What is a solicitor and why do I need one to buy a home?

Solicitors are essential to the process of buying a home and completing your mortgage application without one could lead to huge delays. Here's exactly what they do and why you need one

A solicitor (who can also be called a conveyancer) takes care of all the legal work that goes into buying your first home. They’re often seen as the most important person in the home-buying process, so it’s important you pick a good one.

We have broken down some of the major milestones that a solicitor will cover:

ID & searches

Solicitors will start by collecting all your personal information and documents to confirm who you are. There is then an upfront fee to pay so they can begin the searches on your new home.

Searches are carried out to find more information about the property you plan to buy and typically cover a land, water and environmental search. Searches are a condition of the mortgage and are something you have to have done.

Solicitors start the process of searches early, as it can usually take a while and gives them time if any enquiries come up. These first checks are done to make sure there are no obstacles in the way of owning the home and that you have no nasty surprises when you get your keys.

Searches are not to be confused with surveys. To understand the difference between a survey and a search it’s helpful to think of it as:

  • Surveys - to find out more about the value and structure of the home.
  • Search - to find out more about the surrounding area of the home e.g. the land the house is built on.

Contracts & formal offers

Your solicitor will deal with all your paperwork throughout your application, such as:

  • The contract – your solicitor will check through the draft contract and speak with the seller’s solicitor to draw up the final version.
  • Formal offer - they will also check your formal offer which is sent from your lender when your mortgage is approved.
  • Home report – your solicitor will send you a detailed report of the home you are buying.

Paying your deposit and exchanging contracts

When you’re ready to pay your deposit, your solicitor will help to arrange it so that they can be ready for the exchange of contracts. This means that all parties agree on a completion date and contracts are formally exchanged.

You can pull out of the house purchase at any point before exchanging contracts without owing the other party anything. If you decide to pull out after contracts have been exchanged, then you will have to pay compensation to the other party as both parties have legally committed to the sale.

Getting your keys – the best part!

A completion statement will have been prepared and funds will have been requested from your mortgage lender. The seller will leave the home and you’ll be able to pick up the keys ready to move in.

Finding a solicitor is part of our service

We recommend O’Neill Patient to carry out your legal work, as they’re the 2nd largest solicitor firm in the UK and are well known for putting their customers first.

We recommend them based on their solid past performance, great customer service and their app which helps speed up the process and keeps you updated on any changes to your application.

When completing your application, we’ll ask about your solicitors in the property section. If you haven’t already selected a solicitor, we’ll provide you with a quote from O’Neill Patient after you’ve accepted your mortgage recommendation.

If you want a quote before your recommendation, please request one through our webchat. You can confirm you’re happy with the quote through webchat and we’ll get O’Neill Patient to contact you directly to start the legal process.

Finding your own solicitor

If you’ve got another solicitor in mind for all your legal work, we’re more than happy to work with them.

When choosing your own solicitor you’ll need to check they are on the mortgage lenders panel. The panel is a list of approved solicitor firms that lenders have agreed to work with.

As they are a large firm, O’Neill Patient is on every panel, whereas smaller solicitor firms will only be on selected lender panels. You need to check this beforehand as if a solicitor is not on the lender’s panel, you’ll need a different solicitor or a second set of solicitors to carry out the legal work.

When selecting a solicitor it’s also worth considering how much you’re willing to pay. Solicitor fees can really vary between each firm and it can depend on lots of factors, such as the value of your home, if it’s a new build and if you have a LISA. As your solicitor will play such a big role in your house move, it might be worth considering paying that bit extra to make sure you have a good one on your side.

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