Housing & Property Solicitors in the UK

Are you buying or selling a property in the UK and wondering, “What are conveyancing solicitors, and why do I need one?”

man-signing-property-deed-UK

What is Conveyancing?

Conveyancing is basically a legal process which transfers ownership of property from seller to buyer. The process involves various stages, such as contract negotiations, property searches, an d transfer of ownership. The major advantage of this process is that it makes sure that the legal formalities are properly completed for both parties, i.e., buyer and seller.

What is a Conveyancing Solicitor?

Home conveyancing solicitors are legally qualified solicitors specialised as home property lawyers and who act on behalf of a buyer or seller to ease the transfer of property. A conveyance solicitor performs the following tasks;

  • Drafting and reviewing agreements: To ensure the terms of a contract are reasonable and not in breach of any laws.
  • Property searches: Checking for any potential problems, such as planning permission or environmental issues.
  • Drafting legal documents: Providing guidance to buyers, sellers, and mortgage lenders about their rights, duties, and any potential risks.
  • Money matters: Dealing with finances related to the transaction, accepting deposits and making sure that funds are transferred securely.

Conveyancing solicitors are unlike other legal experts in that they concentrate solely on law relating to property, and as such, they are highly specialised in this complex area of law.

The Conveyancing Process Explained

The conveyancing process involves a number of interrelated steps to ensure the safe and efficient transfer of legal ownership of a property. Here are the main stages involved:

Instructing a Solicitor

It all starts with engaging conveyancing solicitors to act on your behalf. They will take you through the entire process, help you understand the legal details and look out for your interests.

  • Buyers usually instruct their solicitor after their offer has been accepted.
  • Sellers should try to instruct before their property is put on the market to ensure the subsequent proceedings run more smoothly.

Property Preparation (Seller)

If you are selling your house, solicitors will need to make enquiries about the property you are selling. Usually, this will include copies of the title deeds and any existing energy performance certificate (EPC). It will also ask for any relevant planning applications, listed building consent or tree preservation orders, and lease information if the property is leasehold. You will also need to complete the Property Information Form (TA6) and Fittings and Contents Form (TA10).

Searches and Enquiries (Buyer)

Your solicitor will carry out a number of searches to see if there are any problems with the property. These may include:

  • Local Authority Searches: To check for planning restrictions, building regulations and road adoption.
  • Environmental Searches: To check for potential contamination or flooding.
  • Water and Drainage Searches: To ensure the property is connected to the main water and main drainage.
  • Chancel Repair Liability Search: To establish whether the property is liable for any church repairs.

They will also ask questions to the seller’s solicitor if there is anything they do not understand.

Contract Preparation and Review

Your seller’s solicitor will prepare a contract containing the terms of the sale. Your solicitor will then review the contract, negotiate if required and ensure your interests are safeguarded.

Mortgage Offer (Buyer)

If finance is required from a lender, the lender will provide a formal mortgage offer.

Your solicitor will check the offer’s terms and conditions.

Exchange of Contracts

A formal exchange of contracts takes place, making the sale and purchase legally binding. The buyer will usually pay a deposit.

Completion and Transfer of Ownership

At completion, the total purchase price is paid by the buyer to the seller. The ownership of the property now transfers to you. You will be supplied with the keys and can now occupy your new home!

Importance of Thorough Property Checks and Legal Documents

Document-checking

  • Protection: The property and legal documents protect you from unexpected complications. They can reveal boundary disputes, hidden structural defects or restrictive covenants, allowing you to renegotiate terms or pull out before the sale is completed.
  • Financial Security: Having all the legal documents in place protects your investment. You won’t run into any future issues regarding ownership rights or disputes.
  • Peace of Mind: You can enjoy your new property knowing that it’s safe and legally clear of any unexpected complications. Peace of mind goes a long way.

Choosing the Right Conveyancing Solicitor

It is important to ensure that you use a competent and trusted solicitor to ensure a successful property transaction. Here are the most important factors to consider when choosing conveyancing lawyers:

  • Experience: Specialise in conveyancing, successful in similar transactions.
  • Accreditation: CQS accreditation, Member of Law Society.
  • Client Reviews: Good feedback on communication, efficiency, and resolving problems.
  • Communication: Excellent and timely explanations and progress updates.
  • Fees: Transparent fee schedule and obtain quotes. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Costs Associated with Hiring a Property Solicitor

It’s good to know what your conveyancing might cost, so you can budget and ensure you have a stress-free transaction. Typical costs consist of:

Solicitor Fees

Legal Fees: The cost of the solicitor’s time and expertise in completing your transaction. This may be a fixed fee, hourly rate or a percentage of the property price.

Disbursements: The cost of third-party services which your solicitor will pay on your behalf, including:

  • Searches: Local search, environmental search, water and drainage search, etc.
  • Land Registry Fees: For registering the property in your name (i.e. changing ownership).
  • Bank Transfer Fees: For electronically transferring the money to the seller.
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT): A government tax charged on property purchases above a certain price (this applies in England and Northern Ireland).

There are other things you must keep in mind before hiring a conveyance solicitor. Some of these are highlighted here.

  • Mortgage Set-Up Fees: These are fees charged by the lender for the arrangement of your new mortgage.
  • Survey Fee: If you wish to have a professional evaluation of the current state of the property.
  • Removal Expenses: Assuming you are relocating to a new property, you may wish to consider the costs of engaging a removal company.

Tips for Best Price and Best Service:

  1. Obtain at Least Three Quotes: Different solicitors charge different rates for their services. Fees and services can vary, so always obtain quotes from at least three solicitors. Also, be sure to ask for a full breakdown of all the fees so you know what you’ll need to pay without fear of any hidden charges.
  2. Some Solicitors now offer Fixed Fees for certain services, so it’s worth asking if they offer this option.
  3. Negotiate: Even if you don’t think you’ll need to negotiate, it’s always possible to try and haggle on the price, especially if you’ve got a straight forward sale or purchase. You’d be surprised by what some solicitors are prepared to charge and what they are willing to drop their fees for the business. Remember, it’s always worth asking. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain – namely, a cheaper price for an equally good service.
  4. Don’t forget to ask about extra charges: Some properties, such as those that are leasehold or properties with complicated legal issues, can command extra solicitors’ fees. Be sure to ask if there are any additional costs involved.
  5. Check reviews: Inspect online reviews and testimonials to see what clients have said about the service and communication provided by the solicitor when you find a conveyancing solicitor.
  6. Get referrals: Friends, family, or even your estate agent may be able to give you a recommendation for a reliable solicitor to use.
  7. Value vs Cost: Consider the solicitor’s experience, expertise, and reputation alongside their fees. A slightly high fee may be justified if it means a smoother and more efficient transaction.
  8. Clear Communication: Ensure you understand the solicitor’s fee structure and billing process upfront to avoid misunderstandings.

Common Legal Issues in Property Transactions

There are many potential pitfalls in the legal advice on buying property and selling real estate. Here are some of the most common:

Legal Issue The Problem How a Solicitor Can Help
Boundary Disputes Disagreements over property boundaries leading to conflicts and legal battles. Review deeds, negotiate with neighbours, represent you in mediation/court.
Planning Permission Issues Unauthorised work or changes to property causing delays and financial burdens. Research planning history, advice on compliance, assist with retrospective permission applications, negotiate with authorities.
Title Defects Issues with ownership history or undisclosed rights affecting ownership rights. Conduct title searches, advise on implications and solutions, negotiate to rectify defects or secure title insurance.
Leasehold Properties Issues (If Applicable) Disputes with landlords, unclear lease terms, or unreasonable service charges for leasehold properties. Review lease agreements, negotiate with landlords, advice on extending lease or purchasing freehold.
Environmental Issues Contamination, flooding risks, or protected species affecting property value and use. Order environmental searches, advise on remediation or insurance.
Chain Complications Delays or problems in one transaction affecting others in a property chain. Proactively communicate with all parties, negotiate solutions to keep the chain moving.

 

Property Solicitors for First-Time Buyers

first-meeting-with-conveyance-solicitor

Making the first most important purchase in your life can be very exciting but also stressful. You probably have no idea what the legal process involves. A solicitor will take the jargon out of the legal documents, explain each step of the process and make sure you know your rights and obligations throughout. It’s easy to get carried away in the moment. A solicitor will offer you unbiased advice to help you make conclusions based on facts rather than emotions.

Mortgage solicitors will read the mortgage offer letter and check the terms are reasonable and fair. They’ll also highlight any potential risks and pitfalls. They’ll deal with your lender and communicate directly with them to ensure all the paperwork is correct and you meet the deadline.

Dealing with Estate Agents:

  • Negotiating Offers: Solicitors can negotiate on your behalf, potentially securing a better price or favourable terms.
  • Reviewing Contracts: They meticulously review sales contracts, ensuring they protect your interests and highlight any potential concerns.
  • Liaison and Communication: Solicitors act as a central point of contact, communicating with the estate agent, seller’s solicitor, and other parties involved.

Selling a Property: What You Need to Know

There’s more to selling your property than simply attracting a buyer. This is where your property solicitor is invaluable:

Major Legal Issues and Forms:

  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC): this is now a legal requirement and provides energy efficiency information. Your solicitor can arrange this for you.
  • Property Information Form (TA6): this is a standard questionnaire containing lots of detail about the property and has to be filled out correctly. Your solicitor will take you through it.
  • Title Deeds: these confirm ownership and any other rights or burdens affecting the property. Your solicitor will check these.
  • Fittings and Contents Form (TA10): this states what items are being sold with the property. Your solicitor can prepare this to prevent any misunderstandings.

With your own property solicitor in your corner, you can feel confident that you can steer your way through the legal maze of selling or purchasing a property, mitigating risk and achieving a successful outcome

FAQs about Conveyancing Solicitors in the UK

What does a solicitor for selling a house do?

A property attorney takes care of the legal side of purchasing or selling a property. This may include the actual drafting and review of contracts, carrying out property searches, advising on legal issues and dealing with finances.

Will a property solicitor sort out property disputes?

Yes. Property solicitors have expertise in handling all sorts of disputes such as boundary disputes, title disputes and leasehold issues. They can negotiate with the other party, appear in court on your behalf and ensure your legal rights are safeguarded.

How long does conveyancing take with a solicitor?

On average, conveyancing usually takes 8-12 weeks. Sometimes, it’s much quicker; sometimes, it can take longer depending on the type of transaction, any unexpected complications and how quickly everyone involved (i.e. mortgage lenders, other solicitors) works.

What legal documents are needed to sell a house?

The most common documents required are:

  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
  • Property Information Form (TA6)
  • Title deeds
  • Fittings and contents form (TA10)

How much help can you get from solicitors for buying a house?

A property solicitor helps the buyer by:

  • Clearly explaining the legal process and terminology
  • Completing searches to identify any problems with the property
  • Reviewing and negotiating the contract for sale
  • Dealing with the financial side of the transaction
  • Ensuring seamless transfer of ownership

What happens if you don’t use a property solicitor for property transactions?

There are plenty of pitfalls you could face if you don’t instruct a property solicitor, including:

  • Legal mistakes
  • You might miss critical issues like title defects, boundary disputes, etc.
  • Someone can take your financial advantage
  • Navigating legal complexities yourself can be time-consuming

 

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