each firm deals with the issue of an abortive sale in their own way. If the file is in its very early stages we do not charge an abortive fee however if the work is close to completion and all advice provided a fee is charged however this is clearly explained in our firm’s client care letter which is the retainer before the client agrees to instruct us to proceed with their sale or purchase. It is imperative solicitors are transparent about their fees from the start.
Has technology made the solicitor/client relationship very different from the traditional model?
A lot more can now be done by email which allows the client greater access to their legal representatives whilst having the security of receiving advice in writing. The legal representative has instructions in writing instantly allowing matters to progress swiftly. Technology has allowed the process to progress more smoothly as conveyancing can be ‘bitty’ where enquiries in relation to properties are raised piecemeal. All contract paperwork has to be signed by the client and originals used in.
Find out more at www.paulcrowley.co.uk