Go through this material before your meeting and write down a list of questions you need answers to, such as:
How big is the firm or practice? It’s better to be thought of as a good client in a small firm than a tiny and anonymous client in a large one, where there’s always the danger that your file will be overlooked.
Who in the firm will be looking after your interests? If you’re just a small account in a large company, you may well find yourself being looked after by a junior member of staff. In a smaller firm, the person you are meeting may well be the person who will work for you. If not, ask to meet the person who will be, as it’s important you feel comfortable with them.
What level of service will you be getting from the firm or individual? Will you be able to ring up or email at any time if a question or problem crops up that you need some help or advice with?
What are their rates and what services will be charged for and what won’t? If you feel that every phone call will be billed to the last second, you may hesitate to pick up the phone to ask for advice, and this isn’t a situation you want to be in with an adviser.
Each firm should be able to give you a schedule of its fees and agree on an hourly rate or fixed fee for its work. If the firm isn’t clear about its fees or what you are likely to be charged, you could end up being overcharged. Just feeling you might be getting overcharged is very damaging to a relationship with a professional adviser who you need to trust, so make sure fees and charges are clear up front.
Do they have clients you can speak to about their experience with the firm? Not every practice will be happy to tell you who it does business with, let alone allow you to speak to them, but it’s always worth asking the question.
What are going to be the core services they offer you and which do they regard as extras? There is no point paying for services as standard that you are never going to use.
Are they in the right location? You won’t be visiting your advisers that often, but there could be a string of meetings when you are going through the process of actually buying or selling a property. This might be a problem if your solicitor, in particular, is too far away. It’s ideal to find someone good who is close.
Do you feel as though you will be able to get on with them personally? Especially when you are staring out and not too confident about what you’re doing, you don’t want to feel as though you are being talked down to by someone you are paying for advice.
What are their offices like? Do they look modern and streamlined or old-fashioned and traditional? A firm’s working space is often a reflection of the way it works. You will know whether you prefer a modern or traditional approach.
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