For many buyers and sellers, choosing a settlement agent is an afterthought in the buying and selling process.
The temptation is to jump online and try and find the settlement agency offering the cheapest fee. Or call the agency that sent you out a letter when they saw your property listed online. After all, they’re all do the same thing, don’t they?!
Like any profession, when choosing a settlement agent, there’s a level of you get what you pay for.
Once you’ve signed off on an offer it’s the settlement agent that’s responsible for facilitating the process of taking your purchase or sale from contract to settlement. They’ll be the ones liaising with your bank and other relevant parties to ensure the conditions on the contract are met, that everyone is ready for settlement, and that the property settles smoothly.
If you have any questions regarding the contract, the meeting of conditions or the process, your settlement agent should ideally be able to guide you, afterall, they are your appointed representative in the transaction.
A good settlement agent will have had experience in handling thousands of settlements. Whilst they’re not lawyers and can’t give legal advice, they should be able to give you a professional opinion when questions arise. Experienced settlement agents understand the system and can offer invaluable support in getting issues sorted out quickly and effectively.
And here’s the rub. If you choose a settlement agent that isn’t experienced, it’s likely that you won’t get the help and support you need when you need it, which could result in conflict between parties or delays in settlement.
Instead of answering your questions you may be referred to a lawyer who’ll then charge an expensive hourly rate for their assistance. So that very cheap flat fee you were quoted could become an expensive and stressful buying or selling experience.
So when choosing a settlement agent, do your research. Compare apples with apples when it comes to quotes. Check reviews. Ask what’s included in the fee and what’s not? Confirm who’ll be handling your file – is it someone with experience or will it be a junior? Do they assist with questions or are you likely to get referred to a lawyer for issues? Are they easy to get to and will they help with verification of identity or will you need to go to a post office (additional cost)? And if you’re not mobile, will they come to you?
So when it comes to choosing a settlement agent, remember that seemingly very attractive cheap flat fee may come at an additional cost – choose wisely!
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