The Solicitor Process

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Joy Ayres from Rebus talks us through the role of a solicitor and explains where they fall into the process of purchasing a property.

What is the role of a solicitor?

A solicitor completes the legal works required in any house purchase or Remortgage. They primarily work for the client, but also the lender, to ensure any special conditions have been met. This may include things like making sure building’s insurance is in place and carrying out anti-money laundering checks, as well as making sure that your deposit is legitimate.

What is the difference between a conveyancer and a solicitor?

A solicitor is somebody who carries out many different legal services, whereas a conveyancer specialises in legal work that relates to property. 

At what point do I need a solicitor when buying a house?

It’s best to get a solicitor instructed once the application is ready to be submitted. We need those details to make your lender aware of who your solicitor is going to be. 

There are four main steps with the legal process for a purchase transaction, starting from instruction to completion. The first main step is to collate the initial documents from the client, the seller solicitors and the lender. You will be asked about the sort of property you’re buying, ID, and proof of address. 

Next, solicitors need something called a draft contract pack, which is the initial paperwork which they can then start using to complete the rest of the legal work. They need that upfront to be able to order the searches. Finally solicitors will need a copy of the mortgage offer from the lender. A copy of that will get sent to you, to the broker, and to your solicitor. 

The next sort of step in the process is to carry out checks on your documents, such as ID and anti-money laundering checks. With the offer, they’ll check to make sure that everything’s as it should be and that any conditions are met. At this point they’ll request the search fee, so they can get those ordered. 

When ordering searches, enquiries are raised with the seller’s solicitors about things that they need to sort of understand in more detail. Finally, once they’ve got all that information they’ll be able to report to the client with all the findings from the searches, and get the finalised paperwork to you. Then they will request the deposit funds and set exchange of completion. The average time scale from agreeing a purchase to completion is around twelve weeks.

What should I look for in a solicitor and can Rebus help me find one?

What I’d be looking for in a solicitor is communication, experience and proactiveness. Communication is so important with this process because a lot of people don’t really understand it and you need to be able to have someone who’s going to give you the reassurance that everything is running smoothly.

Obviously you want someone who knows what they’re doing and who’s done this all before and that is proactive in dealing with things as and when they happen. I recommend finding a firm that acts straight away.

Of course, Rebus can definitely help clients to find a solicitor, as we have access to a panel of solicitors who we have strong working relationships with, and liaise with daily for case updates. This gives our clients additional support if we face any challenges, as we can work together to find a solution in a timely manner.

Is it better to use a local solicitor?

I don’t really think that there’s much benefit to using a local solicitor. Some people do prefer to, because they can pop in to have a face-to-face conversation, but a lot of solicitors have portals online so you can login and track where things are going, upload documents or send messages to your case handler.

It’s no longer essential to use someone who’s nearby, you can use a firm who might be a bit further afield, but have great reviews.

What are searches and are they compulsory when buying a house?

Searches are compulsory if you’re buying a house. There are 3 main types of searches, the local search, the water drainage and the environmental search. The search is aiming to provide the buyer with information about the property and the area surrounding it, so really its purpose is to protect the client.

The local search is provided by the local authority and it confirms whether the property is a listed building, if any trees within the boundaries are protected, and building/planning control history of nearby road schemes and motorways. 

The water and drainage search is basically confirming whether the property is connected to public sewers or if it’s a private disposal facility, like a septic tank. It will also confirm the location of the local water mains and public sewers. 

Finally, the environmental search is to confirm whether there’s any risk of flooding, ground stability, past use of the land and if there’s any potential contamination of the land. So there are many reasons why it’s important to get these searches done.

How long do the searches take?

They can take a little bit of time. The water and drainage and environmental searches are usually quite quick to come back, and are usually returned within a week to two weeks. The local one can take a little bit longer, because it depends on the local authorities’ current time scales.

How long does it usually take for replies to enquiries?

It’s really hard to answer, because there are so many factors involved, but it usually takes a number of weeks. If you were purchasing a house that was empty, with no onward chain, it should be quite quick to get the replies. If there’s a big chain sometimes that can cause delays, because there’s lots of different people having to find out information.

When must I provide my deposit funds?

The deposit is usually asked for right at the end of the process. Once they’ve got all the enquiries and searches back, they’ll tend to do their report and then ask for the deposit funds to be sent over. 

Don’t panic if things take a little bit longer, because if we’re helping you with your purchase, then we’ll be here from start to finish. Trust the process and it will all be okay in the end.

Approved by The Openwork Partnership on 25/10/2023.


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