Top questions to ask your property solicitor


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If you’re a first time buyer, you may not have dealt with solicitors before. However, once you’ve had an offer accepted, you will need one. A conveyancing solicitor will handle the legal work to transfer the ownership of the property from the developer (or seller) to yourself.

If you aren’t a first time buyer and have a property to sell, it is normal to use the same conveyancing solicitor to handle both transactions. You legally can’t use the same solicitor as the other parties involved (the developer, seller or buyer) but it is possible to use two solicitors from the same firm as long as there is no conflict of interest.

Are you wondering what questions you should you be asking, and why? Here’s a quick-read list of our top questions to ask a solicitor when buying or selling a house.

1. Are you a new build specialist?

If you’re buying a new build it could be helpful to choose a solicitor who specialises in new builds. This should mean that they’re able to act fast as you’ll usually have to exchange within 28 days.

New build conveyancing can be more complex than any other type of conveyancing.  Your solicitor will have to check your new home meets planning regulations, has had its National House Building Council (NHBC) inspections and make sure all the relevant agreements have been completed.

Your developer will usually give you a list of new build solicitor specialists that you can choose from but you do have the option of finding your own solicitor if you prefer.

2. What are your fees?

Different solicitors have different pricing models, so make sure you understand the costs before you move forward with their services.

Ask for a full breakdown of the costs involved, so you can make sure the solicitors have not only accounted for their time and expertise, but that you aware of any additional costs incurred by searches which will be passed on to you.

Most experienced conveyancing solicitors will include everything in their cost breakdown, but it’s always worth double-checking so you can budget effectively.

3. What do I need to provide?

As a buyer, you’ll need to provide a number of documents and details to your solicitor to make sure the process is as quick and seamless as possible.

Be prepared, and check what information your solicitor needs from you as soon as possible, so you don’t hold up the sale. These items may include identity documents, bank statements, pay slips and mortgage agreements.

As a seller, you will be asked to provide identity documents, the property title deeds, fittings and contents form (TA10), Property information form (TA6), copies of documents that are referenced on the property information form (such as Building Regulations sign off), any leasehold or shared freehold documents and the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

4. Who will be my main point of contact?

It’s good to know who to speak to if you need to ask any more questions during the conveyancing process, so make sure you have a named point of contact, along with a telephone number and email address.

It’s also worth checking how often your solicitor will update you throughout the process, so you aren’t left worrying if you haven’t heard from them in a week or too.

Some solicitors will prefer communicating by phone, others via email, and some by their own bespoke systems, so check before-hand to avoid confusion.

5. Have you booked any holidays?

This might seem like a strange question to ask but it can be helpful to know if your conveyancing solicitor will be going away at all during the conveyancing process.

If, for instance, they’ve got a two-week holiday booked you may want to know who to contact in their absence.

Some solicitors’ offices will close for a Christmas break so this might cause a delay, if you’re completing the conveyancing process in December or January.

6. How does the process work?

You shouldn’t be afraid to ask your solicitor exactly how the conveyancing process works. What are the major milestones and timings?

An experienced solicitor will be able to tell you all about the house buying and selling process, as well as preparing you for any potential stumbling blocks along the way, so you can be fully prepared.

And remember, although many of these questions can be asked upfront, it’s totally normal to have new queries as the sales progress.

Whether it’s your first house purchase, your first sale or you’re an experienced buyer and seller, solicitors expect plenty of questions, so if in doubt, ask away.

 

This guide to negative equity was produced in collaboration with L&C, the UK’s leading fee-free mortgage experts.