Updated 23 January 2017
Do you always go for the first one you see? Or are you more the shop-around type? Taking time to explore doesn’t just make it more likely that you’ll find what you’re looking for. It means you could also discover so much more. Here’s how to celebrate being a ‘searcher’.
Whether you’re in the market for a new outfit, a new house or a new partner, you probably won’t grab the first one that comes along. But here’s an interesting thing. You’ll often see someone take a pair of jeans from the rack and march straight over to the checkout. And surveys (by ING Direct and Barratt Homes to name just two) have shown that people take on average less than half an hour to decide to buy a home – around seven minutes longer than they’d take to buy a pair of jeans. What’s going on?
Of course, all you see here is the snap decision. What you don’t see are the twenty other shops that the jeans-buyer has browsed, or the months that the home-buyer has spent viewing other properties. Or how about booking a holiday (because I’m actually not talking about mortgages today) – you could spend six weeks browsing travel sites, but when you see that perfect deal, you probably pounce on it in about forty-five seconds.
Search and you’ll find
The point is, searching makes you smarter. Every time you search for a thing, even if you don’t find what you were looking for, you do find something. That something is a little bit of knowledge you didn’t have before, a lesson maybe, a new way of looking at things, or a set of burned fingers. It’s experience. And that experience feeds into the next search, and the next, until you’re the person who feels ready to buy their dream car after a ten-minute test drive.
But what if you’ve never searched for this particular thing before? That’s the situation many people find themselves in when they seek financial advice. You’ve decided (or someone has dropped heavy hints at you) to consult a financial adviser – but that’s as much as you know at this point. Will just ‘a’ financial adviser do the trick? If I find several advisers in my area, how do I choose between them? And if they’re all independent and FCA-regulated, does it matter which I pick? Imagine trying to decide between tea and coffee if you’d never tasted either.
Not a clue where to start…
Here’s a tip: just throw yourself in. It’s hard to make an informed search without some kind of prior experience, so really the best way is to learn as you go along. Fortunately, unbiased.co.uk makes it very easy to do this. To start adviser-hunting, simply enter your postcode in the box. You’ll see a list of likely contenders, ranked in order of distance from you. However, what you’re looking for is not the nearest necessarily, but the best one for you. Now the real search begins.
You’ll probably want to refine your longlist using the search filters. These narrow down the list to those advisers who offer or specialise in what you’re looking for. For instance, if you wanted an adviser who’s happy working with first-time property buyers, you’d click Mortgages and then the First Timer Buyers subcategory. The possibilities are many: you can filter your list by advice areas, payment options, qualifications, special offers and more, to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Download your new best friend
But what if you don’t yet know exactly what you are looking for? Part of a good adviser’s job is to help you work this out – so there is a bit of chicken-and-egg involved. This is where the adviser checklist is most useful. Once you have a shortlist of local advisers who fit your broad requirements, the checklist enables you to compare them like an expert, even if you’ve never taken financial advice before. It guides you through all the questions you need to ask and what you ought to expect, so you can compare advisers objectively.
Don’t miss the X factor
There is one more crucial factor, though, and it’s not something you’ll find on any checklist or search engine. You might not be a hotshot in financial matters, you might think you don’t have a clue, but no-one knows better than you what you want out of life. You are also the best judge of the kind of person you like to work with. The unbiased.co.uk database ensures a high level of quality and dependability, but beyond that is a huge range of different personalities and experience. Two advisers with identical qualifications may still be very different in person, and it’s vital that you and your adviser see eye to eye. The best value from advice comes about not through a single meeting or a few, but through a long-term working relationship – sometimes up to ten years or more. Can you see this happening with your adviser? If not, you might want to keep searching.
As with shopping for clothes or houses, you may not get a clear picture of your ideal adviser until you’ve met with quite a few. But gradually you’ll home in on the qualities that matter to you, and develop an instinct for who is right for your particular needs. We can’t promise you a perfect match at first sight, but we can promise you the best place to start. Begin your search today!