How a solicitor helps with a mortgage and if you need one

Your solicitor is one of the most important individuals when it comes to a smooth house sale and purchase.

Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.
As part of the terms of your mortgage, your lender will insist you instruct a solicitor.

If you’re a cash buyer, you could be tempted to deal with the legal side of the transaction yourself, but this is potentially very complicated and time-consuming. One mistake could cause the whole sale to fall through.

For this reason, it’s well worth splashing out on a solicitor who is an experienced conveyancer, whether you’re buying, selling or remortgaging with a new lender. While all solicitors are qualified in conveyancing, you can expect a smooth sale by hiring an expert.

What does a property solicitor do?

When you’re buying a property, your solicitor will complete the following tasks for you:

  • Conduct property searches. This is a series of checks to uncover potentially vital information about the property you’re buying. It includes local authority searches and Land Registry searches, as well as drainage and environmental searches. This will help you learn about the property’s proximity to new developments, railway lines and the local water supply, as well as factors such as ground stability and flood risk.
  • Review seller questionnaires. Your conveyancer will review the answers to the seller questionnaires and pass on any notable information. This could concern boundaries, fixtures and fittings, the EPC certificate or the home’s lease.
  • Draw up contracts. These contracts include a completion date and make the sale legally binding. Once these have been signed, your solicitor will lodge an interest with the Land Registry on your behalf.
  • Arrange money transfers. Your solicitor will receive funds from your mortgage lender and pass them on to the seller’s solicitor. They’ll also settle the accounts with your estate agent and mortgage provider.
  • Change the property deeds. Your solicitor will register the change of ownership with the Land Registry.
  • Pay stamp duty on your behalf. If you owe stamp duty, your solicitor will send this to HMRC on your behalf.

As you can see, it’s very important for the seller of a property to have a solicitor too. They will help the seller complete their questionnaires, answer the buyer’s questions on their behalf, as well as participating in the contract exchanges. If you’re selling and buying a house simultaneously, your conveyancer can do both.

How much does a property solicitor charge?

You can expect a conveyancer to charge anywhere between £500 and £1,500, depending on their experience and the cost of the houses in the transaction. You can expect to pay more if you are buying and selling a property simultaneously.

Your solicitor will also outline the fees needed to complete various legal transactions.

These include:

  • Property searches
  • Land Registry fee
  • Title deeds fee
  • Bank Transfer fees

You can expect to pay additional fees when utilising Help to Buy schemes or buying a leasehold property.

How to find a great property solicitor

  • Choose a “conveyancer”. This is a solicitor who specialises in property law.
  • Shop around for the best individual. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to go for an individual recommended by your estate agent or mortgage lender.
  • Consider “no sale, no fee” deals. These deals incentivise solicitors to get the job done quickly. If the sale falls through, you may not have to pay the full price, although you’re likely to have to fund any checks that have already been completed. Make sure to check a solicitor’s terms to find out.
  • Consider fixed fees. Without this, you could face nasty surprises further down the line.
  • Don’t cheap out. More experienced solicitors will charge more, but it’s usually worth it to ensure a smooth transaction.
  • Busy is not always better. If a solicitor is up to their eyeballs in customers, they might not have the time to give your case the attention it deserves. It’s good to give your solicitor your ideal exchange date and ask if they can meet it.
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