For anybody who needs to know how much their solicitor’s or conveyancer’s fees will be when buying a house, then they will need to appreciate a number of factors that dictate how much you will pay.
However, before doing so you should know that there is no legal obligation to hire a conveyancing solicitor but it’s always a good idea to do so to ensure that you are protected legally and that money is paid out safely and legally, particularly if you have a mortgage, to the house seller.
Also, the conveyancing process is complicated and needs to be managed correctly to avoid problems once you have moved in – for example, a boundary dispute with neighbours.
You should be aware that some mortgage lenders may offer a select list of conveyancers, and some offer the service as part of their mortgage deal, but you are free to choose your own and pay them.
Conveyancer will handle the legal paperwork
Your conveyancer will handle the legal paperwork involved in transferring ownership between you and the house seller and carry out searches that will highlight issues with your new home.
So, while there is no set amount for solicitors to charge, it is recommended that you research several firms and consider one with fixed fees.
It’s at this point we should highlight also that the quality of solicitors does vary so check their online reviews and it might be worth paying extra for one with glowing feedback.
To help, the conveyancing costs will rise slightly with the property’s value with costs ranging from £500 up to £1,500 – the average cost today is around £960. These prices will include VAT and you should always check that any price being quoted is VAT-inclusive.
Perhaps the best way of working out what a conveyancing solicitor will cost is to use a comparison service which is quick and easy.
Conveyancing solicitor’s responsibilities
A conveyancing solicitor’s responsibilities will include:
- The drawing up of contracts for you to buy a house in a legal and professional way
- They will deal with the Land Registry
- The solicitor will arrange the paying of Stamp Duty
The Stamp Duty must be paid from your own funds, that is to say you cannot use your mortgage agreement for this purpose. The amount you pay depends on how much the property costs with those costing between £125,001 and £250,000, then it’s a 2% charge. Up to £925,000 and it is 5%, while those costing between £925,001 and £1.5 million, the duty is 10%. Over this amount, Stamp Duty is 12%.
Secondly, it’s important that you choose a solicitor or conveyancer with experience of the house buying process rather than using a family solicitor, for example, who may not have lots of experience with the process.
There are also specialist conveyancing firms available to help you complete your house buying process successfully and most of these will operate on a set fee basis, but there are issues when using them, particularly with the cheaper firms since you may not deal with the same person more than once.
What else does a conveyancing solicitor do?
Along with the work already mentioned, the solicitor or conveyancer will carry out the searches necessary to check there are no planning issues such as new developments or roads being planned in the future that may affect you enjoying your new home.
These are known as conveyancing disbursements which are legal fees that will be charged to help cover the costs undertaken by the conveyancer in connection with your property purchase.
These disbursement fees are charged by third parties which the conveyancer will collect from you, so they can pay them. These disbursements include:
- Land Registry
Confirming that the person selling the property is the actual owner.
- Electronic ID verification
The conveyancer will need proof of your address, as well as ID documentation. These will be checked against national records to ensure the information is correct.
- Local authority searches
The most expensive element will be a local authority search to ensure the council do not have plans that will impact your property at some point in the future. The costs for these searches vary depending on the local authority’s fees.
- Environmental search
A check to ensure there’s no contaminated land near your new home.
- Water and drainage
These fees vary but will confirm your home is connected to mains water and drainage as well as surface water drainage.
- Telegraphic transfer fee
A bank charge to cover the cost of them transferring money that is being used to buy the property to the seller’s own solicitor.
- Land Registry charge
The fee depends on the property’s value and will be included in the solicitor’s quote. This will transfer the ownership of the property into your name.
- Property fraud check
The solicitor will also check that any money being sent to the seller’s ‘solicitor’ is a genuine business.
It’s these searches that also highlight any issues with rights-of-way and any clauses or issues with the environment that may have an impact on your enjoyment of your new home.
These costs are generally included in the solicitor’s fee, though you need to bear in mind that if they do find something that’s amiss or if it may take more time than they have estimated, then you could be facing additional fees of up to £300.
It also needs to be appreciated that the costs mentioned so far are for those buying a property freehold and if your new home is leasehold then you will be paying substantially more. These extra costs can be anything up to £1,000.
Buying a leasehold property
The legal situation around a freehold lease can be more complex and will need more time to check for legalities.
Essentially, when you are buying a leasehold property you are agreeing to lease the property from the freeholder – the lease will allow you to live in the property for a specified number of years.
Before agreeing on fees, the conveyancing solicitor should explain why they will be spending more time on leasehold contracts. These will include:
- Deed of Covenant
This deed is a legally binding agreement between the buyer and the management company or landlord and any issues, including the carrying out of repair work, will be determined.
- Lease length
The solicitor will also need to investigate the length of the lease and liaise with the managing agent or landlord to serve notice that you are taking over a lease.
- Service charges
The solicitor will also need to find out more information about the service charges or any management details.
Hiring a conveyancing solicitor
Another issue to consider after hiring a conveyancing solicitor is when you have a property sale fall through.
There are firms offering a ‘no-fee guarantee’ so you won’t have to pay the full conveyancer’s bill should this happen – though it’s always a good idea to have a clear explanation of what is covered and what is not by those firms offering this type of guarantee. It’s likely that if they have incurred costs, such as the disbursements, then you will be handed a bill.
Online conveyancing firms offer a much cheaper service and you should check carefully what their offer includes since it will usually differ from the service you may enjoy from a well-established high-street firm.
It may also be a good idea to opt for a conveyancing solicitor who is registered with a professional body so there is a code of conduct they must abide by and they will offer support throughout the house buying process.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the time it takes to complete the conveyancing work will vary depending on what is involved and it can appear to take a long time indeed.
Questions about hiring a conveyancing solicitor
If you have specific questions about hiring a conveyancing solicitor, then this information should help:
- What are the upfront costs of buying a home?
You will need a solicitor or conveyancer to complete the legal paperwork for buying your home. The fees are typically £500-£1,500 including VAT at 20%. They will also carry out searches, which will cost between £250 and £300 plus other fees (detailed above).
- Do you have to pay solicitor’s fees upfront when buying a house?
Not all firms will ask for the money upfront – but they may insist on a deposit which could be 10% of their conveyancing fee. Others will ask for money through the process, such as paying the disbursements and on completion.
- How much are estate agent fees for buying?
Thankfully – none! The seller will pay the estate agent’s fees.
- When do I pay solicitor’s fees when buying a house?
Usually on completion but some will have a fixed fee that is paid before work is started and others will be paid during the process.
Use a conveyancing service that will meet your needs
Essentially, for those who want to know ‘How much are solicitor’s fees when buying a house?’, then the answer is to shop around to get the best deal possible, but remember to use a conveyancing service that will meet your needs and has had good feedback from previous clients to ensure that deadlines are met and costs do not spiral out of control.
The Law Society offers some good advice on the conveyancing process.