How much does it cost to hire a solicitor when buying a house? Fees vary, but you’re looking at somewhere in the region of £850–£1,500. Bear in mind, you’ll also have to pay for searches, surveys and third party costs (like leasehold information packs).
Once you’ve had an offer accepted on a property (yay!), you’ll need a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to do the legal work to transfer ownership of the property (known as conveyancing).
Here we explain how much solicitors fees are for buying a house and what you’re getting for your money.
What does a solicitor do when you buy a house?
During the homebuying process, your solicitor or conveyancer takes care of this stuff:
- Providing legal advice and support
- Negotiating on your behalf if the survey reveals any issues
- Drawing up contracts and handling the paperwork
- Ordering and looking over local authority searches
- Securely transferring the funds for the purchase on time
- Transferring the deeds of the property into your name
Note: What’s the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer? Simply, conveyancing solicitors are fully qualified lawyers who specialise in conveyancing (they can also offer other legal services and advice). Licenced conveyancers are only trained in conveyancing. We go into more detail about conveyancing here.
What are conveyancing fees?
Conveyancing fees cover all the necessary legal work attached to buying a property. They can be broken down into two chunks:
- Legal fees – this is what your conveyancer or solicitor will charge for doing the work. You’re paying for their time and expertise.
- Disbursements – this is a fancy word for the costs of the various checks and searches carried out by third parties. We’ve listed these further down the page.
How much do the legal fees cost when buying a house?
This depends on the value of the home you’re buying, but the legal portion of the bill can cost up to £4000 (including VAT).
You’ll usually pay part of this fee upfront and the rest the day before completion (you can’t add these to your loan like you can with your mortgage fees).
Some lenders might pay these fees for you, but only if you use one of their chosen solicitors. Others might sweeten the deal by offering you some or all of the amount as cashback after your mortgage is finalised (nice!). A mortgage broker - like Habito - can help you choose the most cost-effective deal.
What are the main disbursements – and how much do they cost?
Disbursements are fixed costs paid on your behalf to third parties. This means each one should cost roughly the same no matter which solicitor or conveyancer you use.
Here are eight of the most common:
1. Property searches:
Your solicitor or conveyancer will check with different authorities to make sure everything is A-OK with your property and the land it’s built on.
The searches include:
- Local Authority – to see if any planned changes to the local area might affect the property you’re buying, like nearby housing developments or new roads. This price can vary from council to council.
- Drainage & Water – to check the water supply and drains in and around the property.
- Environmental – to check if there are any environmental problems in the area around the property, like risk of flooding, subsidence, or contaminated land.
Depending on where you’re buying the property, your solicitor or conveyancer might suggest a few extra searches. These might include:
- Mining search (from £25) – if you’re buying in an area with a history of coal mining, this search will find out when mining ended and if subsidence or gas emissions have been an issue.
- Chancel Repair Liability search (from £20) – this search checks that you won’t be liable to pay for the upkeep of the local parish church. This rule dates back to the 16th century, and costs can run into the thousands. Thanks a lot, Henry VIII. Don’t worry though, your conveyancer can sort out an insurance to protect you from this.
2. ID checks: £6–£25
Your conveyancer needs proof of your identity because of money laundering regulations. There’s more to this than photocopying your passport; they’ll do an online check with a third-party ID verification service to make sure you are who you say you are.
3. Bank or Telegraphic Transfer fees: £20–£30
These fees are charged by a bank or building society when you send big sums of money. You’ll need to use something called a telegraphic transfer to guarantee funds reach an account on a specific day.
4. Stamp Duty Land Tax: fixed rates
Stamp Duty is a tax paid to the government when you buy property or land in England or Northern Ireland. In Scotland, you pay Land and Buildings Transactions Tax (LBTT), and in Wales, you pay Land Transaction Tax (LTT), but it’s the same idea.
Costs vary as they’re worked out on a sliding scale depending on the value of the property. Check out our Stamp Duty calculator to see how much you’d need to pay.
5. Land Registry fees: £20–£455
This is paid to HM Land Registry to update the property’s records and register you as the new owner. The cost depends on the price of the property. Here’s a full list of the fees.
6. Mortgaged Supplement fee: £100–£300 + VAT
If you’re buying your property with a mortgage, your conveyancer or solicitor will have some extra work to do dealing with your lender.
7. Leasehold Supplement fee: £100–£200 + VAT
If you buy a leasehold property, you own the property but not the land it’s built on. Your lease on the land lasts for a set number of years, decades, or even centuries. Once the lease expires, the ownership of your property passes back to the freeholder (the owner of the land).
So, buying a leasehold property can be more complicated than buying a freehold (where you own the property and the land). Your conveyancer’s quote will usually reflect the extra work involved.
8. Gifted deposits: up to £100
If you’re getting help with your deposit from parents or family members, you’ll need to prove that the money is a gift and not a loan. The source of the money will also be checked out by your solicitor as part of the anti-money-laundering stuff.
What if the sale falls through? Will I still be charged legal fees?
Lots of conveyancers offer a no sale, no fee guarantee so you don’t have to pay the total amount if the deal falls through. However, you’ll probably still be charged for any third party disbursements that your conveyancer has already paid on your behalf.
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