Acquiring and selling a house is more work than most people anticipate. For instance, you will have to go through a legal process known as conveyancing when purchasing a home. Conveyancing is the legal transfer of a property from one person to another. It involves things like the exchange of contracts and end with the exchange of title from the seller to the buyer. A solicitor or conveyancer normally handles the legal process (conveyancing).
The Short answer on Do you need a solicitor to buy a house
In short, the answer is no, you don’t need a solicitor to buy a house, but you probably should use a qualified professional.
What is a solicitor?
A solicitor is a legal practitioner who takes care of the conveyancing process. The work of a solicitor is to prepare legal documentation, like contracts, represent and defend your interests when purchasing a home. There isn’t much of a difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer because they all do the same job. A conveyancer explicitly handles the legal processes of selling or buying a home. A solicitor holds a practising certificate and has a law degree and legal experience. Therefore, a solicitor is automatically qualified to work as a conveyancer. However, a solicitor can also conduct other legal works.
What is the role of a solicitor when buying a house?
A solicitor’s primary role is to make the process of buying property easier for you. This is because they understand the documents involved and the local laws. A licensed conveyancer or conveyance solicitor will take care of the following:
. Advising you on contract terms
. Preparing the necessary contracts and documents for the house purchase
. Looking into the contracts provided by the other party, which is the seller
. Taking care of the conveyancing or property searches. These are inquiries made on behalf of the buyer by the solicitor to get more information on the property.
. Contacting local authorities and other parties involved in the property purchase process
. Creating a report based on the results of the property searches and presenting it to the buyer
. Exchanging contracts with the seller
. Preparing documents related to the transfer of the property
. Looking into the mortgage documents and offering advice
. Notifying local authorities of the purchase, on behalf of the buyer
. Taking care of the registrations at the land registry
Note that the duties of a solicitor may change slightly depending on the country or state where the purchase is taking place. Regardless, the fundamental roles remain constant.
Is a solicitor necessary when buying a house?
While a solicitor will make the process easy and take care of all the elements mentioned above, it is not a must for you to hire one. Therefore, the answer is NO; you do not require a solicitor to acquire a house, however in order to manage the conveyancing process you should probably use a qualified professional.
In short, the answer is no, you don’t need a solicitor to buy a house, but you probably should use a qualified professional.
What other options do you have?
If you decide not to hire a solicitor, you have two other options. They are:
Using a licensed conveyancer
As mentioned earlier, a conveyancer is a legal practitioner who is only licensed to take care of the legal processes of selling or buying a house. This means that they cannot practice other legal roles, as is the case with a solicitor. They will help take care of all the responsibilities of a solicitor. Also, they are cheap and still get the job done. See solicitor’s fees for selling a house before you make up your mind.Get an Instant Quote >>
Do it yourself
There is also the option of doing it yourself, although it is not highly recommended.
When can you opt for DIY conveyancing?
You can choose this option if you are a cash purchaser or you do not need a financier (like a mortgage) to make the purchase. It will also be a good option if you are acquiring a tenure home with a listed title.
Before you decide to go down the route of DIY conveyancing you should note, as a private individual you will not have ‘negligence insurance’ whereas solicitors and licensed conveyancers will have.
This means that if you make a mistake performing your own conveyancing, you will be personally liable.
A guide to DIY conveyancing
If you decide to take the DIY conveyancing route instead of hiring a solicitor or conveyancer, you will need to understand the work involved in purchasing a property. Below is a breakdown of the work you would have to take care of in DIY conveyancing;
At the beginning of the purchase
Ensure that the seller’s agents pass your contact details to the conveyancing solicitors acting on their behalf. You would not need to do this in ordinary circumstances as all the conveyancing would be done by a legal professional (solicitor).
Make certain that the seller’s solicitor sends you a draft agreement for consent. This should include a copy of the seller’s registered title deed for the property and a property plan.
You will also need your seller’s solicitor to send you a copy of the property information form. The seller must complete the form, accompanied by a list of fittings, furnishings, and other things that will be part of the sale.
You will want to check the particulars of the seller’s contracts. While doing this, you must ensure that the contract details are satisfactory and do not contain any unreasonable conditions. Note that residential assets or home contracts usually include the Law Society’s Standard Conditions of Sale. Regardless, these conditions are not at all times set out in full. For this reason, you must read these conditions and understand them and how they control the legal compulsions of both the seller and buyer.
Additionally, it would be wise to check the property register office title. Note that these titles may either be simple or feature many pages. While checking the land registry title, you will need to make certain that the title belongs to the right home and that the design shows the exact property you are looking to purchase. During this process, you must also check to ensure that the people named as the registered proprietors are the same as the named sellers in the contracts. If this is not the case, you must find out why.
If there is something in the contracts that you do not apprehend, you will need to do some consultation work. Since you do not have legal representation, you may have to consult the correct legal textbooks. Do not expect your seller’s solicitor or the land records office to help you here.
Responding to the seller’s documents and information
After checking all the documents, contracts, and information you receive from your seller’s solicitor, you are likely to have some questions about the property and the contents of the papers. In this case, you will need to raise the concerns and ask the questions via email or letter. In case there are forms that you have not received, you can also ask for them. Note that all communications will be directed to the seller’s solicitor and not directly to the seller. You may also have to obtain some documents and have them sent over to the seller.
Conducting property searches
Afterwards, you may decide whether or not you want to conduct some searches. In the case you are a cash purchaser, you can opt not to bother with these searches. Regardless, you will then be stuck with anything you might have discovered if you conducted the searches.
You also still have to pay for all disbursements and Stamp Duty Land tax.
After the above tasks have been completed, you will also want to prepare your contracts and exchange contracts. This is among the most important parts of purchasing a property because it is when the contracts become binding, you become devoted to finalizing the purchase. You will have to visit the seller’s solicitor’s office to exchange the contracts in person. Alternatively, you could send them your replica of the agreement and a deposit and have them hold on to them until you agree to exchange over the phone.
After Exchanging contracts
The work does not end here. After the exchange of contracts:
You should receive a copy of the signed contract from the seller. Here, you will have to check to ensure that it is identical to your signed one. Make sure you check that the indicated completion date is correct.
From there, you will have to send a finalization data form. Alternatively, you can have the seller’s representatives send you replies to the typical forms
Ordinarily, the buyer’s solicitor has to formulate a draft land registry handover. Therefore, you may also have to do this. You can download the form from the Land Registry’s website at no cost, complete it and forward it to the seller’s legal firm for inspection and signing.
If the other party has a mortgage on the house, you will need to ensure that the required undertakings are immediately given to discharge the mortgage or financial obligations.
Here, you will need to search the Land Registry to ensure that there haven’t been any alterations made to the registered property title. Doing this will also ensure that the register is frozen so no further changes can be made to the title until you submit the transfer application. You can visit the Land Registry’s website for more details on how you do this.
You can organize the completion in person or do it via post. On the completion day, you will have to collaborate with your bank and organize to send the remainder of the buying money. Once the money is received, the seller should hand over the keys to the property, and you can move into your home.
Getting the keys to the house does not mark the end of the process. There are several other legal issues that you will need to handle after completion. For instance;
You should receive the signed transfer from the seller within a day or two.
Also, you need to receive validation that any standing mortgage on the property has been discharged
You must fill a return form for (SDLT) Stamp Duty Land tax
You have to send an application for registration to handover to the Land Registry
Ensure that you get back a print of the reviewed register, showing your title as the current owner of the property
Will DIY conveyancing help you save money?
Choosing to handle the conveyancing roles by yourself will help you save money as you will not have to pay solicitor fees or the VAT on them. Regardless, you will still have to cover the fees for any searches and stamp duty, depending on the cost of the house you want to buy.
You must also pay the land registry fee for transferring the title of the house into your name. Also, you may still need a professional building surveyor to survey the property.
It is also worth noting that if you are purchasing a home with a mortgage, the lender must appoint their solicitor to act on their behalf. More often than not, the financier will require you to cover the cost of hiring their solicitor. Therefore, you may still end up incurring some legal fees.
If you factor in all the elements mentioned above, you will end up saving little to nothing. Therefore, if you are choosing DIY conveyancing for the sole purpose of saving money, you may have to consider the facts above.
The risk of DIY conveyancing
Choosing not to hire a professional solicitor may be pretty risky. Below are some of these risks;
Note that if you decide to go the DIY route and anything goes wrong, you will not have anybody to blame but yourself. Regardless, if you hire a legal professional, you can count on their professional indemnity insurance against mistakes on their part.
Also, if you find yourself in a situation where you do not understand the legalities, like the contents of a contract, you will have to do the work yourself. You will have to look for law textbooks. Choosing to take care of the conveyancing roles by yourself means that you will not get any help, even from the seller’s solicitor.
It is also worth mentioning that some law firms are usually hesitant to work with purchasers acting for themselves. This will be an issue if the seller uses a solicitor or conveyancer and you do not. Regardless, there is no official rule that allows them to refuse to deal with you. The Law Society advises that the solicitors do not give you any advice during the process if you choose to do it yourself. Regardless, the Law Society also advises that the solicitors should not take biased advantage of your absence of legal familiarity.
The Law Society also has a Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) is a recognised quality standard for residential conveyancing practices.
Taking on the work of a solicitor by yourself is a lot of work. It can cause a lot of headaches, and you may make costly mistakes along the way. Therefore, while you can do without a solicitor, the best thing would be to hire one or choose a licensed conveyancer for your peace of mind.Get an Instant Quote >>