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When Do I Pay Solicitor’s Fees When Buying a House?

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Written by Reviewed by Carol O'Leary

25th Jan 2023 (Last updated on 15th May 2024) 6 minute read

When buying a house, solicitors fees should be fully paid either on the exchange of contracts or on completion.

Most solicitors will request an upfront payment to cover the costs of the disbursements. Some solicitors work on a no-sale no fee guarantee, meaning that you only pay the legal fees when the house sale goes through. All conveyancing quotes should include a complete breakdown of all items that you might reasonably expect to pay during the conveyancing process.

Your solicitor will be on hand to provide legal advice throughout the process. In this guide, we’ll take you through when you must pay solicitor fees when buying a house.

  1. When Do I Pay Legal Fees?
  2. When Do I Pay Disbursements?
  3. When Do I Pay the Deposit?
  4. When Do I Pay Stamp Duty?
  5. What are Solicitor Fees for Buying With a Mortgage?
  6. What About Additional Fees?
  7. What Will Affect How Much I Pay For My Solicitor Fees?
  8. Do I Still Pay Solicitors Fees if Sale Falls Through?
  9. Finding a Conveyancer

When Do I Pay Legal Fees?

Solicitors usually request an initial deposit known as a payment on account. The remaining amount will be requested once the exchange of contracts has occurred. The fees cover the costs of your solicitor's time and other legal aspects related to the purchase. Some offer a fixed rate pricing structure while others work on an hourly rate.

The average cost of buying a house is £1,320 for freehold properties and £1,490 for leasehold properties. Some solicitors will provide quotes including VAT, while others may add VAT on top of the quoted fee. Therefore, make sure you check with your solicitor or conveyancer when receiving the quote.

Read more about How Much Are Conveyancing Fees in 2024?

When Do I Pay Disbursements?

Conveyancing disbursements are costs that your solicitor will pay to third parties on your behalf. This means that your solicitor will require the payments beforehand at the start of the conveyancing process.

A large portion of the main disbursements are the conveyancing searches. The average cost for property searches is between £250 and £450. These include the following:

  • Local Authority Search
  • Environmental Search
  • Water and Drainage Search

Your solicitor will also carry out other legal checks including bankruptcy searches and property fraud checks. They will also check whether any local plans affect the property or other planning issues.

Once the transaction is complete, they will pay the Land Registry fees on your before. At this point, they will receive the Title Deeds and send them to you.

Read more on What are Conveyancing Disbursements?

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When Do I Pay the Deposit?

The deposit is usually paid when you exchange contracts and is among the major costs. This is because the transaction becomes a legally binding agreement at this stage. Once you have exchanged contracts and paid the deposit, you’ll be able to arrange a completion date.

The deposit is usually paid once all the conveyancing searches have been completed. This means that all parties are satisfied with the most recent agreement and the buyer is happy to pay the deposit.

When Do I Pay Stamp Duty?

Stamp Duty is paid within 30 days of completion and is typically the biggest expense. If the Stamp Duty is not paid on time, you will face financial penalties. Stamp Duty Land Tax is often abbreviated to SDLT in England and Northern Ireland. It is known as Land Transaction Tax in Wales and the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax in Scotland.

The amount of Stamp Duty you owe depends on the value of the property. In England and Northern Ireland, Stamp Duty is not paid on properties worth up to £250,000. Buyers pay 0% for properties up to £225,000 in Wales and £175,000 in Scotland.

If you are a first-time buyer, you will pay 0% Stamp Duty on property purchases worth up to £425,000.

Find out how much Stamp Duty you owe using our Stamp Duty Calculator

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What are Solicitor Fees for Buying With a Mortgage?

The average solicitor fees for buying a house with a mortgage is £2,239. This figure includes a £220 average mortgage property supplement fee. This arrangement fee covers the extra paperwork your solicitor will have to fill out. Always consult with a mortgage adviser before proceeding. They will be able to inform you of any additional mortgage handling fees.

Your mortgage provider is also likely to charge you a valuation fee. They will also carry out affordability checks to ensure that you can make your monthly repayments.

Read more about Moving House With a Mortgage

What About Additional Fees?

Always ask for a breakdown of your fees, including the upfront costs. This means you can keep an eye on any hidden costs that you may have to account for further down the line. If your solicitor does not include VAT in their initial quote, make sure that you ask them for a full quote.

Some solicitors may try to charge you for any photocopies. However, this should be free of charge, so you must challenge this.

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What Will Affect How Much I Pay For My Solicitor Fees?

Various factors affect how much you will pay in solicitor fees. The two major factors you must consider are the purchase price and the complexity of the transaction.

House Price

The first factor that will affect your solicitor fees is the property price. This is because the solicitor fees increase as the property price increases.

For example, a freehold property worth between £200,000 and £300,000 will cost around £1,320 in solicitor fees. On the other hand, a freehold property valued between £500,000 and £600,000 will cost around £1,750 in fees. In addition, there are many steps and costs involved with buying the freehold.

Property Chain

Another example of a complicated transaction is those who are part of a property chain. This means someone who is buying and selling at the same time. The conveyancing process will begin when you receive an offer on your current property.

However, if you are a first-time buyer or a buying a house outright with cash, you’ll find that there are fewer obstacles during the conveyancing process.

Complexity of Transaction

Cases such as leasehold properties, and council properties require more submitted documentation. This is also the case with government schemes such as Shared Ownership and Help to Buy. This can include checks for service charges and liaising with the managing agent. Therefore, this tends to add extra costs to your total fees. In addition, some leasehold properties will require lease extensions which will also add extra costs.

Solicitors will receive management details from the freeholder for those purchasing a leasehold property. They will inform you of additional fees such as ground rent costs.

Read more about Leasehold Solicitors

Do I Still Pay Solicitors Fees if Sale Falls Through?

This depends on your solicitor as some offer a no sale no fee guarantee. This means that you won’t be charged for any legal work until the contracts have been exchanged, and the sale is legally binding. However, bear in mind that these are more expensive if the sale does go through.

If your solicitor does not have this guarantee in place, you will have to pay fees for the time that they have spent on the transaction up to that point.

The further along you are in the process, the higher the fees you will have to pay back.

Regardless of whether your solicitor has a no sale no fee guarantee, you’ll most likely lose the money spent on any disbursements. This is because they are carried out by third parties.

Read more on Solicitors Fees When a Buyer or Seller Pulls Out

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Finding a Conveyancer

At Compare My Move, we can connect you with up to 6 conveyancers to save you up to 70% on your conveyancing costs. All our conveyancing partners have passed our strict verification process for your peace of mind. This means they are all regulated by either the SRA, CLC, LSS, LSNI or CILEx.

Need a Surveyor?

Once you've found a conveyancer, you soon might need the help of a RICS property surveyor. Simply fill in our integrated conveyancing and surveying comparison form to get connected today.

You can compare companies through our integrated conveyancing and surveying form by filling out a few extra steps. We will then connect you with local conveyancers and surveyors to save on the whole process.

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Carol O'Leary

Reviewed by Carol O'Leary

Director, Thursfields Solicitors

Carol O’Leary has over 20 years of experience in the conveyancing industry and is the new Director of Thursfields Solicitors.

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