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Property Solicitors & Home Purchase - Things You Should Know

When it comes to getting your home, you’ll need property solicitors to lend a hand. But, what do they do, and why do we need them? Well, MO’s got your answer…

So, being mortgage experts (not to blow our own trumpet) means we know a little bit about solicitors & the law. Okay, not so much about injury claims or family law, but a lot about property law. Because mortgages = property, which means we know our stuff.

As everyone knows, buying a property or a house can be stressful. So why not take steps to make it easier with a little help? This guide will show you what the role of property solicitors are, what tasks they will undertake on your behalf and ultimately, why they’re so important in the property buying process. 

Signing the contracts for a house and getting a mortgage are huge decisions. And while you might think you’re fit to star in the new series of Suits, some of us just quite simply aren’t the legal eagles we think we are. Cue the property solicitors.

Conveyancers can be an invaluable tool when looking to move into a new home for a number of reasons. Whether it be it be reading over any existing legal documents relating to the property, helping you to understand the legal jargon within these or liaising with other parties, they are that legal arm to reassure you and let inform you that you’re making the correct, informed decisions.

Why you need a property solicitor:

To put it simply, you need a property solicitor. As we’re sure you know, buying a property can be one of, or if not, THE biggest purchase of your life. So, it’s important to get it right. This can happen in a number of ways. In simple terms, they make sure you’re buying what you think you’re buying.

While this may all seem daunting, it isn’t something you should have to or will be, tackling on your own. Due to possible legal implications if they get things wrong, choosing the right property solicitor to instruct to act on your behalf is vital. They will analyse everything relating to the property from gas certificates to ensure they are in working order and sage, to reviewing land disputes with neighbours and checking disputes with the local council over parking facilities. Imagine that, it all catered for, amazing! 

Having said that, there are some things that you should be aware of. Let’s start with costs.

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Fees can often vary when trying to secure the services of a property solicitor. Therefore, we would recommend that you obtain quotes from a number of different solicitors (ideally four). Not only will this broaden your options, but you can also work out whether the price you are being quoted with is comparable with your other options.

It’s also important to understand what contributes to the quote. When you instruct property solicitors, you will not just be paying for their time and services, but also phone calls, letters, faxes and indemnity fees. Furthermore, they may also relay the possibility of any additional costs due to unforeseen circumstances. 

While it’s difficult to pinpoint how much you can pay for a property solicitor, we would expect that your legal fees should be 0.5% of the price of the property you wish to secure (not including searches), but this isn’t set in stone. Fees can be dependent on a number of other issues such as whether the property is a freehold or a leasehold.

It’s important not to rule out property solicitors just because of the price of their services. Carry out your research, check their client reviews. Although a solicitor may be tempting with a cheaper offering, they may have a high volume of clients that they deal, meaning that they will possibly be offering a slower service or not spending as much time reviewing your file. On the other side of the argument, just because a solicitor is charging a higher fee, you shouldn’t automatically assume that they will offer a higher quality service than the others. Review all your options fully before making an informed choice.

Leasehold properties will tend to incur higher solicitor costs due to the additional work needed, such as reviewing the lease, ground rent and any maintenance fees due. This would also include information from the landlord revolving around the terms and conditions of the contract, how long the lease should run for and distinguishing it from a license agreement. 

Making sure the operation runs smoothly:

Remember that after you’ve instructed your solicitor, they are working for you. This means that any legal duty that your situation provides, you should be able to ask them freely and openly about this. So, don’t be shy and ask away! This can be vital for ensuring that there is nothing else that your mortgage lender or the other party are desiring out of the agreement that you are not aware of.

While for the more reserved of you, this may seem like you are being pushy or even obsessive to an extent, don't think that this is the case. You may be working to hit a deadline and negotiation chains can often collapse if the buying process seems to run over or take too long. Therefore, while no one wants to come across like a pest, don’t feel shy about asking for updates or any information that would help to reduce your anxieties and ensure things are moving proactively.

Exchange of contracts and completion of the deal:

Once the required forms have been taken care of, property solicitors will request your deposit monies and forward to you your contracts for, yes finally, signing! You will then be given a preferred completion date (which you can accept or re-negotiate) which will usually take place within one month of the contract being exchanged. It is key to note that once your solicitor has exchanged contracts for you, you will be contractually obliged to make the purchase, meaning that if you pull out of the purchase now, you will have to pay 10% of the property’s value, regardless! So, take care! 

As the purchase comes to its conclusion, your solicitor will send you a statement confirming the outstanding balance you owe in fees. On the day of completion, your solicitor will receive the completion monies (loan amount requested) from the lender and forward to the vendor’s solicitor. Upon safe receipt with the vendor’s, you will be informed that you have officially completed and will able to collect the keys to your new home. This can take time to transfer due to the length of the housing chain so be patient. Good things come to those who wait!

Please keep in mind that we're not a law firm, which means we cannot give you legal advice on property law. For legal advice, it's best to contact a property solicitor to help you with buying and selling and legal jargon (like paying stamp duty) and contractual content you're not sure of. Pick your solicitors carefully, and make sure they have a good track record (no prior history of professional negligence).

Before buying your home and instructing a solicitor, make sure you’re getting the best, and most suited, mortgage deal for your needs. Mortgages Online compares thousands of mortgages to find the one that’s right for you. Simply enter your details and get a tailor-made quote – it’s simple, fast and secure.


Laura Waller

Laura Waller has been working in the mortgages industry since 2013, joining an independent brokerage in Essex. Laura has CeMAP 2 & 3 – Certificates in Mortgages Advice and Practice. Since then Laura oversees marketing for Mortgages Online, using her experience and expertise to write articles and blogs about mortgages and related topics.

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