Property Lawyers: Solicitors and Conveyancers
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 a property solicitor or a licensed conveyancer usually does it.
What Does A Property Solicitor Or Conveyancer 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 the land tax on the property
(This is known as ‘Stamp Duty’ in England and Northern Ireland, ‘Land Transaction Tax’ in Wales and ‘Land and Building Transaction Tax’ in Scotland).
Who Regulates Them?
Property solicitors and conveyancers are regulated by organisations that watch over their standards of practice. This provides you with a fair amount of consumer protection.
So What’s the Difference Between a Solicitor and a Conveyancer?
Conveyancers are lawyers that specialise exclusively in property transactions. This means they’ll be able to take care of your home purchase from start to finish, but they’re not qualified to deal with other legal matters such as wills or probate. Solicitors, on the other hand, are all qualified to do conveyancing work in a general sense - but not all will be specialised in this field. If you want to use a solicitor make sure they have experience in dealing with property purchases.
Why Do I Need a Solicitor or Conveyancer?
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 property lawyer to protect their own interests. A solicitor or conveyancer 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 Or Conveyancer?
Choosing a solicitor or conveyancer is a very important part of buying a house. Solicitors tend to cost more than conveyancers, so think carefully about whether you’ll need any additional legal services. You may need to hire a solicitor for complex transactions – for example, if there are boundary disputes or the sellers are getting divorced.
Also, beware of what your estate agent tells you! You don’t have to hire their in-house services or any external companies they recommend.
Here are a few tips to help you choose:
Look For Best Value, Not Just Best Price
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.
Consider Fixed Fee
With ‘fixed-fee’ services you only pay the amount quoted when you signed up. This can avoid unexpected expenses when the service is completed.
If You’re In A Rush…
‘No-sale, no-fee’ companies will get the job done speedily because it’s in their best interest.
Choose Someone Contactable
Make sure you know when and where to contact your solicitor or conveyancer at all times. It’s important that they always have someone available for you regardless of sickness or holidays. When you are shopping around, sent out a standard email or call to a handful of people or firms you are considering, and gauge the quality and speed of the responses. This is a good rule of thumb for how well they will communicate throughout the whole process.
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 or conveyancer in place 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 property lawyer they have professional indemnity insurance. This means that any slip-ups on their part would be covered.
How Much Will it Cost?
Conveyancing fees for a £350K property can 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 or conveyancer’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 professionals. Make sure these quotes include a detailed breakdown of all costs, including VAT – it pays to avoid last-minute surprises!
This Is One Of Many Costs To Budget For
Conveyancing fees are just one of the many elements you need to keep in mind when buying your first home. So that you can be prepared and avoid any nasty surprises, check out our article 'The Hidden Costs of Buying a House'.