How to find an awesome off-plan property solicitor

Keep on top of your legals to keep on top of your profit

When you invest in off-plan property, completion could be months or even years in the future. It can get your nerves jangling. Especially if it’s your first investment in property or you live abroad, you could feel like you’re shooting in the dark.

Investors that buy through Gladfish use a progression team to keep property investing simple. This progression team monitors the buying process, liaises between all parties and professionals on your side, and reminds you of things you need to do. One of the professionals you need is a solicitor.

We discuss here why you need a solicitor when investing in off-plan property. You’ll also learn how to choose the solicitor, and why Gladfish is a god place to go for recommendations.

What are the legal issues connected to off-plan property investment?

Off-plan property investment is more involved than buying your home or an existing property as a buy-to-let. Off-plan property investment is managed in stages (or milestones). At each stage, you’ll be required to make the next payment as you move towards completion. The progress of the build will be laid out in a contract, and this contract might include clauses that either protect or penalise the developer.

Why can’t I use a conveyancer?

A conveyancer is a little like a solicitor, but with limited expertise and experience. They can only manage the contract of a sale. They don’t have the qualifications to practice other areas of the law. If there are major issues with the off-plan sale contract, a conveyancer will not be able to provide the legal assistance you need.

On the other hand, a solicitor with specific off-plan property investment knows the contracts involved inside out. They’ll make sure from the outset that the clause won’t penalise you, but protect you. And if things do go wrong, they’ll be there to fight your corner.

Can’t I just use my family solicitor?

Investing in off-plan property is an operation that requires specialisation in both property and contract law. You might be tempted to use your current solicitor, but unless they have the relevant experience I’d advise against this. You need a solicitor who has experience in conveyancing and working with the legal issues and transfer of off-plan property. Your solicitor is likely to be a generalist. It is a big investment you’re about to make. Will a general solicitor cut the mustard?

How do I find the right solicitor?

Okay, now that you know what job a solicitor will do for you and why you need to use a specialist solicitor, the question is, how do you find the right one? Be prepared to do a bit of legwork. Here’s a simplified five-step process to find the best solicitor to help you with off-plan investment.

1.      Ask your friends

Our friends are usually the first port of call when we want advice. Your friends may know solicitors who have the experience you need. Perhaps one or more of your friends have bought off-plan before?

2.      Ask property investors

Join online investment forums, find local investment groups, and read property investment news and magazines. Speak to other investors, discover what type of property they invested in, where, and how the process of investment worked for them.

You’re looking for investors who have bought off-plan. Ask them about their experience with the solicitor they used, about how they communicated and how accessible they were. If there were any problems, how efficiently were they dealt with?

You’re looking to build a list of potential solicitors. The first you contact is unlikely to be the best.

3.      Search through the solicitor’s register

All solicitors must be a member of the Law Society. You can search its database to find a solicitor. Simply key in your legal issue and the area where you want to find a solicitor. The result will be a list of potential solicitors to research further.

Be warned: with more than 158,000 legal professionals on its books, the Law Society list that result from your search is likely to include hundreds of possibilities.

4.      Interrogate solicitors’ websites

Now’s the time to do the hard work. By this stage, you’ve probably got a list of at least a couple of dozen solicitors that might be right for your needs, if not hundreds. Your next step is to visit the website of each potential solicitor. Read about the services they provide, their experience, memberships, and indemnity insurances. Examine their online testimonials.

Don’t stop at the solicitors’ websites. Use Google to search for ‘UK solicitor reviews’. These can be more enlightening than the websites of the solicitors that you’re researching. Take care when using review sites, though, because not all online reviews can be trusted.

This part of the process of finding the right off-plan investment solicitor is to whittle the list down to maybe ten or twelve possibilities to take to the final step:

5.      Speak to the solicitor direct

You can’t make the decision about which solicitor is best for you without speaking to them. Now’s the time to get on the phone and get to know each one. Ask them specific questions:

  • How long have you been a member of the Law Society?
  • What experience do you have in property conveyancing?
  • What experience do you have dealing with developers and off-plan property?
  • How many property investors do you have as clients?
  • What professional indemnity cover do you have?
  • How do you prefer to communicate with clients?

Could Gladfish recommend a solicitor?

Yes. In fact, when you invest through Gladfish, we recommend a solicitor. Not just any old Tom, Dick or Harry, but someone with the experience you need and often, someone who's already dealing with that development. That saves investors time and money. One of the two most precious things to smart investors. We’ve already done all the work that you’ll need to do to find the best solicitor. We’ve researched their qualifications, experience and expertise. We’ve made sure that their previous clients have given glowing reports, and that five-star reviews are warranted.

When we recommend a solicitor, you can be sure they will be everything you need to ensure your off-plan property investment goes smoothly on the legal side. But we still recommend you carry out step five above. Speak to the solicitor we recommend, ask the essential questions, and have that peace of mind that will help keep investment stress at bay.

Contact one of our team today on+44 (0)207 923 6100, and discover how our sales progression team and professional contacts will smooth your path to profitable and stress-free off-plan property investment.

Live with passion

Brett Alegre-Wood

Brett Alegre-Wood
April 1, 2017

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