Buying a house is exciting, but it can be stressful too — especially if you’re a first-time buyer. From arranging a mortgage to getting a survey done, there’s a lot to think about and it can be difficult trying to work out what you need to do when.
Once you’ve made an offer and your mortgage has been approved, finding a conveyancing solicitor is probably next on your to-do list. But this isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Where do you start? And how do you know which ones are good? In this guide, we’ll advise on how you can find a solicitor for buying a house, explain the differences between a good and bad solicitor and give an indication of what your conveyancing fees might be.
How do you find a solicitor for buying a house?
If you’re looking to hire a conveyancing solicitor, an online search will usually be your first port of call, but the best way to find a solicitor is to ask for recommendations.
This is because anyone can say anything online — customer reviews and testimonials can’t always be trusted. However, a recommendation from someone you know who has experienced the solicitor’s services first-hand is more reliable.
Finding a solicitor based on recommendation
The best way to find the right conveyancing solicitor is by word of mouth. Speak to friends and family members who have bought houses in the past, and see if they can put you in touch with the solicitor or licensed conveyancer they dealt with.
If they don’t rate the solicitor they used — or you don’t know any homeowners — ask your mortgage broker or independent financial advisor, if you used one.
Alternatively, you could ask your mortgage provider or estate agent, but be warned that some estate agents will be cashing in on referral fees they get from their conveyancing partners. This means they could be recommending a conveyancing firm that charges over the odds for their legal services.
It’s also worth googling the name of a particular firm, to see what other people have to say about them.
Finding a solicitor online
The easiest way to find a solicitor is by doing some research on the internet.
If you decide to go down this route, though, there are some things to consider:
- Prices and levels of service will vary between companies, so be sure to shop around and compare conveyancing fees. Price comparison websites are an easy way to do this.
- Take note that online conveyancing solicitors usually only communicate via email and phone, rather than in person, and you might not be assigned an individual person to work on your case.
- As mentioned earlier, you can’t trust everything you read on a firm’s website. So, do your research on the company and read as many independent reviews as possible.
- Look out for firms that provide conveyancing services on a fixed fee and no completion, no fee basis. Property transactions don’t always complete, so you won’t waste money if the sale falls through.
- Be aware that the cheapest solicitors are often the busiest, meaning they can be harder to reach and take longer to respond.
Do I need a solicitor to buy a house?
While it is possible to carry out conveyancing yourself, it can be time-consuming and complex, so it’s highly recommended that you hire a licensed solicitor to act on your behalf.
There are several steps to the house-buying process, which is why it’s best to let the professionals handle it.
Does my solicitor need to be local?
It’s a common misconception that your conveyancing solicitor needs to be local to the area. But because everything can now be done remotely, this is no longer the case.
During a typical purchase, it’s not necessary to ever meet with your solicitor, so you don’t need to limit yourself to the firms in your area. This means you’ll have more chance of finding a solicitor that can provide you with the best service at a reasonable price.
In some cases, though — like if a property is to be divided or existing boundaries need to be altered — you may need a solicitor that can visit the property easily.
When should I hire a solicitor?
You should start looking for a solicitor as soon as possible.
In the past, buyers would have waited until the ball was rolling before instructing a solicitor, but now many people choose to do it even before they’ve found a property they want to buy. Plenty of firms now work on a no completion, no fee policy, which means you don’t have to worry about losing money if the sale falls through.
Hiring a solicitor early also means you’ll save time, as there’s a great deal of paperwork that needs to be done when buying a house. And buying a leasehold property takes even more time, as your solicitor will need to gather all the information from the freeholder and managing agent.
How much do solicitors charge to buy a house in the UK?
When searching for a solicitor online, you may come across quotes of as little as £125 — but usually, these come with hidden extras.
As with anything, prices vary drastically however, to give you an idea, a decent solicitor will have legal fees of somewhere between £600 and £2,000. This does depend on the cost of the property and the amount of legal work involved, though.
Before committing to a solicitor, it’s wise to ask them to confirm which services they include as standard and which ones you’ll have to pay extra for. Some of these are:
- Searches to find out information about the property
- Stamp duty
- Land registry
- Additional legal work
You’ll usually be charged a fixed fee for conveyancing services, but some solicitors charge an hourly rate or work out a fee based on a percentage of the property’s value.
What’s the difference between a good solicitor and a bad one?
Buying a house is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. So you’ll want to make sure you have a competent solicitor that will make the house-buying process run as quickly and smoothly as possible.
A good conveyancing solicitor will:
- Be efficient and accurate in their work
- Take a proactive role to push your house purchase through
- Respond to your questions quickly
- Reduce the likelihood of the deal falling through
- Make the conveyancing process as stress-free as possible
- Provide expert guidance and support
- Successfully negotiate with other parties
- Have professional indemnity insurance of at least £1 million
- Be registered with either The Law Society or the Council for Licensed Conveyancers
- Be on your mortgage lender’s panel of approved solicitors
A bad conveyancing solicitor will:
- Take longer than necessary to complete the work
- Ignore your phone calls and emails
- Lack common sense
- Be pedantic in an attempt to look clever
- Fail to alert you to potential problems
- Fail to thoroughly read documents
- Ultimately cost you more money
If you’re looking to hire a conveyancing solicitor, an online search will usually be your first port of call. However, the best way to find a solicitor is to ask for recommendations. This is because anyone can say anything online, but you can trust a recommendation from someone you know.
Buying a house is one of the most important decisions you will ever make, so make sure you have a competent solicitor that will make the house-buying process run as quickly and smoothly as possible.