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How to Choose a Solicitor When Buying a House

Questions to ask:

  • Have they been recommended?
  • Are they a member of the professional body?
  • Are they easily contactable and do they communicate well with you?
  • Are you happy with the price and what it includes?

Once you have agreed a sale, you will need a solicitor or a conveyancer to transfer the legal ownership of the property from the seller.

Solicitors are extremely important in keeping the buying and selling process on track, and on time. They handle the contracts, carry out local authority searches, deal with the Land Registry and transfer the funds when it is finally completion day.

Most estate agents are able to recommend local solicitors or conveyancers. It is also worth asking your family and friends who they have used in the past. A mortgage broker or financial adviser might also be able to recommend a firm.

A solicitor is a qualified lawyer and can offer full legal services, whereas a conveyancer specialises in property but can’t deal with complex legal issues. Many larger solicitors employ their own in-house conveyancers. In the same way that estate agents should always be part of NAEA Propertymark, solicitors must always be members of the Law Society and conveyancers must be members of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. This ensures that you can have confidence in their work.

The paperwork is complicated, and both the solicitor/conveyancer and house buyer/seller need to be prompt and diligent in completing it. A small delay by any party can have a significant knock-on effect further down the line.

Solicitors often work on multiple cases at the same time, and it can be frustrating when you can’t get hold of your solicitor because they are busy on a different case. A solicitor who communicates well, and gives you specific times when you are able to contact them, will make things less stressful. It’s also good to know whether your solicitor has holiday cover. If not, your house sale could be delayed by a couple of weeks.

Try to avoid a solicitor who charges an hourly rate, and make sure the final price includes all the necessary steps to complete the sale. Check whether it is a fixed price or whether it will vary according to the workload. The price should include the searches, the bank transfer, any stamp duty and Land Registry fees. It is a good idea to get full quotes from a couple of solicitors so you can make a direct comparison on price. Some websites offer a price comparison service but do make sure you are comparing like with like.

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