In the UK, a solicitor is prohibited from acting for both sides because it would create a conflict of interest.
“The same principles apply when buying a property abroad, no matter what people tell you,” said Conn.
“Even if the law in the other country allows a lawyer to act for both sides, it does not make sense to use the same lawyer as you want somebody who is acting in your best interest rather than also looking after the interest of the other side.”
Just using a notary instead of a lawyer is a “myth” perpetuated by some estate agents who are afraid that lawyers will find problems with the purchase, warns Conn.
“The notary does not, generally, get involved in a transaction until the end,” he explained. “Their role is normally to witness the title deed and, in some cases, to register the property and to make sure that the taxes are paid.
“The notary would not tend to get involved in all those things that need to be done before you get to the stage of signing the deed; such as searches on the property, drafting and approving the contract, arranging things like power of attorney and any number of other things that may crop up before completion.
“Getting the notary involved is the last stage of the transaction, not the whole thing.”
As a rule, property purchases that have gone wrong problems can “generally” be traced back to the decision not use a independent lawyer or not to use a lawyer at all, Conn warned.