Buying a home: how to find a solicitor

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In what is already one of the most stressful purchases we can make, a good solicitor or conveyancer will help make the process of buying a house a lot smoother.

A good representative will handle all the legal aspects of the sale and will keep you fully updated. They’ll make time for your questions and chase the other party if they are holding things up.

But with thousands of solicitors and conveyancers in the UK, both in person and online, how do you choose the right one for you? There are a number of factors to keep in mind when you start searching for your rep – licences, reputation and costs to name just a few.

So before you make your choice, read on for our expert tips to make sure you have all the knowledge you need to pick the best person to handle the biggest purchase you’ll ever make – your new home.

Do I need a solicitor to buy a house?

This is a question that goes through everyone’s mind when buying a property. It’s an expensive process and we’d all like to cut costs wherever possible, but a solicitor or conveyancer really is an essential part of the process.

Their expert advice and knowledge is invaluable. It’s a time-consuming and complicated process, but your legal rep will know what to do, in what order and how to access all the relevant documents and searches needed when buying a house.

They will:

  • Carry out identity checks
  • Get all the searches needed on the property you’re buying
  • Prepare contracts and all relevant documents
  • Transfer deeds and funds
  • Register the property in the buyer’s name

These are just a few of the main things included in a solicitor or conveyancer fees. To find out more about what is covered in the solicitor or conveyancer fees, see our guide – how much does it really costs to buy a house?

It’s important to note that you can’t use the same solicitor as the person selling their house as the solicitor can’t act for both buyer and seller.

What’s the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer?

A solicitor is a qualified lawyer with a wide knowledge of different aspects of the law while a conveyancer has less training but is a property specialist.

How much they charge depends on a number of factors such as the location and value of the property you are buying. However, you can expect to pay anything from £500 - £1,500 depending on the factors mentioned previously, the amount of work needed and the firm you choose.

If you’re in a chain, meaning you’re selling a home as well as buying one, you can expect to pay up to £2,500.

Generally, solicitors are more expensive than a conveyancer but make sure you shop around and get full written quotes so you can compare and find the right person for your sale.

How to find a solicitor – local vs online

You will need to instruct a legal representative once an offer has been agreed on the property.
If the ball is rolling with your mortgage, check with the lender if they have a panel of solicitors. Not all solicitors will be on there and if you choose one that’s not, it could slow down the process.

You should also be weary when an estate agent recommends a solicitor; they’re often partnered with companies that pay commission if they get hired and it can add hundreds onto your legal bill.

So, how do you find a good local solicitor? The Law Society website is a good place to start – you can search for a solicitor by location, so you can find a reputable representative near you. By choosing a legal rep from this site you can rest assured that the solicitor will meet the Law Society’s high standards and will be regulated and insured.

If you’d prefer to use a conveyancer, compare prices for those in your area on the HomeOwners Alliance Conveyancing website. You can also find licensed conveyancers in England and Wales on the conveyancer.org website.

While some people prefer to deal with their legal representative in person, many homebuyers are choosing an online service as they are often cheaper.

The online market is more competitive than local solicitors but they’re often far busier than your local solicitor will be. A heavier workload could mean a slower completion for your sale.

The pros? Every step of the purchase will be digitally recorded so you can keep a close eye on the process. You’ll only deal with them via phone or email, so no need to pop into their offices with your paperwork.

Whichever option you choose, here are 3 things to keep in mind when choosing your legal rep:

  • Look for companies offering ‘no sale, no fee’ incentives – this will help them get your sale through otherwise they don’t get paid
  • Check for ‘fixed fee’ services – that way you’ll have no nasty surprises on the bill; you pay the amount you were quoted at the start and no more
  • Speak to friends and family for recommendations

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