How to… Buy a Home


Buying a home for the first time can be an exciting but also daunting process. However, with the right legal guidance you could be choosing wallpaper samples in no time.

Infographic: How to Buy a House

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What is conveyancing?

'Conveyancing' is the legal process of buying and selling a property. It can be carried out by a conveyancer but it can also be done by a trusted solicitor.

What will my solicitor need to know?

When you are buying a property, your solicitor will need to know a few things from you before they can proceed, such as:
  • The price you are paying for the property
  • When you would like to complete the purchase
  • How you are going to pay for the property, eg mortgage
  • Any work you plan to carry out on the property
  • If the seller is buying another property
  • Whether you have a property to sell

What will my solicitor do?

It is recommended that you approach a solicitor to handle the conveyancing of your new property before you make an offer on the property.

When you place an offer, your estate agent will ask you for your conveyancer’s details. They will then pass these onto the conveyancer of the seller. It is for this reason that many people will choose to approach a solicitor before they make an offer. This will avoid the hassle of rushing to find one, which could slow the process down.

The role of the conveyancer is to take care of the legal aspects of the purchase such as:
  • Checking the legal title to the property and carrying out local authority searches and similar
  • Land registry - registering the property with the Land Registry in your name
  • Stamp Duty - if you buy a property in the UK over a certain price you will have to pay a tax called stamp duty, how much you pay will depend on the price, whether it is residential and what area it is in

Personal recommendations are a great way of finding a suitable solicitor, so get your friends and family on board to help you make the decision. Your chosen conveyancer can also act for the bank giving you a mortgage. This will save you time and money when it comes to drawing up the mortgage deed.

What Happens When I Exchange Contracts?

The seller’s solicitor will draft the contract that will be exchanged between you and the person selling the property and this will be checked by your solicitor.

The contract will be exchanged when:
  • Both you and your solicitor are pleased with the outcomes of all the searches and enquiries made
  • Surveyor reports have been received and actions set out in them have been taken, such as urgent repairs or matters needing further investigation like drainage problems
  • A formal mortgage offer has been received by your bank or building society
  • The date of completion had been agreed
  • The deposit has been paid to your solicitor

Signed copies of the contracts are exchanged between the solicitors acting for yourself and the seller making you both legally bound. This means the sale must go ahead. If you drop out at this point you will lose your deposit and could be sued for any other losses the seller suffers.

Once the sale is complete, your solicitor will deal with your Stamp Duty and register you as the new legal owner of the property with the Land Registry. They will also register the mortgage over the property.

What are the Costs of Having a Solicitor?

Before you choose a solicitor confirm the cost of their services. As there is no set fee for conveyancing work, you should contact a few conveyancers for a quote.

Remember to ask whether the figure quoted is fixed or depends on how much work they undertake. This can considerably alter the price. Ask for a breakdown of costs, so you can be sure that it includes stamp duty, land registration fees, VAT etc.

You might also want to consider what happens if the sale does not go through before contracts are exchanged. Although it’s not a cost you will want to think about, it's important to know early on.

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