If you’re ready to move, you may be wondering when to instruct a solicitor when buying a house and the conveyancing process.

Having a licensed conveyancer on board throughout the purchasing process couldn’t be more critical, but when would be the perfect time to contact a legal professional?

Read on to discover some expert advice. 

In this article you’ll find:

  • What does a conveyancing solicitor actually do?
  • Which types of conveyancing search will a solicitor carry out for purchasers? 
  • What is the buyer’s solicitor responsible for? 
  • Why appoint a conveyancing solicitor early? 
  • How much will it cost to hire a buyer’s solicitor?
  • How do I choose a solicitor?
  • What should I ask prospective conveyancers?
  • How do I progress with my property purchase?

What does a conveyancing solicitor actually do? 

Property purchases can be fraught with delays and difficulties because they are often complex.

Unfortunately, chains can collapse, and seller timescales can be unrealistic. They will work for you to ensure the conveyancing process runs smoothly, reducing the risk of it falling through.

Your mortgage company may also be able to recommend someone, or they could have someone in house offering this too.

There are many legal procedures and documents which have to be completed if you’re buying a home as a first-time buyer or not. If you need your transaction to progress swiftly, a trustworthy conveyancer needs to be on board to handle all the administrative and legal details. 

All conveyancing firms are different, offering different quality and speed of service.

That means you’ll need to do adequate research before making a final decision on your legal representative and instructing a solicitor.

It’s essential to start searching for one at an early stage of the process of buying and selling. The buyer’s solicitor is responsible for many essential parts of the purchasing process, so being confident in their abilities and experience couldn’t be more vital. This way – you’ll have everything ready to go.

What is the buyer’s solicitor responsible for? 

They will handle all of the following:

Checking the seller’s paperwork

  • Obtaining formal instructions from the client and verifying their identity.
  • Checking the terms and details of the contracts received from the legal representative for the seller.
  • Ensuring the contract details all match the expectations of the buyer regarding the transaction. 
  • Checking the contract bundle in which there will be not only a draft contract but also official Land Registry copies of the property’s title documents, the lease, the property information from the seller, fixtures forms, the management information pack, any building regulation paperwork and other documentation relevant to the purchase and sale will be included. 
  • Taking appropriate actions based on any findings from the contract bundle.
  • Checking the property’s boundaries as well as any restrictions and access. 

Carrying out searches

  • Checking the Local Authority’s planning department for preservation orders or future plans that affect the property. 
  • Carrying out checks of the environment surrounding the property for contamination.
  • Checking drainage and water connections.
  • Determining any church repair liability.
  • Executing searches specific to the location, for example, coal mining searches. 
  • Undertaking searches post-exchange to make sure the property has been cleared of all legal charges. 
  • Advising you of the results of the survey reports. 

Liaising with other parties to the sale and purchase

  • Raising questions and inquiries about any transaction element or property needs further clarification, such as requesting appropriate documentation for extension planning permissions or building regulations paperwork. 
  • Acting for the mortgage lender for the buyer to ensure all administrative and financial requirements have been fulfilled. 
  • Writing reports based on information received for the mortgage lender and buyer.
  • Managing money transfers. 
  • Negotiating dates for the exchange of contracts and completion.
  • Managing payment of stamp duty and all Land Registry fees. 
  • Registering the new purchaser with HM Land Registry
  • Carrying out any other work which is legally required under the transaction, for example drawing up a Declaration of Trust. 

Which types of conveyancing search will a solicitor carry out for purchasers? 

The Buyer’s solicitor performs two kinds of conveyancing search:

  1. Personal searches – all the necessary information can be found in the public domain.
  2. Official searches – these must be performed by the council.

Although personal searches are more common, your mortgage lender may require an official search in the case of certain properties to complete your property sale. 

Several types of searches may be carried out during a property sale, but not all are relevant to every property.

For example, mining searches are only relevant in mining or ex-mining areas. Below, you’ll find some searches which are likely to be required regardless of where your property is located:

A local authority search 

This investigates:

  • Whether adjoining footpaths and roads require upkeep.
  • Whether planned changes have been made for roads nearby.
  • Whether the property is on or near contaminated land.
  • Whether the property is in a conservation area.
  • Whether the property is subject to a tree preservation order.
  • Whether the property is subject to a compulsory purchase order.
  • Whether an enforcement notification has been served for a planning permission breach.
  • Whether any debts are linked to the property, for example, ongoing payments for Green Deal. 

A drainage & water search

This explains how your prospective property’s water and draining system functions and who has responsibility for its maintenance. 

Environmental searches 

These highlight the property’s previous uses, and if the land has been subject to contamination. 

Flood risk searches 

These assess whether the property could be at risk of flooding.

Chancel repair liability searches 

These establish if the property owner must make a contribution towards the local church’s upkeep.

Land Registry priority searches 

The land registry title looks into all the most recent documentation that is held about the property by HM Land Registry.

Bankruptcy searches 

These ascertain if someone has been declared as bankrupt. This could make it more challenging for them to borrow funds from mortgage lenders.

Why appoint a conveyancing solicitor early? 

If you’re purchasing a home, it’s a good idea to instruct your conveyancer as early as possible, and they can answer any queries you may have straight off the bat.

This allows your legal representative to tackle all of the anti-money laundering requirements such as verifying your identity straight away. 

Once the contract bundle has been received, it’s then possible for your appointed solicitor to start work instead of having to wait for those requirements to be met.

When it comes to finding an estate agent, you’ll be able to tell them you’ve already appointed a solicitor and this shows you’re committed to making the transaction.

Furthermore, it shows you’re eager for quick progression and would like a smooth move on the property sale. This could mean your offer will be more readily accepted by the sellers than somebody who hasn’t arranged legal representation in advance.

How much will it cost to hire a buyer’s solicitor?

When you’re ready to instruct someone, you need to be aware that, in terms of costs, there are two main conveyancing quotations:

  1. Legal fees – these are charged by your solicitor or conveyancer for the time spent doing work on your case.
  2. Disbursements – these are unavoidable 3rd party costs like stamp duty, fees for the Land Registry, and search fees. 

Conveyancers all have different payment arrangements: 

  • No move no fee guarantees, which means you don’t need to pay your legal fees should your purchase fall through before contracts are exchanged. 
  • Hourly fees.
  • A fixed fee arrangement.
  • Taking a percentage of the property’s value.

This means you must research charges before making a final decision.

How do I choose a solicitor?

When you’re buying a property, you should be sure your chosen legal representative has in-depth knowledge and expertise in the field and also make sure you’ll receive the best customer service.

Check out the Law Society website to find a reliable and trustworthy solicitor near you. It’s advisable to contact at least three different conveyancing firms to get quotes. 

What should I ask prospective conveyancers?

Here are some questions to ask before choosing someone to complete the sale:

Questions about costs

  • Do you work on a fixed fee basis? In many cases, solicitors will offer you a fee estimate from the start, but this figure could change depending on the complexity or time-consuming nature of your transaction. If you choose a firm which charges hourly rates, be aware that their fees can mount up rapidly.
  • Do you offer no move no fee guarantees? You must be aware of this, as this will ensure you don’t need to pay legal fees should your purchase fall through.
  • Have you included everything in your quote? Quite often, conveyancers will give quotes that miss out key costs like VAT, disbursements and bank transfer fees. Ensure you’re getting an all-inclusive quotation so you won’t get a nasty shock at the end of your purchase.

Questions about the conveyancing process

  • How busy are you right now? If your chosen solicitor is very busy, the slower they will be to respond to your queries.
  • Do you use the post or email more frequently? Some solicitors will prefer one over the other. Since email is much faster, it’s important to discover which communication method they prefer.
  • Will I have a direct line to my solicitor? If you can deal directly with your chosen legal representative, you’ll be able to save a lot of time and hassle.
  • Can meetings be conducted via Skype or Zoom? If you have a hectic schedule, you may be unable to meet with your legal representative physically. By using Skype or other similar technology such as Zoom, you can save time and effort. 
  • Are you happy to work in close conjunction with the estate agent? Not everyone is happy to work closely with estate agents. However, if you choose one that does, it’s likely your entire transaction will be smoother and less stressful – especially if buying and selling a property. 
  • Have you booked any holidays? If so, what cover will be put in place so your cases will still be dealt with? Although this seems an odd question, it’s a pertinent one. When some solicitors are away from the office, their work either slows down or stops altogether. Therefore, it’s wise to learn if somebody will be taking over their caseload when they’re on holiday.

Questions about experience

  • How much experience do you have of working on property transactions of this type? If your purchase is quite unusual – for example a leasehold property, houseboat, unique conversion or new development – it’s essential to learn whether your chosen individual will be sufficiently experienced in handling transactions of this type of property sale. 

How do I progress with my property purchase?

Having read the above, you’ll now have all the helpful advice you need to get started with the process of instructing your legal representative throughout your buying and selling process. Remember, it makes sense to begin the process as quickly as possible, so you have an advantage over other potential purchasers in today’s competitive property market. 

You don’t want to lose out on your dream home due to unnecessary delays, and you’ll want to secure the property sale! 

Now that you’re ready to choose and instruct a solicitor to help you through the process of buying and selling, you’re perfectly positioned to progress with your new purchase. Meanwhile, click here to learn more about other ways to improve your home finding experience via a step by step guide.

Mick Silver

Mick Silver

Mick Silver is the CEO and co-founder of Moovshack. With over 20 years in the property industry. After working with traditional estate agents, Mick decided to launch Moovshack; a fully interactive property app.