First time buyer guide


Property Solicitors

Once your offer has been accepted, the legal ownership of the property will need to be transferred from the seller to you. This process is known as conveyancing, and it’s usually done by a property solicitor or a licensed conveyancer.
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What Does a Property Solicitor Do?

They handle all the legal aspects of buying (or selling) a house for you.

Some of the tasks they take care of include:

  • Dealing with contracts
  • Giving legal advice
  • Dealing with the Land Registry
  • Carrying out local authority searches
  • Transferring the money to pay for your house
  • Payment of: Stamp Duty (in England and Northern Ireland), Land Transaction Tax (in Wales), Land and Building Transaction Tax (in Scotland).

Property solicitors and conveyancers are regulated by organisations that watch over their standards of practice and give consumers protection.

Why Do I Need a Solicitor?

Transferring property ownership titles is a legal matter, so it has to be done by a licensed professional. Most mortgage lenders will demand that you hire a solicitor to protect their own interests. A solicitor will make the whole home buying process a lot smoother for you, especially if you’re a first-time buyer.

How Do I Choose a Solicitor?

Choosing a solicitor or conveyancer is a very important part of buying a house. Even though all solicitors can do conveyancing, not all will have experience in property transactions. Hiring a solicitor or legal firm who specialises in this area might, therefore, be the clever thing to do.

Also, beware of what your estate agent tells you! You don’t have to hire their in-house services or external companies they recommend.

Here are a few tips to help you choose:

  • Price is important, but bear in mind that the person you hire will be taking care of every legal aspect of your home buying process. You don’t want any silly mistakes costing you a small fortune.
  • With ‘fixed-fee’ services you only pay the amount quoted when you signed up. This can avoid unexpected expenses when the service is completed.
  • ‘No-sale, no-fee’ companies will get the job done speedily because it’s in their best interest.
  • Make sure you know when and where to contact your solicitor at all times. It’s important that they always have someone available for you regardless of sickness or holidays.

Can I Do My Own Conveyancing?

Yes, you can. But generally only when mortgages are not involved. This is because most lenders will demand that you have a solicitor before they give you a mortgage.

Since the whole process is complicated and time-consuming it could easily end up in costly mistakes for you. However, if you use a solicitor they have professional indemnity insurance. This means that any slip-ups on their part would be covered.

How Much Will it Cost?

A solicitor’s fees for a £350K property cost on average £850. This will normally include the fees for the council searches and registration with the Land Registry. It will also include the expenses for the solicitor’s time, calls and paperwork.

Some firms or individuals charge hourly, some flat fees and others a percentage of the property’s value.  It’s important that you get quotes from several solicitors. And make sure these quotes include a detailed breakdown of all costs, including VAT, to avoid any last-minute surprises.

Property conveyancing can be quite complex. With all the stress moving house entails, perhaps it’s best to leave the legal matters to the professionals who have the resources, time and know-how to handle these tasks well.