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What does a property solicitor do?

Find out why solicitors matter, and how you can find one.

Will @ Nested
Property market insight

Yes, the costs can add up when moving house, but having the right solicitor on your side is worth its weight in gold.

Here’s how you can make the legal side of your move run extra smooth.

Do you need a solicitor to buy a house?

Sure, it’s tempting to think you can dot the i’s and cross the t’s on all the legal paperwork, but it’s not quite so simple. Your solicitor helps to oversee the legal process of the sale so that ownership is lawfully transferred to you.

It’s true that you’re not legally required to use a solicitor when buying or selling a home, but these days, it’s virtually impossible not to use one. Issues like fraud are increasingly important and require legal oversight, and you’ll always need to prove your identity to the Land Registry using the correct procedures.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is simply the legal transfer of property between two parties - a seller and buyer.

You’ll often hear the words ‘solicitor’ and ‘conveyancer’ used interchangeably, and while both a solicitor or a conveyancer may work on conveyancing matters, a conveyancer will not be able to work on any other legal matters; conveyancers are thus specialists in conveyancing only.

A solicitor may complete conveyancing work but could also act in other legal areas, however, most solicitors will now specialise in one area of law and a solicitor that completes conveyancing work will also be a specialist in conveyancing only.

Should I use a solicitor or a conveyancer?

There are experienced conveyancers and less experienced solicitors — and vice versa — so what really matters is that you get a sense of the experience, credentials and capability of the conveyancer or solicitor you want to employ to complete your sale or purchase.

Whether you use a solicitor or conveyancer, it’s reassuring to know that both are fully regulated and insured to complete your conveyancing

How much are the legal fees for buying a house?

For properties up to £1m, you can expect to pay between £1,000 and £3,000 on solicitors' fees, depending on the geographical region, and the scale and complexity of the transaction. The costs can increase quite a bit for higher-value properties.

Some solicitors will charge a fixed fee, or have fee arrangements like a ‘no sale/purchase, no fee’ agreement, and in complicated transactions, some may charge a percentage of the property value.

The overall fees include the third party costs associated with property transactions, known as ‘disbursements’. The most notable disbursements will be bank charges, property searches, Stamp Duty and Land Registry charges.

What does a conveyancer do?

So, what do you get for all your hard-earned cash? Here’s a breakdown of some of the main services your solicitor or conveyancer provides:

  • Searches — Your solicitor will carry out checks with the Local Authority and other parties to see if there are any building control or environmental issues you should know about.
  • Enquiries - Your solicitor will raise all the necessary enquiries with the other party’s solicitor to ensure that all the information you need to legally transfer the property into your name is provided and so that you have all the information required in order to be able to sell the property on without issue in the future.
  • Bank transfers — In order to ensure funds reach the right accounts, the solicitor will carry out the transfer, which will incur a bank charge.
  • Fraud checks — Transferring money can be a risky business, but your solicitor will verify both your identity and the legitimacy of the other parties.
  • Stamp Duty — Properties bought for over £125,000 in England or Northern Ireland are subject to Stamp Duty; your solicitor can ensure you pay the correct amount.
  • Land Registry — Your solicitor registers the property with the Land Registry and obtains the new title deed for you: this is the document which shows the ownership of a property.

What searches are required when selling a house?

Your solicitor will undertake numerous searches which can help establish whether there is any good reason not to buy the property.

These include the Local Authority search, which will shed light on any issues to consider in relation to the property and the surrounding area, from planning and building permission to conservation area status and tree preservation orders.

Environmental searches can uncover evidence of any toxic substances in the ground beneath a property from past industrial use.

Your solicitor will also carry out a water authority search, which will locate the source of water for the property, and whether any public water infrastructure exists on the plot.

Land Registry searches help to verify the legal owner of the property and make sure there are no onerous provisions or restrictions on the property and use of the same.

You sometimes have to pay for additional searches if the property is located in an area of potential risk, such as near a landfill site, coal mine or river where flooding may occur.

There are even searches on ‘chancel repair liability’, which we can assure you, is even stranger than it sounds. If you’re living within the parish of a church built before 1536, you could be liable for the cost of church repairs, though this is admittedly rare.

As you can see, there are lots of potential surprises that can crop up when buying a house, so even if the cost of getting searches done isn’t too appealing, it’s far better to know in advance if there is any cause for concern rather than buying a home you’ll struggle to sell later.

How long does conveyancing take with no chain?

If you’re moving into a property as a chain-free buyer, conveyancing can take as little as 4 weeks. But it depends on the type of property you’re buying, as leasehold flats tend to take longer than freehold houses.

Also, searches can take longer where there is concern about the property or the land it sits on. It may be more realistic to factor in at least 6 to 10 weeks for the conveyancing process to run its course.

How to find a good solicitor

Perhaps the quickest way to find a solicitor is to use an online tool, such as The Law Society’s official database. This can help you find the nearest solicitors in your area, as well as details of their accreditations.

Your estate agent may also recommend a solicitor or conveyancer. One school of thought is to warn you against this, as the estate agent often gets paid an introduction fee for the referral.

However, good estate agents care about their reputation, and you’ll have the convenience of not spending extra hours doing research - they have already been vetted and service standards agreed prior to your estate agent making any referral to you.

Even so, it’s a smart idea to get a range of quotes so you’re not paying over the odds.

When it comes to some things in life, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Sure, buying and selling a home isn’t the cheapest thing you’ll ever do, but getting the professionals on board can save you time and energy in the long-run.

Nested has a fantastic panel of fully accredited solicitors and conveyancers who are specialists in residential property law. If you’d like more information on our legal partners’ fees, just get in touch!

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Nested puts homeowners in control of their sale. Our agents provide you with smarter insights so you achieve the best price for your home on your timeframe. When you’ve found your new home, you have the power to move chain free, while we take care of your sale. Our buying agent will even negotiate up to 5% saving on your new home, so you get more home for your money.

If you’re interested in selling smarter, get in touch today. Nested.com - The modern way to move.