Buying a property is one of the most exciting times of your life but also can be nerve-wracking. Once your offer is made and accepted, the rollercoaster journey begins. Physically, the property looks great or has potential, and you’ll want to put your mark on it as soon as possible. Moving house is a big financial investment; you need to get it right.
Behind the scenes, checks need to be made by your conveyancing solicitor that the legal title to the property you are acquiring is good, that it is an acceptable risk for your lender and that it offers you a good investment, so that when you ultimately sell your home there are no problems which may affect its value.
How can a solicitor for buying a property help?
This is where our conveyancing solicitors step in. Our job is to remove the stress from you to ensure your property purchase transaction proceeds quickly and smoothly every step of the way to achieve your goal of moving into your new home.
As a solicitor for house purchase, we will carry out our “due diligence”. We will check the legal title to the property, carry out various searches, raise enquiries of the seller’s property solicitor on any points which require clarification and liaise with your mortgage lender regarding your mortgage offer and their requirements.
We will build up a picture of the title and also practical issues such as who maintains which boundary, whether there are any restrictions which would prevent you extending your property or using it in the way you wish. Our searches will reveal if the property is in a flood risk area or built on contaminated land, that it has all the necessary planning and building regulations consents. All of which will ensure that as well as providing a home the property is a good investment for the future.
If you are a first-time buyer, you may be purchasing with the assistance of a Help to Buy ISA. If so, we will need to manage the time frames carefully to ensure you can withdraw your funds and claim the bonus in time for completion of your purchase. The process for withdrawing the bonus can take a couple of weeks. We will let you know when you need to close your account so that we can claim the bonus on your behalf. The Government will only permit you to use the bonus towards the balance of monies on completion and not towards the deposit on exchange of contracts. Please see below FAQs for more information on Help to Buy ISAs.
We will keep you informed as the matter progresses and provide you with formal written reports on the title, searches, enquiries and mortgage offer. You will have these for future reference if need be.
View our guide 10 steps to buying your home.
How long does it take to buy a property?
This is the ultimate “how long is a piece of string” question? Every property transaction is different with its own challenges. Some will proceed quickly where there is no chain, or others may take much longer due to complex title issues or many parties in the chain who all need to coordinate exchange of contracts and completion at the same time.
Our wealth of experience over many years enables us to assess how long a property purchase will take. On average we advise our clients that it will take approximately six to eight weeks from receipt of the contract papers to reach the exchange of contracts stage. We usually say completion takes place one to two weeks later to enable the mortgage funds to be obtained and the final pre-completion paperwork to be dealt with.
If you do have a particular timescale that must be met, e.g. a timeframe imposed by a developer on a new build transaction, we will seek to achieve that for you.
How much are our solicitor fees for buying a property?
Our fees cover all of the work required to complete the purchase of your home, including dealing with registration at the Land Registry and the payment of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) if the property is in England, or Land Transaction Tax (Land Tax) if the property you wish to buy is in Wales but excluding Disbursements.
Our fee assumes that:
- This is a standard transaction and that no unforeseen matters arise including for example (but not limited to) a defect in the title which requires remedying prior to completion or the preparation of additional documents ancillary to the main transaction. Supplemental fees will be charged when the transaction is not standard or when it is a leasehold property.
- If leasehold, that it is the transfer of an existing lease and is not the grant of a new lease.
- The transaction is concluded in a timely manner and no unforeseen complications arise.
- All parties to the transaction are co-operative and there is no unreasonable delay from third parties providing documentation.
- No indemnity policies are required. Additional disbursements may apply if indemnity policies are required.
Price is what you pay, value is what you get
We may charge additional fees/supplements for more complex transactions or where additional work is required such as (but not limited to):
- Deed of covenant under lease
- Deed of variation or rectification of lease
- Lease extension
- Declaration of Trust/Deed of trust
- Deed of easement
- Advice on company issues
- Advice on planning issues
- Arranging and advising on indemnity insurance
- Dealing with late completion
- Administering leasehold retentions
- Preparation of statutory declaration
We will let you know in advance what our additional fees will be for this additional work. The range of hourly fees for this extra work is £110 to £250 (plus VAT) depending upon the complexity of the task and the experience of the person dealing with your transaction.
Our conveyancing fees for buying a property
Please note, all fees outlined in the below table are subject to VAT.
|TRANSACTION VALUE||LESTER ALDRIDGE FEES FREEHOLD (STANDARD)|
|Under £500,000||£1,450 – £2,950|
|£500,001 – £1,000,000||£2,150 – £3,950|
|£1,000,001 – £3,000,000||£2,750 – £8,000|
|Over £3,000,001||Fees on application|
* Most flats are leasehold but they may come with a share of the freehold
- Search pack – local search, drainage search, environmental search and plans search (variable) £300 – £400 plus VAT
- If we are required to transfer monies by way of CHAPS or any other electronic payments, the expense for each transfer will be invoiced at £5.50 plus VAT.
- Land Registry registration fees (variable) based on property value £40 – £910 . For the Government HMLR calculator, click here
- Chancel repair indemnity policy £11.20 (incl. VAT)
- Online ID check £4.80 (incl. VAT)
- Stamp Duty Land Tax (variable) For the Government SLDT calculator click here
- Land Registry official search (OS1/OS2) £3.00 (plus VAT)
- Land Registry bankruptcy search (K16) £2.00 per name (plus VAT)
*Most purchase disbursements are mandatory
Additional Purchase Disbursements if Leasehold
- Landlords notice fee, deed of covenant fee and share transfer fee (variable) £50 – £150 (plus VAT) per item
To establish what the likely total cost will be you should add together:
Fees + Supplements + VAT + Disbursements = Total Cost
Our abortive costs are based on the amount of time spent on the file calculated at the individual fee earner’s hourly charge out rate. This will vary according to the experience and status of the fee earner concerned. Any Disbursements which have been incurred will also be charged if the matter goes abortive.
In some circumstances, other professionals such as estate agents and mortgage brokers will refer clients to us. We may pay them a referral fee for doing so. This fee is included within our fees quoted to you and at no additional cost to you. If we do pay such a referral fee we will notify you of this in our engagement letter.
Frequently Asked Questions
Firstly, establish what is important to you. This may be cost or it may be the speed the transaction will progress. The reputation of the lawyer (also known as a conveyancing solicitor) will be important. Wherever possible you should seek recommendations from family and friends. Do some research online for good reviews and testimonials from past clients. Speak to your estate agent for recommendations but also be aware that some property solicitors do pay some estate agents referral fees so this may not be impartial. The estate agent and solicitor should declare if referral fees are being paid. Make some phone calls and obtain fee quotations. You will get a feel for the type of person you are talking to. They should make you feel at ease, explain how the transaction will progress and deal with any initial queries you have.
This depends upon many things – the length of the chain (i.e. how many people are buying and selling their properties which are linked to this transaction), the complexity of the title to the property, how long the local authority is taking to process searches in the area, how long it takes the lender to arrange their valuation and issue a mortgage offer. On average, we say it will take approximately 6 – 8 weeks to reach exchange of contracts stage (when all parties are committed) – sometimes it is much quicker, but it can be longer. Completion (when you move in) usually takes place 1 – 2 weeks later. The longer the chain of transactions, the longer it will take for all parties to be ready to proceed at the same time and agree a mutually acceptable completion date.
Please view our 10 steps guide to buying your home, which outlines the basic steps. If you require more information, we are always happy to have a chat on the phone to discuss your concerns.
We will discuss your personal circumstances with you when we give you a conveyancing fee quotation so that we can ascertain whether you are eligible for first-time buyers Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) relief. There are certain criteria set down by the Inland Revenue as to who qualifies for first time buyer’s relief, i.e. all buyers must not have owned a property anywhere in the world before; the property being purchased must (currently) cost no more than £300,000, or in London £500,000 (you will not pay any SDLT on the first £300,000 but will be charged SDLT on the balance).
The term “deposit” has two meanings when buying a property. When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will wish to know what “deposit” you have available, i.e. the difference between the purchase price and the amount the lender is prepared to lend you. This will probably differ from the “deposit” required at exchange of contracts to make the contract binding and to act as a sign of good faith by the buyer to the seller. This deposit paid at exchange of contracts is usually 10% of the purchase price. It is paid to the buyer’s conveyancing solicitor shortly before exchange of contracts so that the solicitor has cleared funds ready to pay to the seller’s solicitor at exchange of contracts. The deposit acts as compensation for the seller should the buyer fail to complete the transaction on completion.
The deposit can sometimes be less than 10% of the purchase price if this is agreed by the parties. This will often occur when the buyer is also selling a property and a lesser sum is being offered in that sale transaction.
This is the point in a property transaction when the parties become contractually bound to buy and sell the particular property. Once the contracts are exchanged, the parties cannot withdraw from the transaction without legal ramifications and the buyer could risk losing his deposit. The seller could face legal action from the buyer to enforce the contract.
Exchange of contracts takes place when the buyer’s solicitor has carried out all their checks on the title to the property and if required the buyer has a valid mortgage offer. If the buyer has a linked sale transaction, that that transaction is also ready to proceed and the same if the seller has a linked purchase transaction.
The seller’s and the buyer’s solicitors will agree to “exchange” contracts, usually using certain agreed wording over the telephone and the contract will become binding. At that point, the completion date will be finalised and that will be the date the seller must move out of the property and the buyer on paying the balance of the purchase price may move in.
Completion day is the moving date already agreed by the parties and inserted into the legally binding contract at exchange of contracts. The buyer’s solicitor will pay the seller’s solicitor the purchase price, less any deposit already paid at exchange of contracts. In return, the seller must vacate the property and hand the keys to the buyer (usually via their estate agents). The seller’s solicitor will send the buyer’s solicitor the transfer deed to enable the buyer’s lawyer to register the buyer’s title to the property at the Land Registry.
Most land in the UK is now registered at the Land Registry so title to land means the evidence of ownership as registered at the Registers of Title held by the Land Registry. An official copy of the title is proof of ownership and contains details of the property address, owner’s details, any mortgages secured on the property and any matters which affect the property.
Sometimes land is unregistered (i.e. it has not yet been formally registered at the Land Registry). In this case, “title” is evidenced by ownership of the title deeds and a deed – usually called a conveyance which shows the property has been “conveyed” to the current owner.
Conveyancing searches are enquiries with public authorities which contain certain information about the property which the seller may not be able to provide. For example, information on flood risk, contaminated land or any proposed new development in the area. They will also show what planning and building regulations have been granted for the property itself.
These searches are required for both you and your lender so that you can build up a complete picture of the property coupled with the information supplied by the seller before committing to an exchange of contracts.
We publish our solicitors fees for buying a property on our website (see above) and an idea of the likely “disbursements” – charges payable to third parties. We will provide you with a cost estimate at the start together with an estimate of disbursements. We will ask you to make an initial payment on account for some of the disbursements. As the matter nears exchange of contract, we will ask you to send us your 10% deposit. After exchange of contracts and before completion takes place, we will send you a statement of account showing all the costs and disbursements for the transaction, request any balance from you and request the mortgage advance from the lender. Following completion, we will pay the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) to the Inland Revenue and the Land Registry fees to register your title out of the funds you have already sent us on completion.
If the matter does not proceed, we will calculate what the abortive fees will be. Each fee earner has an hourly “charge out rate” which vary according to their experience and seniority. The abortive fees are calculated as to how much time has been spent on the file and charged at that hourly rate. Any disbursements not already paid for will also be added into an abortive statement of account which will be sent to you. In most cases the abortive fees will be less than the originally quotes fee estimate.
The exception to this is where we have a special arrangement with certain estate agents to whom we pay referral fees and in those circumstances, we do not charge abortive fees.
Timing of the service of notice on a landlord is tricky. We would never recommend that you serve notice on your landlord until you have exchanged contracts to secure the new property. Until contracts are exchanged there is no guarantee that the new property will be yours. We would suggest you talk to your landlord and warn him that you are looking to move out but without formally serving notice. You may be able to negotiate a shorter notice period with him. To reduce the overlap period in which you would have to pay rent and a mortgage you could agree a longer period between exchange of contracts and the completion date with your seller.
Yes, you should mention this to your mortgage broker when you make your application for a mortgage. Failure to notify your lender of such additional sums may result in an offer being refused or cancelled. We will ask you this question when you first instruct us and if there is no mention of this in the mortgage instructions we receive from your lender we will check with the broker and/or the lender that they are aware of the financial gift. Lenders will be concerned to ensure that no third parties have any interests in the property which may prejudice their own rights.
These ISAs are designed for first time buyers to help them with their first property purchase by providing a 25% tax free bonus on the amount saved.
Yes, you will be able to open a Help to Buy ISA up until 30 November 2019. After that date no new ISAs can be opened. You will be able to continue saving into your ISA until 30 November 2029 when no further payments in will be permitted. You must claim your bonus by 1 December 2030.
You can buy either a freehold or leasehold property up to a maximum value of £250,000 or if you are buying in London, up to the value of £450,000. This must be your only property where you intend to live and must be purchased with the assistance of mortgage finance.
No, only one Help to Buy ISA account may be opened per person. But a couple of first time buyers can open one ISA each and both can be used towards the purchase of a single property.
No, the bonus must be used towards the purchase of a property and any residual bonus funds cannot be released back to the buyer following completion.
Your solicitor is only permitted to charge an additional £50 plus VAT to process the Help to Buy bonus application.
Ideally, the account should be closed 3 – 4 weeks before completion of your purchase. This allows time for the Help to Buy ISA closing statement to be provided and passed to us. You, as a first-time buyer, will also need to sign the first time buyer declaration and return it to us so that we can submit the request for the bonus. The bonus takes about 7-10 working days to reach us once processed.
Once your Help to Buy ISA account has been closed the bonus must be claimed within 12 months.
You can use the funds you have invested in the Help to Buy ISA for the deposit on your home but the bonus element may only be used towards the balance of purchase price on completion.
The Government will provide a 25% tax-free bonus of the amount saved in the Help to Buy ISA. For example, if you have saved £1,000 your bonus would be £250.
There is a minimum savings amount of £1,600 and a maximum of £12,000 to qualify for the bonus. If you save less than £1,600 you will not be entitled to any bonus. If you save more than £12,000 the bonus is capped at £3,000.
The maximum amount you can pay into the Help to Buy ISA is £200 per month. The exception is you can deposit up to £1,200 when you first open the account.
Your solicitor will give you a document called a purchase failure notification confirming the purchase did not go ahead. You can take this to your bank or building society and they will re-open your Help to Buy ISA for you. You can deposit your money back into it as a lump sum. If your solicitor has already received the bonus they will return it to the scheme administrator.