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How to find your perfect property solicitor

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solicitor, Clive wadham-smith, property

Hey guys, we’ve got a treat for you this week!

Five years to Financial Freedom had the chance to speak with Clive Wadham-Smith, a solicitor that specialises in commercial property sales, contracts, and buying commercial properties.

In this interview, Clive talks about the most common misconceptions about solicitors, how to find the right solicitor for you, and how to ensure that relationship goes smoothly.

Right Clive, let’s cut to the chase. When it comes to property there’s a bit of tension between buyers and solicitors/conveyancers. What are the most common misconceptions about solicitors that property investors have?

competition, success, friendship

Like most things personalities tend to be the main cause. Many clients, not only property investors, look on a solicitor as a necessary evil rather than as an adviser and pay them for just doing the one job, and indeed rather think they get in the way.

Whereas in fact it makes much more sense to find the right solicitor, build a rapport with him/her and use them to guide you through the deal.

Ideally, the best way to find a solicitor (like any professional adviser) is through a recommendation. But very commonly now, a buyer will just look on the Internet, or go for the one promoted by the sales agent who is usually low priced and will normally work on a “factory” basis to make this low price work.

Nothing wrong with that! However, this is never a truly professional relationship, and it’s certainly not for a commercial investor who wants (or should want) more than a quick factory transaction.

With the right solicitor, there should not be many issues. Of course, the solicitor may advise one thing and the investor want to do another, but that’s fine. The investor is paying the bill at the end of the day!

I know a lot of people who have had… less than positive relationships with solicitors, what are the three qualities property buyers should look for in a solicitor? And how can they tell if the solicitor is right for them?

In my view, the solicitor should be approachable, speak intelligently about the various legal aspects involved and have an efficient office set up with modern technology. As part of that, he or his firm should be on as many lenders panels as possible.

As I said before, if you get on with your solicitor and involve him\her properly, the relationship will be good. The more a solicitor is instructed by a client, investor or otherwise, the more he will understand the investor’s mindset and what he wants.

Obviously, paying the bill promptly at the end helps and sets the right tone for the next transaction

Currency, wealth, money

Following on from that, there are a lot of specialisations in the solicitor field. And some general solicitors feel they can do everything, how can you tell when you need a specialised solicitor?

The whole point about a good solicitor is that they should be like a GP doctor.

A good solicitor should be able to recognise what is needed, and deal with what they can and know who to refer to (often to an outsider) in other cases.

In a large firm, as many now are, that is not as important as they will have people who deal with all of the most common aspects of the law.

Where property investors are concerned, there are two main legal issues. These two main legal issues will be conveyancing and relatively straightforward litigation such as boundary disputes and possession claims. If the investor has built up the rapport I mentioned earlier then he\she will be able to trust them to refer as necessary

I think it’s time to put the shoe on the other foot, property investors can also cause delays by not being prepared. What are the things every solicitor wishes that house buyers knew or would sort out before they engage with them?

Gift, betrayal, finance

Finances are usually the source of most delays. A loan in principle should always be agreed in advance. The survey and some technical issues may crop up as things move along and there is no avoiding that, but having the finance generally in place will be a great help.

The other issues that cause delays usually relate to moving, which an investor will not be concerned with

Finally, how should a buyer view a solicitor’s advice? Or to put it another way, when should a property investor make their own decision taking into consideration the solicitor’s advice?

There are pros and cons to legal advice.

The pros are that it will give you the bottom line and will be very cautious and safe. After all, the solicitor does not want to get it wrong and be sued. Your solicitor also has a duty to give the best technical advice.

The cons are… that the advice will be bottom line and cautious! It is rare that a solicitor will give advice on whether for example the property will be a good commercial buy. That’s because they don’t know more than the investor. If the solicitor is wrong they will be sued, and if they are right the solicitor will not benefit!

Seriously though, the commercials are down to the client after taking legal and all other advice. Even on technical matters, the time will come “to take a view” on how serious it is. The solicitor will set out the downsides and upsides but the investor will need to weigh it all up and make a decision.

If you have something to say that can help property investors or those looking to be financially free send an email to nate @ fiveyearstofinancialfreedom.com

Huge thanks to Clive for chatting with us, you can find him on Twitter @CliveSmith, or his LinkedIn profile.

We’ve got some more fantastic interviews here:

Image Credits: Ben Chai.

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