Buying a house is one of the most exciting steps many of us take in life; often, it is the culmination of years of planning, saving and dreaming. This is also, undeniably, a major undertaking in terms of finances, lifestyle and emotions. But let’s focus on the financial side of the process: there are a variety of expenses for which you must be prepared. The house is just one of them! What about solicitor fees for buying a house? What should you expect?
What Do Property Solicitors Do?
These professionals specialise in real property and understand the nuances and complexities of buying and selling homes. Strictly speaking, it is legally and technically possible to handle a purchase without a solicitor – but it is not recommended. And, it cannot be ignored that if you require a mortgage, your lender will most likely insist upon this. Why? Because it reduces their risk! But, it needs to be mentioned that it also greatly reduces your risk. An experienced solicitor helps protect your interests.
How do they do this? Conveyancing solicitors deliver a number of services – the most significant being conveyancing. This is an umbrella term that refers to the legal aspects of transferring a property from one owner to another. More specifically they:
- Completing various legal checks, including property searches
- Handle the development and exchange of contracts
- Provide legal advice throughout the process
- Carry out the transfer of ownership with the Land Registry
- Facilitate the transfer of funds for your new home
These can be exceeding complicated processes. For the layperson or average homebuyer, it can be very intimidating. A solicitor helps streamline the legal aspects of your purchase.
Solicitor Fees for Buying a House
Now let’s get to the meat of the matter. How much is this going to cost? We’ll break it down by key tasks that your solicitor performs on your behalf:
General Services: All and sundry. Typically, solicitor fees for buying a house range from £850 – £1500 + VAT at 20%. Some solicitors charge:
- By the hour
- As a fixed fee
- As a percentage of your property’s total value
Make sure you ask about their fee structure and how they will require payment. This is a critical question.
Searches: £200 or more
Searches are critical in the home buying process. They determine if there are any underlying and potentially serious issues with the property you hope to purchase. These could include: a planning application in your area, which could affect value, uncovering the flood risks and identifying issues with boundaries, water, drainage and environmental factors.
As a future homebuyer, you want to minimise surprises – especially those of the costly variety
Stamp Duty: 0% – 15% of property value
When you buy a home, you need to pay stamp duty. The amount depends on the value of your home (you may also be able to qualify for stamp duty relief). Your solicitor pays the stamp duty to HM Revenue & Customs when your sale is completed with funds that you transfer to them.
Land Registry Fee: £200 – £500 (depending on the value of your home)
The Land Registry records ownership of nearly every property in the UK. When you purchase your home, you will register with the Land registry. Your solicitor does this on your behalf – and it is a critical step. Not only does it record you as the rightful owner, but it can help protect you from property fraud.
These are fees paid to a third party by your solicitor. The land registry is one example. Disbursement costs also include expenses such as courier costs for paperwork and contracts.
Solicitor fees for buying a house do not include surveys. While ‘optional’ in the eyes of the law, your lender will require them as they provide invaluable information on the condition of the home. A condition report can cost £250 or more, a homebuyer report costs £400 or more and a building survey costs £600 or more.
Speak with your solicitor as to the right survey(s) for your needs.
Working with a Solicitor
Your lender will typically recommend a solicitor. You are under no obligation to work with that individual/firm. You are completely free to choose your own. As with any decision involved in buying a house, make sure to research your options and weigh the pros and cons. The ultimate goal – the only goal that matters to you – is making the best choice now and for your future.