Buying a new home means going through a number of legal processes, so you’re going to need an expert to help you along the way. One term you’re likely to come across is conveyancing – this refers to all the legal and administrative work that’s needed to transfer a home from one owner to another. You have two options when choosing someone to deal with the legal aspects of buying your new home: a solicitor or a conveyancer.
The difference between a solicitor and conveyancer
There are some key differences between a conveyancer and solicitor. A solicitor is usually a lawyer with experience in different areas of law, meaning they’ve got the qualifications to provide various legal services. In order to be a solicitor, they must be a member of the Law Society. You can check their membership by visiting the Law Society website, where there’s a database of solicitors practising in England and Wales. You can also hire a conveyancer to help with buying your new home. They will specialise in property and must be a member of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.
Which one should I choose?
It’s up to you whether you decide to use a conveyancer or solicitor, but there are some factors you might need to think about.
A solicitor might be the better option if your property purchase is particularly difficult. For example, if buying your home means dealing with issues outside of property law – such as wills and estates – a solicitor should be able to offer help across the different areas.
If you use a conveyancer and come across these difficulties, it’s likely they will have to consult a solicitor anyway – and you’ll be charged for their time.
Cost might also be something to consider – a conveyancer will usually be more affordable than a solicitor.
Whether you choose a conveyancer or solicitor, they will need to see various documents while you are buying your home. Some people prefer to choose someone who is close to home, especially as the cost of posting these documents can soon start to mount up.
You will also need to meet your conveyancer or solicitor at some point, especially when it comes to signing the paperwork for your new home.
Finding a solicitor or conveyancer
You’re likely to be thinking about how much it will cost for your solicitor’s or conveyancer’s services. The best way to approach the situation is to get a few quotes and decide which one represents the best value. Make sure you compare all the quotes on a like-for-like basis; some firms will include VAT in their quotes, while others might not.
Personal recommendations from family and friends could also help you narrow down your options. Ask around to see if someone you know has had a good experience with a particular solicitor or conveyancer before getting in touch for a quote.
Some people prefer to use a small, family solicitors, while others opt for bigger firms. There are pros and cons to both – you might get a more personal service from a small firm, but if your key contact goes on holiday or is out of the office for another reason, it may mean your purchase is delayed.
You could find the service is more impersonal with larger firms, but at the same time, you’re perhaps more likely to get a continuous service. Always ask what protocols are in place, just in case your main contact should ever be unavailable.
No matter who you choose, they should be a member of a professional body. For solicitors, this means being a member of the Law Society of England and Wales – for both solicitors and conveyancers, the firm should be signed up to the Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme.
We work with a team of legal experts who have helped many people buy their new home with us. If you would like their details, speak to your Customer Experience Manager who will be happy to help.
What will my solicitor do?
Your solicitor or conveyancer will complete all the legal aspects of buying your new home. From the start of the process to the day you get your keys, they will make sure your property is legally yours.
Once you’ve appointed your solicitor or conveyancer, they will carry out searches on the home you want to buy and the surrounding areas. This is done as a precaution so there aren’t any problems you might not be aware of, such as an increased risk of flooding and plans to widen nearby roads.
They’ll also schedule a local land charges search. This will identify any costs that might be passed onto you once your new home is yours, such as tree preservation orders and funding conservation areas.
If you’re buying your home using a mortgage, your solicitor will check through your formal offer to make sure you fully understand what it involves. They’ll flag any potential issues so you can decide whether to accept the offer.
When the time comes for you to pay the deposit on your new home, you’ll need to transfer the money to your solicitor. They will then be responsible for making sure it gets to your mortgage lender.
Your solicitor or conveyancer will exchange contracts on your behalf – this is when your new home will legally become yours.
They will also send the title deeds for your new home to Land Registry. These will then be transferred into your name to show you are the legal owner of the property.
Your mortgage lender will also need a copy of your title deeds, which will be sent by your solicitor. They will keep a copy until you have paid off your mortgage.
Once the money to buy your home has cleared, it is your solicitor’s job to get in touch with the seller – or their legal representative – to let them know.
Your solicitor or conveyancer will pay any Stamp Duty you owe to HMRC. This needs to be done within 30 days of your new home becoming yours, otherwise you could face a fine. In most cases, your solicitor will ask for this money well in advance to avoid any unnecessary delays.
Once everything has been completed, you can expect to receive all the documents for your property, which can take around 20 days. You will also receive a final bill for the legal services you’ve received.