What are Solicitors Fees When Buying a House?

Read the below guide to find out more.

Updated: November 20, 2023
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

 

Buying a house is a big commitment that is costly. When you're looking to move home, lots of high costs come with a property purchase: mortgage costs, valuations, removal costs, survey fees, and solicitors fees.

After stamp duty and your house deposit, solicitor fees are the most significant expense when buying a house. You can expect to pay between £500 to £1,500 in solicitor fees depending on the value, location, and type of property you want to purchase. 

Knowing what solicitor fees cover and include can help you budget for your new home. In this article, you'll learn what solicitor fees include, how much you can expect to pay, and tips for finding the right solicitor to buy a house.

Why You Need a Solicitor to Buy a House

You can use your usual solicitor or hire a specialist conveyancing solicitor to help buy a house.

Whichever you choose, they'll know what they're doing as both will be licenced and trained in conveyancing, so you’ll have no problem.

If you're a first-time buyer, you may not know this, but conveyancing is the process of transferring the legal title of a property from one person to another. It's the overall process of buying a house. A solicitor can help make this process easier for you — even if you're not a first-time buyer.

Conveyancing solicitors make buying a house much smoother as they take control of all legal aspects. A solicitor deals with the nitty-gritty details, keeps you updated on the process, and supports you by answering any questions you may have about the house sale.

Solicitors do the following:

  • Carry out local authority searches: a local search is a requirement of the mortgage process. Solicitors search the Local Land Charges Register and ask related enquiries.
  • Handles any details of property purchase: this includes land registry, title deeds, property searches, mortgage agreements, and contracts, and will see through the completion of the house-buying process.
  • Communications: the solicitor is the one who deals with conversations with mortgage lenders, local authorities, the seller, and sometimes estate agents.

The above tasks are just the main aspects of a conveyancing solicitor's role. Naturally, there will be other legal work involved with buying a house that your solicitor will handle.

A Breakdown of Solicitor Fees

A solicitor's job isn't simple and has many elements.

They work hard to ensure the buying process is as smooth as possible. Lots of fees come with buying a house, and a solicitor controls them. They’ll either give you a quote upfront or charge you at completion. However, sometimes disbursement costs may need to be paid upfront. 

Solicitors' fees when buying a house aren't all that straightforward, so we’ve explained them to help you understand what you’re paying for. 

Solicitor fees include:

  • Legal fees: cover all the legal work.
  • Conveyancing fees: conveyancing disbursements are the payments and taxes your solicitor needs to make to a third party as part of the home-buying process.

Legal Fees Explained

Legal fees vary between buyers and properties. In the UK, legal fees can range between £850 and £1,500 for properties valued between £200,000 and £300,000. Different elements can alter the overall price of legal fees.

Legal fees will vary depending on the following factors:

  • Using a solicitor or a specialised conveyancing solicitor.
  • The price of the property can alter legal fee costs.
  • If the house is under shared ownership, more work will go into the overall process.
  • If you have a lease extension, transfer equity or a remortgage.

Conveyancing Fees Explained

Conveyancing disbursements are the payments and taxes your solicitor needs to make to a third party as part of the home-buying process. This fee isn't part of the solicitors handling fee and must be paid upfront at the beginning of the conveyancing process.

Conveyancing disbursement fees include:

  • Stamp duty land tax: stamp duty is a tax you pay to the UK government and only applies to properties valued over £250,000. The amount you pay is calculated based on the value of your home. If you’re a first-time buyer, you may be entitled to discounts on stamp duty.
  • HM Land Registry fees: all land and property transactions in England must be registered with the HM Land Registry. A land registry charge incurs for changing the ownership of the property, and the cost depends on the property's value.
  • Land registry search: the solicitor will request copies of the property's title register and title plan from the Land Registry to check that the seller legally owns the property you're buying. This process is sometimes known as a property fraud check.
  • Local authority searches: the local authority search is in place to check important information such as land contamination, planning applications, road schemes, development restrictions and enforcement actions.
  • Environmental search: to determine any potential issues with subsidence, flooding, land contamination, and landslides.
  • Water and drainage search: a search conducted by a local water board to identify if the property connects to the Mains water, sewer, and water supplies. You’ll find out how you'll be charged for water and wastewater services. The cost is dependent on the individual water company.
  • Chancel indemnity insurance: to check that the house you're buying is not subject to liability to pay for the maintenance and repairs of the local church — this was a law implemented back in the 16th century. If the property is found liable, it could cost you hundreds of thousands of pounds.
  • Bankruptcy search: if you or the person you're taking out a mortgage with has declared bankruptcy, you may struggle to buy a house. Solicitors conduct bankruptcy searches on all named persons on the mortgage to ensure the mortgage lender that no one has been declared bankrupt.
  • Bank transfer fees: the cost of the bank charges for sending the money used to purchase the property to the seller's solicitor.

These fees will vary between properties, as they're not standard-size fits. You can use an online conveyancing calculator to help you gain a better understanding of potential conveyancing costs.

There are Different Fees for a Leasehold Property

If you're buying a house outright, you'll usually own your home's freehold. However, you can buy a property that is a leasehold. A leasehold means you own the property but not the building or land, so you'll pay ground rent to the freeholder.

A leasehold is commonplace when buying a flat or apartment as it sits within a larger building.

Buying a leasehold property is different from a freehold house. It usually includes a lot more work for your solicitor. Your solicitor will check the following information on the lease:

  • Charges: your solicitor will check what charges you'll be liable for as a leaseholder and his service charges and ground rent.
  • What you can use: your solicitor checks the boundaries of your leasehold properties. For example, if you're buying a flat on the top floor, does this include the loft space?
  • What you can do: check for any boundaries or restrictions that are in place within the building; this is when you'll find out if you renovated the space without permission.
  • Planned major works: your solicitor will check if there are any renovations or repairs planned for the property that could alter the value of your home or cause disruption to your living.
  • Balance of service charge account: informed by the landlord's estimation for the year. You’ll receive an end-of-year statement showing balances.
  • Sinking fund: your solicitor will check if your lease includes a sinking fund — this is a fund that deals with any building work on the property. You'll find all the necessary details, like the balance and coverage.

Leaseholds come with different fees, as leasehold properties have different ‌rules and regulations. As you read above, there are more checks your solicitor needs to make. So, on top of legal fees and conveyancing fees, you'll also pay fees on the following:

  • Deed of Covenant: this is a legally binding agreement between the buyer and landlord about repair work and other maintenance issues.
  • Notice of Transfer Fee: sometimes called Notice of Assignment, your conveyancing solicitor sends the notice to the landlord informing them you're the new owner. Not all management firms charge for this, but some do.
  • Notice of Charge fee: if you're buying the property with a mortgage, then a Notice of Charge is sent to the landlord telling them you have an interest in the property.
  • Certificate of compliance: there's sometimes a fee for the certificate of compliance.

Solicitors' fees can vary between leasehold properties and solicitors, so this is something to keep in mind.

How Much are Solicitors Fees for Buying a House?

With legal and conveyancing fees together, solicitor fees are generally considered high.

Conveyancing solicitors fees will vary depending on the house value you're looking to buy and your chosen solicitor's experience.

Most solicitors will offer you a fixed fee, but this will vary. On average, you can expect to pay £1,020 in solicitors fees for a house valued at £250,000.

The below graph shows the average conveyancing fees by 123 Convey:

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There are online calculators you can use to give you a more accurate idea of solicitors fees for your budget.

Finding the Right Conveyancing Solicitor for You

Finding the right conveyancing solicitor can be challenging.

The industry is quite large here in the UK, with 159,568 practising solicitors recorded in the UK in March 2023. Choosing which person to hire can be tricky. However, we’ve compiled some helpful tips to help your search:

  • Recommendations: ask friends and family for a solid recommendation. You can also ask your mortgage lender or financial advisor for suggestions.
  • Search online: see which solicitors are in your area. You can see previous experiences through online ratings and reviews.
  • Estate agents: your estate agent will have rich experience selling houses and may know a range of solicitors who could help you.
  • Online conveyancing: you can opt for an online conveyancer, so you'll only have to deal with them by email or phone.

Whichever conveyancing solicitor you choose must be a member of the Law Society of England and Wales, the Law Society of Scotland, and the Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme. Additionally, conveyancers must be a member of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.

Final Thoughts on Solicitor Fees

Although solicitors fees are considered high, they're necessary to ensure you purchase your dream home with the smoothest process possible. Sometimes the cheaper option isn’t always the best. Your chosen solicitor is guaranteed to have your best interests at heart. 

You're all set to add solicitor fees to your housing-buying budget. Soon, you'll be holding the keys to your new home and enjoying the life you've worked hard for.

Related Guides:

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Pays Solicitor Fees if a House Sale Falls Through?

What Should You Expect From a Solicitor When Buying a House?

Do You Need a Solicitor to Buy a House?

Do Conveyancing Solicitors Pay Stamp Duty?

Do You Pay Solicitors Fees on Completion?

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