As soon as you place an offer on a property, your estate agent will ask for your solicitor's details to pass onto the seller's solicitor. It's therefore wise to establish contact with a solicitor before you start looking for a property to avoid having to make this important decision in a rush. The legal process of buying and selling a property is called conveyancing. (Your solicitor must be qualified in conveyancing as it's a specialist area of law.) All solicitors practising law in England and Wales must also be registered with the Law Society. There are separate societies for Northern Ireland and Scotland. A solicitor's job is to take care of all legal aspects of moving house, which include:
A check carried out by the solicitor of Local Authority plans, to see if there are any developments taking place in the area which could effect the future value or saleability of the property.
Local Land Charges are outstanding charges that local or central government can demand from successive owners or occupiers of property or land, or restrictions on the use of property or land. These include charges for services such as roads, or restrictions like Smoke Control or Tree Preservation Orders.
The Land Registry holds all the ownership records of all registered land and property. Also it holds information on any mortgages, charges, cautions and restrictions on all registered land and property.
A tax payable on the purchase price of a property.
One of the best means of finding a suitable solicitor is through a personal recommendation, so ask friends and family who have bought a property in the area or the estate agent or mortgage broker. Apart from the conveyancing work there is also the lender's legal work to be done. Your solicitor could act for the lender, which should save you money. The principal task is to draw up a mortgage deed, which sets out the conditions of your loan. The lender will hold this and the title deeds of your property until the loan is paid in full.
Fees for conveyancing work vary, so it's a good idea to obtain at least three quotes from different companies. Make sure that you know what costs the quote includes. You will usually be charged for the solicitor's time, phone calls, letters and faxes and their indemnity fee. They may state that if any unforeseen problems arise these will be dealt with through an extra charge. For a property costing £100,000, you should expect to pay about £550 in solicitor's fees. However, the cost will also depend on whether your property is leasehold or freehold. Leasehold properties will cost more as they involve additional work checking the lease. Most solicitors will ask for payment of land registry and local authority search fees in advance. The balance will be due when you've completed on your home. Don't be tempted to opt for solicitors that are offering a 'cheap deal'. This could mean that they are dealing with many clients, which will more often than not result in a slow service. Once you've chosen a solicitor they will ask to see some form of identification, such as a passport or driving licence, and your mortgage lender's details. Most importantly, you will also need your chequebook.