House Buying – What Solicitors Do When You Are Buying A House.

What is a Solicitors role when I am buying a house?

You instruct a solicitor to handle the legal process of buying your property. This includes reviewing the Contract documents that you will be required to sign and the information provided by the sellers solicitors, also known as the “Contract Pack”. This will include a copy of the title deeds for the property, property information forms that have been completed by the seller and other property documents that may available, for example guarantees.

Your solicitors will provide advice on the information provided  by the seller and will conduct property searches on your behalf. The standard property searches that are conducted are a Council Search, Water Search and Environment search. There are other searches available that may be applicable to your area or that you may wish to have carried out and your solicitor will advise you of this. these searches check that your property will be connected to essential services, highlight any development work happening nearby and check other matters relating to the property.

If you are obtaining a mortgage to fund your purchase, your solicitor will provide advice on your mortgage offer and will arrange for you to sign the mortgage deed. It is worth noting that when you are obtaining a mortgage, your solicitor will not only act for you in the purchase of the property but also the mortgage lender. Your solicitor will need to comply with any requirements by your mortgage company before your lender will allow your mortgage funds to be released.

It is usual for some enquiries to be raised from the information provided by your seller and from the result of your property searches. For example, this may to be to clarify the information provided and/or you may have some queries about the property yourself that your may wish  your solicitors to raise.

Once the investigations have been concluded, you will now be asked to sign the legal documentation which is the Contract of Sale, Transfer and is applicable Mortgage Deed. The documents can be sent to you for your signature or if you prefer an appointment can be made. Once the documents are signed and you are happy to proceed, you will discuss a moving day, also known as “completion day”.

Once a date has been agreed, your solicitor will request your authority to “exchange contracts” which is the formal step which makes the agreement between you and the seller legally binding and confirms the moving day. On the moving day, your solicitor will arrange to transfer the monies to the sellers solicitors and once the sellers solicitors have confirmed receipt of the same, you will be able to collect the keys for your new home. These are usually collected from the estate agent.

After completion, your solicitor will take steps to inform HMRC of your purchase and pay any stamp duty land tax that may be required and also to formally register you as the new owner of your property at the Land Registry.

Do I need to obtain property searches?

If you are obtaining a mortgage, your solicitor is acting for both you and your lender in the purchase. It is a standard requirement of mortgage lenders that property searches are obtained. The standard searches that should be obtained are a Council Search, Water Search and Environment Search.

Other searches may be required by your lender for example, a Coal Mining Search if you are buying a property in a coal mining area.

If you are a cash buyer, purchasing the property without the aid of a mortgage, it is entirely your decision whether you obtain the searches.  But it should be noted that when you are buying the property, the caveat is “buyer beware” and the onus is on the buyer to obtain as much information about the property before exchanging contracts. Unless, you know the area and the property well, we would recommend that a prudent buyer would  obtain the property searches. You should discuss this option with your solicitor before making a decision and if you decide to proceed without obtaining the property searches, you will be required to sign a disclaimer confirming your decision.

How long does it take?

Giving a timescale is difficult, as each purchase is different. However as a guide, your matter should complete in about 6-12 weeks from receipt of the contracts and initial information about the property from the sellers solicitors.

Do I get documents to say I own the house?

You will receive  a copy of the Title Information Document which is the main deed that confirms your ownership of the property. You may also  receive some documents that are applicable for the property that were provided in the contract pack. It is rare today that you will get a large bundle of old documents, unless the property is quite old.

Any documents that you do receive, should be kept in a safe place as you will be required to provide the documents to your prospective buyer if you were to sell the property.

What costs are involved?

The standard costs that you are required to pay are your solicitor fees and the disbursements. Disbursements are third party payments that your solicitor will make on your behalf; these are your property searches, stamp duty land tax and registration fees. For an instant, detailed quotation of all the costs associated with buying a house use our online quotation tool.

Should I use the “Free Legal” service with my Mortgage?

A number of mortgage lenders may offer this incentive to you as part of your mortgage product and you should consider this option carefully.

If you are minded to proceed with the “Free Legal” solicitor, you should bear in mind that it is likely the solicitor will not be local to you or the property that you are buying. Therefore, you will only be in contact with your solicitor via email and telephone. This may be suitable for some people but it does not work for everybody.

The “Free Legal” solicitor will likely have a large number of cases and it may be that they are not able to progress matters in a timely manner. This is an important consideration as your mortgage offer will have a deadline date before it will expire and then you will be reliant on whether your lender will agree to extend that deadline.

It is recommended that whilst considering this option, you should  consider the other mortgage products on offer to you  to see if they are more suitable  i.e. a cashback incentive. Depending on the offer available to you, you may find that a cashback incentive may cover some or all of the costs required by your solicitor. It is therefore recommend, that you do some research and obtain some quotations from different solicitors to determine the costs and consider the mortgage products available to your carefully.

What are the benefits of using a local firm?

If you are buying a property locally, a local firm as they will have the local knowledge and understand the possible quirks of the area, for example whether mining was carried out in the area or if shale is known to be present in the area.

Another benefit, is that  you can arrange an appointment to see the solicitor handling your purchase to discuss it in detail rather than just dealing with your matter by email and telephone.

At Clark Willis we have specialist property solicitors at both our Darlington and Catterick Garrison offices and have experience in Forces Help to Buy funding*. Whether you are a first time buyer, moving up the property ladder or are a landlord with a buy to let portfolio, our solicitor led service means that you can trust us to get you and your property transaction moving.

*Defence Discount Service Card holder discounts applicable.

No4 – Clear Pricing

“No4 – We Don’t Mask Our Prices”

Those have been following our series of monochrome images will understand that our fundamental aim is Clarity. This flows through delivering our technical legal expertise with clear advice at clear pricing, meaning we are the clear choice for personal legal services.

‘Clear Pricing’ means just that – You know what you will pay and when.

Work we undertake on a fixed fee basis, such as Will writing or Residential Property Sales & Purchases, is as the name suggests fixed. You know exactly what you will pay at the outset and additional costs won’t come out of the woodwork after you have signed up to use us.

Those matters that we operate under an hourly rate charge, such as private Divorce or Dispute Resolution (Court Litigation)  incorporate an accurate estimate at the outset based upon your circumstances and those costs are then regularly reviewed to ensure we can advise you of any change in circumstances.

Our regulatory body, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, include certain legal services that law firms must display prices for on their website to assist client to make an informed choice over who to use. Think Go Compare for Lawyers.

Whilst fundamentally this is a good thing for people searching for a solicitor, it makes no allowance for value, which is wholly different from price, but also allows room to list a base price or exclude certain items that may make that quote seem more competitive but leads to all those dreaded extras in the small print once you have decided to go ahead.

Take Residential Property Sales or Purchases (Conveyancing)  for example. Some firms provide online quotes, 24/7, like we do. You can see a price after putting in you details and make the decision to instruct that firm only to find that additional fees are then suddenly added for bank transfer fees, identity checks, because you are buying a leasehold property etc etc – and the list goes on.

At Clark Willis we believe in clarity of fees, being upfront and honest, and our online conveyancing quote is clear. It is fully inclusive of everything that you have told us and is the price you will pay unless anything on the property changes. We believe that clarity of our prices is part of our value – alongside great service and legal expertise of course!

If you are reading this and you are in the market for buying a new home then do get a quote from us online to see how competitive we are, but do remember that you can always contact us directly to speak to one of our property team.

The same applies across our entire service range. We are happy to speak to people directly about our prices and a number of our matters include initial complimentary  appointments in order that we can fully understand your needs before advising you of your options, with clear costs.

So whether you are moving home, wanting a new Will, thinking of Divorce or have any other legal need, get in touch with us to find out what the cost may be, but more importantly – what the value is.

Divorce Darlington

How to get Divorced – The Basics.

How do I actually get divorced?

You marriage has to have broken down ‘irretrievably’ meaning that there must be no prospect of reconciliation i.e. getting back together with your partner. You have to prove one of five facts on the application form and provide a statement in support of your application e.g. if relying on your partner’s unreasonable behaviour, you will have to list half a dozen examples which are timed/dated by way of illustration for the court. These are known as ‘particulars’.

How long will it take?

The process can take at least 6 months. There is an administration backlog currently within the courts (with the new centralised divorce units). Further, if you intend to sort a financial settlement this may prolong the finality of a divorce too as you ordinarily obtain a financial Court Order before you apply for to finalise your divorce. It is not unknown for a case to run for up to 2 years (if the finances are somewhat complex). The process may take longer if you or your partner are not resident in the UK or your marriage occurred overseas (out of/not in England and Wales).

What do we do about finances, the house and our debt?

You can agree arrangements between yourselves informally however this type of agreement would not be legally binding or enforceable by the Court. You can apply to the Court for a Consent Order where the Court will formally record your mutual agreement and can help protect each of you in the future. If matters are complex, protracted or disputed then Court proceedings can be issued to have the Court intervene to make the final decision.

To do either of the above, you and your partner will be required to provide full information regarding your current financial circumstances. This would mean current bank statements for each and every bank/building society account you have, interests in any properties or businesses, current pension provisions and liabilities such as loans, credit or store cards.  You will also be asked about your current outgoings and standard of living to determine your financial needs. This information will demonstrate what assets, income and liabilities there are available within the marriage/civil partnership for negotiation and settlement.

If we agree finances now, can my ex later come back for more?

Yes, unless you have obtained a ‘Clean Break’ Court Order. This is another good reason to have any financial arrangements formalised through the courts rather than informally agreeing matters between ourselves. Whilst things may be amicable at present this position may change in the future and one party may also have a significant change in circumstances, for example an inheritance or new relationships.

Who will the children live with?

Again, this can be mutually agreed between partners however, If this cannot be agreed amicably, parties can consider the assistance of a family mediator. As a last approach, an application may have to be made to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order to determine with who the child shall live and how much time is to be spent with the parent the child does not live with.

What happens if my partner won’t agree?

If your partner may refuses to sign and return the Acknowledgement of Service which is the document that they are sent by the Court following your application to the court, you will have to prove to the court that your partner has in fact received the papers but is just not co-operating. There are a number of ways of doing this, for example instructing a process server.

Your partner may indicate on the Acknowledgment of Service form that they do not agree with the reasons for the divorce that you have put on the application. Your partner has to state the grounds on which they disagree with your statement and they may wish to defend the divorce.

Your partner may also refuse to contribute towards the court fee of £550 for the application to be processed by the Court.

If your partner is hostile to the divorce they may also not provide all the relevant financial information documentation to enable each party’s financial circumstances to be determined and a fair financial settlement reached.  Financial proceedings therefore may need to be issued to run alongside your divorce.

All of the above may cause delay, additional legal fee costs and stress.

What next?

What is certain with every divorce is that each couple, their relationship and their attitudes to separation are unique and that whilst there is plenty of material to read and advice flowing on the internet, it is always beneficial to speak to a specialist legal adviser. There really is no substitute to a confidential discussion with a solicitor as to your own circumstances and what divorce may mean to you as a divorce is a very personal experience.

Our trusted Family law team have a wealth of experience in divorce, financial and childcare matters, include members of the specialist Resolution group ( and also include trained mediators meaning that you can have peace of mind that your separation is in safe hands. Contact your local Clark Willis office at either Darlington or Catterick Garrison to make further enquires and see how we can help.