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What are the solicitors fees for buying a house?

While buying a property or land is undeniably exciting, it can also be a considerable expense. As well as saving up for all the big things like a deposit or furnishings for all the rooms in your new home, you’ll have to consider several other significant costs. 

Whether you’re a cash buyer or you’re purchasing a property with a mortgage, one of the necessary fees you’ll need to factor into your finances are solicitor fees. A solicitor is a type of lawyer who’s qualified in certain legal practices. 

Property solicitors know the ins and outs of buying and selling homes. Securing one is a must if you’re getting on the property ladder. Solicitors understand how to handle different aspects of your sale, prepare official paperwork, and organise legal searches. 

What do solicitors do?

When it comes to property sales, solicitors will perform several tasks for you. The major one is conveyancing. This is a catch-all term for the legal aspects of transferring a house or flat from one owner to another. The entire process usually takes between 2 and 3 months, in which a variety of jobs will be completed.

As part of the conveyancing process, a solicitor will:

  • Carry out certain legal checks

  • Handle contracts 

  • Give legal advice 

  • Deal with the transfer of money for your new property

You could also choose to hire a conveyancer rather than a solicitor. While they’ll be able to carry out most of your conveyancing, conveyancers are not qualified in all legal aspects of house sales and purchases.

Other tasks that solicitors will oversee and organise for you include:

1. Searches

Cost: £200 or more

These are carried out by your solicitor with help from a local authority. They assess whether there are any underlying issues with the property you’re purchasing. 

This could be something simple, such as a planning application within your new home’s vicinity, which might affect your view or future property value. Searches can also flag up more severe issues such as flood risks if your house is built close to a body of water.

Searches are an essential aspect of the house buying process as they can identify problems that may cause you to pause or pull out of your sale. Compulsory searches include a local search of your property and anything within its boundaries, environmental search, water, and drainage searches.

Depending on where your property is located, your solicitor may also recommend carrying out additional searches. These might include a coal mining search to see if you might be impacted by past, present, or future mines.

2. Stamp Duty

Cost: 0% to 15% of the property value

Stamp Duty is a type of tax you’ll need to pay to the government if you’re buying residential property or land. How much you’ll pay will depend on the value of your new home, and you might even be lucky enough to benefit from stamp duty relief.

When it comes to your solicitor, they’ll be responsible for paying the stamp duty to HMRC when you complete on your property sale. They’ll tell you how much the stamp duty will be so you can send them the total.

Note that stamp duty is different depending on what country within the UK you’re buying property in. Suppose you’re buying in Scotland or Wales. Here, it’s referred to as Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and Land Transaction Tax, respectively. 

3. Land Registry fee

Cost: £200 to £500

The Land Registry is a government department that records the details of ownership of almost every property or piece of land across the UK.

After you’ve purchased a property and completed all the necessary paperwork, you’ll need to register your ownership of it with the Land Registry. This usually costs between £200 and £500 (the fee is more if your house is worth more) and is done on your behalf by your solicitor.

4. Disbursements

As well as all the significant fees listed above, you’ll need to bear in mind any disbursements. A disbursement is a payment paid by your solicitor to a third party, like the Land Registry, which they’ll then claim back from you.

Other minor disbursements you’ll need to think about include simple things such as courier costs if they need to post any contracts or paperwork.

What about surveys?

Surveys are an optional part of the house buying process, and they’re not included in your conveyancing fees. You’ll usually organise these yourself or with your mortgage lender rather than your solicitor.

While not compulsory, extra surveys on your future home may be necessary to find out a little more about its structural condition. They’re a good idea if you’re buying an older property or a bit of a fixer-upper.

The three significant surveys you might want to consider having are:

1. Condition report

Cost: £250 or more

This is an excellent survey to have done, regardless of your property’s age. It’s the most basic and cheapest option and looks at a property’s condition. It might flag up any obvious legal risks or significant issues within the building which need immediate attention.

2. Homebuyer report

Cost: £400 or more

Slightly more in-depth, a home buyer’s report will flag up any significant structural issues within a property. This includes things like damp problems. It’s somewhat more expensive than a condition report, with the average cost beginning at about £400. It’s well-worth paying, though, as it could highlight a problem that might cause you to pull out of your purchase or even renegotiate the price to cover any repair costs.

3. Building survey

Cost: £600 or more

If you’re buying an older home or an extensive property, a complete building survey is worthwhile. This will assess every aspect and identify any repairs or maintenance that might need doing. A building survey uses a rating system to help highlight the most serious issues within a property. As they’re very in-depth and often require expert knowledge, they can cost upwards of £600. 

You’ll discover more about other fees – from valuation fees to mortgage booking fees – that you might need to pay in our handy how to buy a house guide

How do I find a solicitor?

There are many different routes you can take to find a suitable solicitor. The first is simply word of mouth from friends or family who have recently bought or sold a house. You could also ask your lender or mortgage broker for specific recommendations. Alternatively, you might want to have a chat with an Independent Financial Advisor who’ll have a list of certified solicitors who might suit your needs. If you already have a financial advisor, you could ask them instead.

Remember, a legitimate solicitor should be a member of the Law Society of England and Wales or the Law Society of Scotland if you’re buying in Scotland. What’s more, they should be accredited with the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.

Solicitor fees for buying a house

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or you’ve bought and sold homes for years, a solicitor is something you’ll definitely want to get. They’ll have expert knowledge about certain aspects of the house buying process and will be able to make sure it goes off as smoothly as possible. 

How much you’ll pay for their services will vary depending on what you need them to do. In fact, some mortgage lenders will cover the cost of solicitor fees for you.

If you go through your own solicitor, you can expect the average price for their services to be between £500 and £1500, including 20% VAT.

There are a few different ways in which a solicitor will charge you. These includes:

  • By the hour

  • As a fixed fee 

  • As a percentage of your property’s total value

It’s a good idea to compare a few different solicitors before you pick one. This can help assess their abilities and see if they’ll actually be available when you need them to be. Remember, there are lots of things that can slow down a house sale. Having a reliable solicitor on hand can make all the difference. 

Solicitor fees for house sales in Scotland

If you’re buying a property in Scotland, the solicitor’s jobs and fees may look slightly different. For starters, your chosen solicitor will be responsible for making an offer on a property and negotiating a price on your behalf.

One fee you won’t need to pay for in Scotland is a home buyer’s report. It’s a requirement for the seller to have had one done before they market their home. This should include a valuation of the property and details about its energy efficiency. You may still want to go ahead with a more detailed survey which will incur an extra fee.

Conveyancing fees in Scotland tend to cost between £400 and £1500, regardless of whether you’re buying or selling a property.

When do I pay solicitors fees when buying a house?

When it comes to solicitor fees, these are something you’ll have to pay straight away. They can’t be paid in instalments, like as an add-on to your mortgage payments. 

Usually, you’ll pay your solicitor fees once you’ve reached the completion stage of buying your new house. However, some conveyancing fees may need to be paid beforehand. Here’s a rough guide to what costs you’ll need to pay to your solicitor and when:

  • Stamp duty – paid via your solicitor to the government; this usually happens on completion

  • Conveyancing fees – paid directly to your solicitor for their legal services; this will happen throughout your house buying process. You’ll typically pay an upfront fee, to begin with, covering things like searches and ID checks before settling the remaining balance once you complete your sale

  • Land Registry – paid via your solicitor to the government; this is done after you complete your house purchase

When it comes to selling property, you’ll pay a small upfront fee for specific tasks. The remainder of your solicitor’s fee will then usually be taken out of the proceeds of your house sale. 

How much are solicitor fees for selling a house?

While the above fees we’ve discussed are focused on buying property, you’ll also find a solicitor is necessary for selling your home too.

Similarly, a solicitor will deal with all the legal aspects of the sale. They’ll charge for sale conveyancing, which includes transferring title deeds, putting together sales contracts, and handling various other paperwork. You’ll either be charged a flat rate or a percentage of your house sale.

If you’re selling your home and buying a new one in England or Wales, you’ll be able to use the same solicitor for both properties if you want to. Suppose you’re buying or selling one property in Scotland and another in England or Wales. In that case, you’ll need to go through a different solicitor for each one. 

Besides solicitor fees, you’ll need to factor in a range of other costs when buying or selling a home. One of the biggest is your mortgage fees. If you’re buying your very first home or thinking about remortgaging, why not check out our information-packed mortgage guides? You can compare mortgages from all the top UK lenders and work out how much you might be able to borrow using our mortgage calculator.

7 May 2021