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Solicitor for Buying a House: First-time Buyers Guide

Martha Lott

Written by

27th Jul 2022 (Last updated on 29th Jul 2022) 5 minute read

There are many things to consider when buying a home, especially if it’s your first. You’ll have to factor in the legal side of buying a house as well as the important steps leading up to this point.

This article will explore why you need to use a solicitor for buying a house. It’ll also look at the costs, the process and schemes available to help first-time buyers.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Are you a First-time Buyer?
  2. What Schemes are Available when Buying a House?
  3. Mortgages when Buying a House
  4. What's Involved When Buying a Home?
  5. Do you Need a Solicitor to Buy a House?
  6. When Should you Find a Solicitor for Buying a House
  7. How Much does a Solicitor Charge when Buying a House
  8. Check your Conveyancer is on your Mortgage Lender’s Panel
  9. Should you use Solicitors Recommended by Estate Agents?
  10. How Long Does it Take to Buy a House with a Solicitor?

Are you a First-time Buyer?

A first-time buyer is someone who has never owned or part-owned a home before, whether that’s with cash or a mortgage. First-time buyers will need the help of a conveyancing solicitor or licensed conveyancer to help with the legal side of property transactions.

What Schemes are Available when Buying a House?

There are schemes available to help first-time buyers buy their first home. If you’re buying a house using a scheme, it’s even more important to use a solicitor to help you through the conveyancing process. They’ll be qualified to help if you’re buying a house with a scheme as this involves more steps.

Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme - The Equity Loan scheme will loan first-time buyers up to 20% of the market value of a new build home. The scheme is due to close to new applicants by the end of October 2022.

Shared Ownership - Shared Ownership gives you the opportunity to buy a share of between 25-75% of the home and pay rent on the rest. You’ll need to have a mortgage on the part that you own.

First Homes Scheme - The First Home Scheme allows first-time buyers to buy a home for 30% to 50% less than its market value.

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Mortgages when Buying a House

Most people, especially first-time buyers will need the help of a mortgage to buy a house. Using the help of a mortgage will allow you to pay monthly towards owning your house. The amount of mortgage you can borrow will depend on your income.

How much of a deposit will you need?

Banks typically require a deposit of 10% as a minimum, but you can put down more if you require. There are 95% mortgages available which means you’d only need a 5% deposit, but these are rare. The higher your deposit is, you’ll find you’ll have access to better mortgage deals.

What's Involved When Buying a Home?

There are a few steps to buying a house you should familiarise yourself with.

  • Your budget - Work out what you can realistically afford and how much you can borrow for a mortgage. This will help you narrow down your search for a property based on your location and budget.
  • Estate agents and properties - Search online and in your high street estate agent for properties within your budget and location. Your estate agent will also be able to help you find ideal properties to view.
  • Finding a solicitor - You’ll need to use a solicitor to transfer ownership. Research local solicitors prior to making an offer on a house. This will give them a heads up to begin preparing your case soon.
  • Making an offer and hiring surveyors - Once you’ve done the above, you can make an offer. After your offer is accepted, you’ll have to hire a property surveyor to check the property is safe to buy.

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Do you Need a Solicitor to Buy a House?

You don’t legally need a solicitor to buy a house, but as a first-time buyer and even seasoned buyer, it’s highly recommended.

When Should you Find a Solicitor for Buying a House

You should research solicitors when you’re in the property viewing stage. It’s wise to let them know you’ll be needing them soon. Once your offer has been accepted, you can then instruct them to begin your conveyancing case.

How Much does a Solicitor Charge when Buying a House

A solicitor will charge you for their legal fee and the relevant conveyancing disbursements on top. Their legal fee will depend on the value of the property, whether you’re buying freehold or leasehold and the complexity of the sale. Below are the average solicitor fees for buying a house.

Property ValueFreehold Solicitor FeesLeasehold Solicitor Fees

Up to £100,000

£1,090

£1,270

£100,001 to £200,000

£1,190

£1,370

£200,001 to £300,000

£1,320

£1,490

£300,001 to £400,000

£1,390

£1,560

£400,001 to £500,000

£1,490

£1,650

£500,001 to £600,000

£1,750

£1,860

£600,001 to £700,000

£1,800

£1,960

Average taken from the fees page of 46 Conveyancers from across the UK. 20% VAT is included.

Hidden costs to watch for:

There are certain costs that should be included in the legal fee. If your conveyancer has charged these separately, you should query it. Common hidden costs include:

  • Photocopying and postage charges - This should be included in your solicitor’s legal fee.
  • Professional indemnity contribution - This is a business expense and should fall under the solicitor’s legal fee.

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Check your Conveyancer is on your Mortgage Lender’s Panel

If you’re using a mortgage to buy your home, you’ll need to check with the lender that your solicitor is on their panel. It’s important to do this early on as not all solicitors are approved by all mortgage lenders. Failure to do so can result in a disrupted process.

Should you use Solicitors Recommended by Estate Agents?

You don’t have to use the solicitor recommended by your estate agent. If you do though, your estate agent will often receive a commission. This doesn’t mean that they’ll recommend a bad solicitor, but many people question their motive if a commission fee is involved.

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How Long Does it Take to Buy a House with a Solicitor?

The average conveyancing process takes 8-12 weeks. This is the time from the point the sale is agreed up until completion day. Every conveyancing case will vary and the total time it takes will depend on a few factors:

  • In a property chain
  • Buying a leasehold
  • Buying with Shared Ownership or Help to Buy
  • The speed of your solicitor
  • If your property survey flags issues
  • Awaiting reply from seller’s solicitor

To learn more, read how long does conveyancing take.

Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having written for Huffington Post and Film Criticism Journal, Martha now regularly researches and writes advice articles for everything moving house related.

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