Do I Need a Solicitor to Buy a House / Property? Guide 2024

Do I Need a Solicitor To Buy A House / Property?

When buying a residential property, a Buy to Let investment property, or a Commercial Property, we strongly recommend you use a qualified solicitor or a licensed conveyancer.

If you are purchasing a property through an estate agent, they usually have solicitors they work with. However, solicitors recommended by your estate agent may not be the most competitive in the marketplace.

If an estate agent is acting for you when the property is sold or bought, they will collate information like contact details, agreed purchase price and the conveyance that will act for you. This information will be sent to the relevant parties to begin the legal process.  

If you are a first time buyer, you may have used some government financial incentives. If so, you will need to let your conveyancer have the relevant information. 

If you are taking a mortgage, the lender will require the property to be insured and have the appropriate building insurance to cover the rebuild cost. Your mortgage broker may be able to find you a deal for the buildings insurance. There is no harm in asking if the lender or the mortgage broker offers any building insurance deals. 

The mortgage adviser may discuss whether you are taking out life insurance. God forbid should you die; the Life insurance may be sufficient to pay off the Building society or the mortgage company the money borrowed. 

Some mortgage providers also offer incentives to win your business, so don’t be afraid to ask the bank or your financial adviser. 

If you seek finance for the house or flat purchase, get the mortgage application and obtain a mortgage in principal before engaging a solicitor. 

Buying a house or a flat can be stressful for most people. To add to this is when you have a chain of people in the ones selling and buying. 

One of the common problems is when the sale price has been agreed upon later on before the exchange of contract, one of the parties wants to re-negotiate the property purchase price.

Before instructing a solicitor, you need to have the funds for the purchase in place. 

It is possible to do the conveyancing yourself when selling or buying a house/property. The legal and administrative work required to buy a house is, in some cases, not that complex, provided you have someone qualified to guide you.

However, if you are taking a mortgage to buy a property, the mortgage lender will not accept anybody doing the legal work unless they are:

  • Regulated by the SRA
  • Council for Licenced Conveyancers
  • A firm of lawyers that more than one partner
  • If you are taking a mortgage then you will need to check the conveyancing solicitor is on the panel of a law firm approved by the mortgage lender

In short, the answer is no, you don’t need a solicitor to buy a house to manage the conveyancing, but we recommend you use a qualified professional.

The more technically accurate answer is:

  • You are not legally required to use a lawyer when purchasing or selling property. In theory, you can do your conveyancing if you are a cash buyer. Still, in practice – if you are not qualified, it may lead to significant delays in buying a house. It can often result in a collapse in the chain.
  • Generally, two types of qualified professionals take care of the legalities regarding the transfer of property ownership, a Conveyance Solicitor or a Licensed Conveyor – so you have a choice you do not have to use a solicitor.

What will my solicitor do when buying a house/property?

“Conveyancing” is the legal term for transferring property ownership, whether you are buying or selling. This included freehold and extended leasehold properties.

The process required does depend on whether you are selling or purchasing a property. The process is slightly more involved if you are buying a property.

It is essential when buying a property your licensed conveyancer does all the necessary searches.

What is the process when selling a property?

When selling, the conveyancing process usually includes the following:

  • Receive instructions from the person selling the property
  • Obtain I.D. for the seller for money laundering and funds to commence the conveyancing process.
  • Your solicitor is required to create a legal pack.
  • Give legal advice if your lawyers think it is prudent to do so
  • Deal with any requisitions raised by the buyer’s solicitor
  • Draft the TR1 (Transfer Deed) for the buyer’s solicitors’ approval.
  • Exchange contracts upon receiving the deposit (usually 10%) and setting a date for completion. Completion is when your solicitor will receive the balance of the funds 90% and send the executed transfer deed to the buyer’s solicitor.
  • Transfer the funds for the sale of the property less the agreed legal costs.

What is the process when buying a property?

When buying, the conveyancing process usually includes the following:

  • Receive instructions from the person buying the property
  • Obtain I.D. for the person buying the house/property for money laundering and funds on account to commence the conveyancing process.
  • Your solicitor will request the legal pack from the seller’s solicitor.
  • Conduct searches to verify if the seller has the right to sell and local searches to see if there is nothing adverse registered against the property or any development that may affect the property you are buying.
  • Environmental search
  • Property searches
  • Bankruptcy searches
  • Give legal advice if your lawyers think it is prudent to do so, maybe on stamp duty (SDLT).
  • Deal with any requisitions raised by the seller’s solicitor
  • Approve draft TR1 (Transfer Deed) once received.
  • Exchange contracts upon sending the deposit money (usually 10%) and setting a date for completion. Completion is when your solicitor will send the balance of the funds 90% and receive an executed transfer deed from the buyer’s solicitor.
  • Transfer the funds to the seller for the sale of the property less the agreed legal costs for your lawyer
  • Pay stamp duty, also known as “stamp duty land tax”, obtain an SDLT online certificate from HMRC and prepare the application to register the property to the Buyers name at the H.M. land registry.

Environmental searches are essential, especially with climate change, as environmental issues can reveal nasty surprises.

Do I need a specialist Solicitor to purchase a Buy to Let rental property?

If you buy a vacant property, you do not need to engage an expert lawyer to deal with the property transaction. Instead, any legal services company that is regulated should be sufficient.

However, if the property you are buying is an investment property, you are taking on the existing tenant, then there are legal issues that need to be dealt with before the exchange of contract.

We advise you should instruct a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer who is well aware of the housing legislation.

When dealing with an investment property, many conveyancing firms fail to conduct the necessary checks and request important information and tenancy documents.

For example, it is crucial to obtain the date the tenant first took possession in writing. Suppose the tenant held a tenancy before the 28th of February 1997. Then it is vital to get the 1st initial written tenancy agreement and the section 20 notice (yes, section 20 notice, not a section 21).

If the seller cannot provide the initial tenancy agreement or a section 20 notice, then the tenancy will be, by default, an “Assured” tenancy. It is not capable of being an assured shorthold tenancy.

The property will be worth, on average, 33% less than the market rent.

How much will a Conveyancing Solicitor charge me for buying a house?

Many legal firms offer conveyancing services, and you can obtain a quote online too. The legal cost when buying a property can vary considerably and depends on the property’s value and the type of property. However, the cost can range from £900 – £2500.

There are always additional costs that are eluded to but not quantified. Therefore, you should obtain a cost for these additional costs before proceeding.

The price tends to vary widely due to the complexity of the purchase. For example, purchasing a leasehold property requires more paperwork than buying a freehold so that conveyancing fees can cost more.

You can use to obtain conveyancing quotes from expert SRA or CLC regulated Conveyancing Solicitors and Licensed Conveyancers.

How do I find a good solicitor to help me buy a house?

  • Good to ask for recommendations from friends.
  • Do a Google search for local solicitors that conduct conveyancing;
  • Ask a state agent; however, this option is usually expensive.

Regulation for Solicitors & Conveyancers

If you decide to use a Licensed Conveyancer, they must be a member of the Council for Licenced Conveyancers. If you decide to use a Solicitor, make sure they are members of the SRA.

solicitorThe British Landlords Association is a free national landlord association for residential & commercial landlords. Join us today for free!

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This post is for general use only and is not intended to offer legal, tax, or investment advice; it may be out of date, incorrect, or maybe a guest post. You are required to seek legal advice from a solicitor before acting on anything written hereinabove.

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