Do I need a solicitor to buy a house

The Importance of a Conveyancer

If you’re currently searching for your dream home, then you’re probably asking the question: do I need a solicitor to buy a house?
In short: Yes!

What do these property solicitors do in the house moving process?

Solicitors are responsible for transferring the title deeds and making sure your new home is purchased legally. This includes lots and lots of exact paperwork.
Solicitors will make sure you legally own the estate, amongst various other admin duties and searches.
You can do conveyancing (the legal process of transferring deeds) yourself. However, it is very time consuming and not recommended. The process is hugely difficult, time-consuming and requires the utmost attention to detail.
The best thing to do is to employ a property solicitor when buying your new home to relieve yourself of a lot of stress.
In this article, we are going to cover:
  • What Conveyancers do
  • Private Purchases
  • Offer Acceptance
  • Getting to Work
  • Searches
  • The Contracts
  • The mortgage offer
  • What documents you will sign
  • Property chains
  • Exchange of contracts

Comparing Property Solicitors

We strongly recommend that you compare conveyancing fees.
They will save you a lot of time and tie up every legal loose end. They cover all of the admin work needed in order to process the transaction, run background searches and check the contract to make sure it is legally binding (to make sure everything checks out.)
All of our soliciting partners are registered with the Council for Licenced Conveyancers. You know you'll be in good hands; these conveyancers have trained for years to become qualified professionals.

What’s the average cost of a solicitor when buying a house?

This depends on the estate in question. Usually, hiring a lawyer to do your conveyancing can range from £750 - £2000+, depending on different circumstances.

Do I need a solicitor when I'm a cash buyer?

Again, yes!
If you are a cash buyer, however, this may lower your overall legal costs as there is less for them to do.

Do I need a property solicitor to buy a house privately?

Absolutely! You will, to make sure the estate is registered correctly and all of the searches have been carried out. It also again depends on if you are buying the estate with cash.

So, how does the process of conveyancing actually work?

1) Your Offer is Accepted
After your offer is accepted, the estate agent will send across information about you (the buyer), the seller, the price and all of the other details of the estate to your chosen legal professional. The quicker they get this, the quicker they can start the process.

2) Getting to Work

Your lawyer will start by requesting the contract documents.
In this file, it will have all of the details about the estate, including all of the fixtures inside the building and which of these will be staying within it.
This is always worth a read! You'll find out if you need to buy a new oven or washing machine!

3) Searches
Not only is a building survey essential for when you’re buying a house, but searches on the local area and structure are also crucial.
Property surveyors are independent professionals that will evaluate a building’s structure. This is to check for any expensive repairs that you might suddenly discover upon moving in!
Surveyors will also advise your lawyer of any environmental searches they need to make (mining searches etc.). This is always something that you want to know before making the most expensive decision of your life!
You need a legal professional to run these searches before buying a property. They can check for:
  • Previous coal mining activity
  • Restrictions 
  • Planning permission
  • Radon gas
  • Environmental search
  • Flood report

4) Read through the Contracts

Your conveyancer will receive the contracts from the sellers’ conveyancers and will then read through the contract with a fine tooth comb to make sure everything is right for you.

This is why it is very risky (unless you are a lawyer) to undertake all of the paperwork and legal transactions yourself. If you haven’t studied law then you could get yourself into a sticky situation when dealing with contracts! 
If anything does pop up in the contract which your lawyer is concerned about, they will query this officially.
You don’t want to be agreeing to something that’s not 100% right!

5) Time for your search results

All of the searches take different amounts of time to complete.

Some of the local searches take a week or up to 10 days (if everything goes well).
Some of the searches, however, will be almost immediate.
These searches will usually be sent back to your surveyor for consideration (depending on how busy they are, this could also delay things!).

6) The Mortgage Offer

Again, we really can’t stress enough the importance of having a structural survey on your new home. The survey will inform you of so many elements of the building, whether it is safe, whether it needs substantial repairs and whether financially it is worth buying.

Often, you may want to change an offer after seeing the building report as it could uncover some faults, meaning the original valuation may have been a little optimistic.
Your legal professional will check the mortgage offer to make sure that the price is correct and all the conditions of the mortgage are as expected. You will then receive a letter (or email depending on the company) explaining the mortgage offer in detail:
  • How much in total you are borrowing
  • Monthly payments
  • Interest rates
  • Terms and conditions
The quicker this mortgage application is approved, the quicker your solicitor can finish the legal processes involved in buying the house.

7) Checking the documents and signing them

After all of the searches have been completed and all questions have been answered between the solicitors, then it is time to check all of the documentation and sign them.

This is also where your solicitor will set out all of the money you owe (such as your deposit).
You will be told about all of the search results and the offer of the mortgage.   
Then it’s time to sign!
You will then sign:
  • The Contract
  • Mortgage Deed
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax
If you are unsure about anything, give your solicitors a call.

8) The Chain

This can be arguably one of the most frustrating parts of the buying process.
Sometimes, in order for you to move into your new home, the people living in there may need to wait for the people in the house they want to buy and so on…
The house moving process can have 0 chain links (if you’re lucky), or possibly beyond 10 (if you're not).
If anyone of these people drops out of their purchase (which is possible for any number of reasons), then this can stop your transaction.
There is no point in worrying about it though if you find your dream home, you just have to go for it! Just be aware that being in a property chain can potentially slow down the move into your new home.

9) Exchange the Contracts!

This is for yourself and the seller arrange a time and date to exchange contracts. It doesn’t matter when you do it, but if you want to move into your new home, the sooner the better.
Your lawyer will exchange your contracts. They usually read out the contracts between them via a recorded phone call to make sure everything is ok.
You may be thinking ‘Can I complete the process on the same day?’
Well ...
Sometimes yes, but it depends if there is a chain. More importantly, how you are paying for your new home?
Cash purchases are far more likely to be completed on the same day. A few mortgage lenders will be happy to exchange and complete on the same day. However, most tend to want to wait up to 5 working days.
The exchange of contracts can be a little difficult, but the process should move smoothly after this part.

10) Almost there!

Time to wait for the seller of the building to up sticks and leave.
This is the time when you need to be organising your belongings and booking your removal company.
This is another thing you can do yourself. However, because of the time and effort involved (plus the cost of renting the van), it’s probably better you employ someone to take care of this.
This is when your solicitor will likely request the fees that you owe them.

11) Completion
This normally happens around about midday on a set date.
You can move once the sellers’ lawyer has confirmed that they have received the money.
Then the exciting bit happens, the keys will usually be dropped off to the estate agent (if you’re using one).

12) Post Completion
This is where you will pay your stamp duty land tax on your new home.
How much is stamp duty?
Property Value Stamp Duty Rate
Up to £125,000 0%
£125,001 to £250,000 2%
£250,001 - £925,000 5%
£925,000 - £1,500,000 10%
£1,500,000 + 12%

You can also visit Money Advice Service and input the value of the house into their stamp duty calculator. It might make it a bit easier to work out!

You should receive all of your legal documents from your lawyer around 3 weeks after completing your move.
If you are buying the building with a mortgage, you will need to send a copy of the title deeds to your lender. They will usually keep a copy of this until the mortgage is complete.

The last thing to remember!
Make sure you keep every single one of your documents for your house move, together and securely stored away (hopefully somewhere you remember). 
This can be a very confusing process to get your head around, hence why we always recommend employing a professional to take care of it for you!