Walk down any high street and you will find a firm of solicitors offering conveyancing services.  However, the vast majority of these will have little or no experience of affordable housing schemes.

Although it has been around for many years, it is only recently that shared ownership has become more prevalent.  Likewise, in recent years, various equity loan and discount purchase price schemes have been introduced.  However, affordable housing is still only a comparatively small proportion of the overall housing sector and most solicitors still see affordable housing conveyancing as more complex than “ordinary” conveyancing.

In fact those solicitors aren’t wrong, affordable housing conveyancing is more complicated.

Shared ownership leases contain many provisions that you won’t find in other leases, mortgages have to be approved by the housing association and lenders have more detailed requirements.

Equity loan schemes have complex procedures and require the solicitor to liaise with the Help to Buy agent as well as the developer / housing association and their solicitors.

Discount purchase price schemes are not acceptable to many lenders and are not well understood even by those who do lend on them, so require careful handling, yet are so new that very few solicitors will have dealt with them before.

As your regular high street solicitor is not familiar with affordable housing products, they will usually charge more for the conveyancing and generally take longer when dealing with such cases.

Last year, Direction Law acted for over 2,000 new build shared ownership buyers across the

country.

There are even some mortgage lenders who only have a limited number of firms on their panel who they trust to act for them on shared ownership cases.
A buyer who instructs a firm of solicitors who doesn’t specialise in affordable housing may therefore end up paying two sets of legal fees – their own solicitor’s fees for the conveyancing and their lender’s legal fees too.

Housing associations and the mortgage brokers they work with will often have panels of solicitors that they recommend who specialise in affordable housing. Many buyers are distrustful of using a firm of solicitors who have been recommended, fearing that they won’t be sufficiently independent. Although this is a natural concern, buyers should understand that their solicitor is duty bound to act in their best interests and is acting for them not the seller.

Also, with a new build property, the legal paperwork is voluminous and takes several hours to read. However, as it tends to be similar for all plots, it is more efficient for a solicitor to act for multiple buyers on a development. A buyer who uses a solicitor who is already familiar with a particular development will be more likely to achieve the exchange deadline imposed by the housing association than one who uses their own, non-specialist, solicitor.

Using a firm which specialises in affordable housing or one which is on a “panel” as explained above, means that you will be looked after by an expert who will most likely charge less and generally proceed quicker than if you used a conventional high street solicitor.

Direction Law has specialised in affordable housing for many years, indeed we dealt with some of the very first shared ownership purchases in the late 1980s, and last year acted for over 2,000 new build shared ownership buyers across the country.

After having been based for many years in London and the south east, we opened an office in the south west a few years ago and are pleased to have just opened our latest office in Birmingham city centre. Our new Birmingham office will service clients in the Midlands and North and will specialise solely in new build and affordable housing conveyancing. So… if you are looking to instruct a true specialist, look no further.

 

Prakash Sookun

Partner and head of Direction Law’s Birmingham office

DD: 0121 809 2901

Swithboard: 0121 809 2900

Prakash.sookun@directionlaw.co.uk

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