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
  • Stamp Duty payment
  • Carrying out local authority searches
  • Dealing with the Land Registry
  • Transferring the money to pay for your house

Both, 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 basically it has to be done by a professional that is licensed to do so. Also, most mortgage lenders will demand that you hire a solicitor to make sure their interests are protected. 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’re by no means obliged to hire their in-house services or external companies they might recommend.

Here are a few tips to help you choose wisely:

  • Price is important, we know, but bear in mind that the professional or firm 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, which 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 and that there will always be someone available for you regardless of sickness or holidays

Can I Do My Own Conveyancing?

Yes you can, but as most lenders will demand that you have a solicitor to protect their interests, you can generally only deal with conveyancing yourself when mortgages are not involved.

Also, since the whole process is complicated and time-consuming, it could easily end up in costly mistakes for you. Having a solicitor who – by the way, always has professional indemnity insurance – means that any legal slip-ups on their part would be covered.

How Much Will it Cost?

A solicitor’s fees for a £350K property cost an average £850. This will normally include the fees for the council searches and registration with the Land Registry, together with 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 that the quotes include a detailed breakdown of all costs, including VAT, to avoid any last-minute surprises.

As we’ve said, property conveyancing can be quite complex, and with all the stress moving house entails to begin with, 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.