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.