Understanding how much you may need to pay in solicitor’s fees when buying a house is crucial to keeping your budget under control. If you’re buying or selling property, you will need a solicitor or conveyancer to do the legal work for you.
The average person doesn’t buy a house very often so understanding all the legal jargon in the process can be daunting. A solicitor or conveyancer is there to do the legal work for you – and explain what’s going on in plain English when buying a house.
Solicitor’s fees are one of the main costs of buying a house, alongside mortgage costs, stamp duty, surveys, valuations and removal costs. A good solicitor can make all the difference between a property transaction being completed quickly and smoothly and a property chain collapsing.
Sophia Guy-White at Generation Home says: ‘Your solicitor is there to check everything there is to check about the property you’re buying, and to ensure that the property can legally be transferred into your name. It’s crucial that you have gone through all the fine print to ensure there are no nasty surprises down the line and you’ll be able to sell the property in the future. Choosing your solicitor on cost alone may wind up being a false economy, so do your due diligence.’
Solicitor fees for buying a house
Our guide will break down solicitors’ fees for buying a house and the role a solicitor or conveyancer plays in the purchase of a home.
We’ve included a detailed list on what you can expect to pay for their expert services. We’ll also uncover any hidden costs and reveal how to choose the right expert for the job.
How much are solicitors’ fees for buying a house?
Costs vary from solicitor to solicitor but most charge either a percentage of the value of the property or a flat fee, which tends to work out at between £500 and £1,500.
Sam Mitchell, CEO of online estate agent Strike, says: ‘Solicitors’ fees are often one of the biggest expenses you run into when buying a home – they take care of the legal requirements when buying, and the contract, liaising with the seller, and helping guide you through the purchase. There is a lot of legalese and paperwork that you can run into, so a great solicitor is worth it.’
Once you have a good solicitor in place, you’re one step closer to planning your moving house checklist.
What do conveyancers and solicitors do?
A conveyancer essentially project manages the legal process, collating all the information necessary to create a contract pack for the seller and, when acting for the buyer, advises the buyer and their lender on the relevant legal points in the property title.
To do this the conveyancer undertakes various checks on the property – these include ‘searches’ with the local authority and water authority, any locality-dependent searches (for example, mining or flooding) and environmental reports. The conveyancer will check whether anything in the searches will affect the buyer’s enjoyment of their home – for example, is a motorway due to be built at the end of the garden?
Solicitors also undertake anti-money laundering checks to make sure their client is who they say they are, not on a sanctions list (for example, a Russian oligarch) and establish the source of their funds to make sure they have not been acquired illegally.
Once all the information is collected, your solicitor will prepare a report for you and run through any risks with you before buying. Once they are satisfied with the searches and have answered all queries, they will advise that you are ready to exchange contracts and the purchase becomes legally binding.
‘On completion the seller provides the transfer document signed to confirm they have sold the property to the buyer and the buyer’s conveyancer will use this to register their ownership and any mortgage which they have at the Land Registry,’ explains Beth Rudolf, director of delivery at the Conveyancing Association.
How long do conveyancing searches take?
Beth says that how long searches take is something of a postcode lottery.
‘On average the local searches take two weeks, but some local authorities take months; others are digitally-enabled and provide the search results within minutes,’ she says. ‘Environmental reports tend to be back within 48 hours. Searches are also done against the buyer to make sure they are not bankrupt and at the Land Registry to freeze the title and stop any other application being registered before the title is transferred to the buyer.’
What are conveyancing disbursements?
These are third party costs incurred by your solicitor which the buyer has to pay, and are separate to solicitor’s fees.
Sam explains: ‘Conveyancing disbursements are all the little charges that come up when buying a home – searches, Land Registry paperwork and so on. Individually they often don’t cost very much, but they can add up in a hurry – usually to a few hundred pounds or more. When budgeting, keep in mind the solicitor fees and the conveyancing disbursements on your particular property.”
Are there any additional fees that I have to pay?
There are several other costs you need to think about when buying a property.
Stamp duty is one of the major costs of buying a home. How much stamp duty you pay will depend on which stamp duty band your property price falls under. Your solicitor will tell you how much stamp duty you need to pay.
There may be extra conveyancing costs if you’re buying a leasehold property as opposed to freehold. You’ll also have to pay bank transfer fees when your mortgage lender transfers the mortgage money to your solicitor who pays it to the seller’s solicitor.
It’s a good idea to request a breakdown of solicitor fees for buying a house so you know exactly what amounts of money are going where.
When should I pay my solicitor?
Make sure you’re aware of how the solicitor you choose is going to bill you. All firms work slightly differently. Some might ask for small increments to cover costs throughout the process and some solicitors will work on a no completion, no fee, basis.
‘Money is collected at the beginning of the transaction to cover the cost of upfront disbursements for the buyer and the seller. Before exchange of contracts the buyer’s deposit will need to be cleared in their conveyancer’s account unless it is coming from the conveyancer acting on behalf of their own buyer on a related sale,’ explains Beth.
‘The balance of fees, disbursements and any other money due will need to be cleared in the conveyancer’s accounts two working days before completion so they can set up the transfer of monies the day before completion. This ensures there is no delay in the transfer of money on the day of completion and helps make sure the moving day is as smooth as possible.’
What are the solicitor fees for buying a house with cash?
Technically, you could save money on some conveyancing fees when buying a house with cash by omitting the searches usually required by a mortgage provider. This includes things such as affordability checks and valuations.
However, although optional, make sure you’re not leaving yourself in a vulnerable position. Mortgage lenders do checks and searches with good reason – to identify any potential issues with the property.
‘Arranging the transfer of mortgage funds is only a small part of what your solicitor does,’ says Sophia, ‘If anything, having a diligent solicitor is more important when buying with cash – they’ll run fraud checks and arrange bank transfers to ensure your money doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. You really don’t want your money landing in the wrong bank account!’
How do I choose the right solicitor?
Research is key in finding the right person to handle the legalities for your house purchase and recommendations are a good place to start.
‘Ask friends and family, and always look on Trustpilot. Make sure you are able to work with the actual solicitor they recommend and not just the firm,” says Sophia, “The two most important things to check are a solicitor’s responsiveness and what they’ll charge you. When reaching out for a quote, make sure you provide information about the property you’re buying and how you’re planning to buy it. Providing this information up front will enable your solicitor to estimate the time they’ll need to dedicate to your home purchase.”