Buying a property
Buying a property is a big commitment. Regardless of whether you are moving home, investing in a buy-to-let property for example or are a first-time buyer, it can be an exciting time but equally as stressful. There are various legal expectations you should be aware of and instructing an experienced property law solicitor or conveyancer will ensure the property transaction and any legal issues are handled correctly.
Solicitors for property purchase
Russell & Russell Solicitors help thousands of people every year with their property sale and purchases. Our ethos is to ensure we make the process a stress-free as possible, deliver a quality service and at a fair price. From pre-contract right through to completion, we are on hand to provide expert guidance that meets the needs of our clients.
When you’ve found the home of your dreams or even before you start looking for it, call us so we can point you in the right direction. Although it’s usually a straightforward process, timescales can differ depending on the circumstances of the seller or purchaser
We currently employ over 90 people in our Conveyancing Department. They include qualified Solicitors, Licensed Conveyancers and Chartered Legal Executives. All our conveyancers are closely supervised by one of our Senior Solicitors, each of whom has considerable experience of conveyancing and is a specialist in this type of legal work. Specific experience of individual team members can be seen in the team member profiles.
Our long-established law firm means we have the local knowledge you need when buying a property in Bolton, Cheshire and across the North West, but our expertise and reputation has meant we have helped clients purchase properties throughout England and Wales.
Find out more about Russell & Russell
You can complete an online conveyancing quote and our conveyancing team will be in touch with a personalised quote.
I want to buy a property, what should I know?
Contact one of our expert property sale solicitors on 0800 103 2600 or complete an enquiry form and we will call you back. Our conveyancing team will be able to guide you through the entire process but for further here are some of the questions we get asked a lot:
Buying a property, why choose Russell & Russell?
You should choose us because our specialist property lawyers are best placed to help you through the process of buying a property. We have a wealth of experience and knowledge of all aspects of conveyancing whether freehold or leasehold, whether a flat, a house or just land. We deal with existing properties, new builds and self-builds. We are accredited under the Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme and have been from its very beginning. All our staff that would touch your case specialise in property work, have had training in that area and receive on-going training to keep them up to date with changes. We are a long established practice but have a modern approach. You can instruct us by calling into our office, by post, by email or through our Portal.
When should I instruct you?
We would strongly recommend that you get in contact with us at the very beginning when you are thinking of buying. We can give you advice on the process which is particularly important if you have not bought before or if you are both buying and selling and have to do a juggling act to pull the two transactions together. If you are an investor who regularly buys and sells you know how important it is to forewarn us of what you are planning. Get in front of the game.
Does location matter?
No – we can act for you whether you are local or distant but if we do not see you face to face we carry out enhanced due diligence to satisfy us as to your identity. We have the facility to use Zoom and/or Teams if you cannot get to one of our offices. The locality of the property is also irrelevant – the same principles apply across all of England and Wales.
Can you also act for my lender?
If you have not bought before that might sound a somewhat strange question but it is actually an important one. If you are taking out a mortgage your lender also requires legal representation and some are very selective. The good news is that we are on the conveyancing panels of all the high street lenders and also the open panels of the specialist lenders. We are also on the closed panels of both Aldermore and Pepper Money – they limit who can act for them which speaks for itself.
I am thinking of purchasing, what should I do?
Contact us, an initial enquiry costs nothing.
How much does it cost to buy my new home?
Our conveyancing fees vary depending on a number of factors. The type of property (house/flat), the tenure (freehold/leasehold/commonhold), the age of the property (old/new build), the location (relevant to the cost of searches) and its price/value are all examples of aspects of a property transaction that affect the overall costs.
As a consequence, it’s very difficult for us to provide a firm estimate of costs without obtaining some basic information from you. However, we’ll always provide you with a written bespoke estimate at the outset of any transaction that you’re contemplating.
From the outset we’ll be as transparent and open about the potential costs as is possible having regard to the information you give to us. Furthermore if, during the course of a transaction it becomes apparent that additional work is necessary that wasn't envisaged when our initial estimate was given, we’ll draw this to your attention before any additional charges are actually incurred so you can decide whether to incur those costs before they are incurred.
Our average legal fee to act in the purchase of a property is £685 plus vat (£822 inclusive of vat). Please note that our fees are offered as fixed fees – our fees for property purchases are not based on hourly rates – we know that you need to know how much you'll have to spend. They will be based on the time that we expect to incur and will have regard to our expertise. The average fee quoted includes acting for a buyer and also their lender if a mortgage is involved – the majority of lenders will instruct us to act for them in relation to your mortgage so another law firm doesn't have to be involved with consequential additional cost to you. This average fee includes submitting a SDLT return. Please note that we charge more for dealing with a flat than a house as transactions involving flats are more complex and time consuming.
We also charge an additional fee for obtaining and advising on information obtained by searching records held by the Land Registry, Local Authorities, Drainage and Water Authority, Environmental Agencies and the Coal Authority. The objective is to obtain information for you and to protect your interests and to put you in a position where you can make an informed decision on proceeding with your property purchase.
This additional fee will always be payable if you're taking out a mortgage as your lender will insist that the searches are undertaken to protect its interests. Our average fee in relation to obtaining and advising on searches is £250.00 plus vat (£300 inclusive of vat), but it can be more in certain areas where there are more searches to undertake (such as mining) and/or the Local Authority search charge is high. If you don't need a mortgage and try to save costs by not having searches you're taking a risk that may prove costly to you if the searches would have revealed something that would have affected your decision to buy the property or the price you've paid.
Our fee does not include payments that we make to third parties on your behalf which are commonly referred to as Disbursements.
Are there any other potential costs I should be aware of?
Yes, there could be.
Our fee: If there is more work for us to carry out than we envisaged at the outset based on the information you provided we may have to revise our estimate. However, if that proves to be the case we would advise you before the additional work is undertaken so that you can decide whether to incur that cost. An example would be if the property you are intending to buy has a major defect or if you omit to tell us that the property is a leasehold flat or a shared ownership property.
Payments to third parties may arise: These are called Disbursements and the amount of these payments varies from property to property. Examples are as follows:-
Land Registration fee: This is the fee that the Government Land Registry charges to register you as the new owner of the property and is based on the price you pay. A registration fee will always be payable. Note: most properties are already registered in their own individual title and the application is, therefore, to update that register. However, if the property isn't already registered in its own separate title, the Land Registry charge a higher fee as there is more work to be carried out to create a new register. The fee doubles. Examples of this are new builds and also purchases of a property that has been owned by the current owner from before the date when registration was first necessary.
SDLT: Commonly known as Stamp Duty. This is a tax charged by the Government that has to be paid by us on your behalf if a payment is due. The price you pay is relevant, but there are other factors that determine whether there's a liability and the amount. There is an on-line Government calculator that you can use as a basic guide but the provisions are complex and you should consider taking specialist advice if you are facing a large bill – like the majority of Solicitors we are do not have tax expertise on tax. Please also bear in mind that the Government introduces changes to SDLT when it makes a budget statement and the changes are often immediately effective with little or no opportunity to avoid.
Freeholders/Managers Information fees: Another disbursement but one that warrants a special mention – Freeholders and/or managers charge fees to register a Notice of Transfer. There is no standard fee, they all change different amounts so we cannot specify the amount involved at the beginning of a transaction. Always applies if the property is leasehold. It may also arise if the property is freehold and there's a specific requirement in the Deeds to give notification to a management company or similar. The fee varies depending on what the deeds say and/or what the third party demands. Often the fee is between £100 and £300 plus vat.
Notice of mortgage fee: If you take out a mortgage then your lender will require that any party that should be notified of the change in ownership is also notified of your lender's interest. This is in addition to the Notice of Transfer fee but may be a similar amount. Again, the fee charged by the third party is usually between £100 and £300 plus vat.
Deed of covenant fee: If the deeds require that you enter in to a direct covenant with a third party then that party may charge a fee for dealing with the Deed. This might for example be a covenant by you to pay a service charge. Usually it's between £100 and £300 plus vat.
Certificate of compliance fee: A Certificate of compliance from a third party is sometimes required under the terms of the Deeds, particularly in the case of flats. This might, for example, have been registered so that the third party can ensure that when a property changes hands its requirements are dealt with and that any rent and/or service charge for communal areas has been paid up to date. Again, the fee is usually between £50 and £250 plus vat.
Are there any hidden extra costs involved?
No. When we issue an estimate all our fees are listed clearly so you know what you’re paying from the outset. Also, unlike some solicitors, we don’t charge extra for acting for your lender. Some of the fees payable to third parties are variable and the exact amount due may only become known as the purchase progresses.
Will Russell & Russell provide a written conveyancing fee estimate for my purchase?
We always provide a written estimate at the outset of a transaction. This will be based on the information provided by you to us at that time. This reflects the fact that we know that you need to budget and also to ensure that there's no misunderstanding between us at a later time. We hope you will be delighted with our services and will use us again and appreciate that will not be the case if you feel that we have let you down over costs. We can write to you with the fee estimate or email it to you.
In the case of residential conveyancing, we usually offer a fixed fee. We quote a fixed fee for the work normally undertaken in a standard case and will provide you with a list of additional fixed fees that we would charge if you require additional work to be undertaken. An example of additional fees for our time would be the preparation of a Declaration of Trust or a Will.
We will always honour the fixed fee quoted unless the information relied upon by us at the time of the estimate was incorrect or it subsequently becomes apparent that there's an aspect of the transaction that will significantly affect the amount of time that has to be spent by us. In either case we will notify you of any such development before we proceed further so that you can decide whether to incur additional expense. Examples of circumstances that might change the cost would be if the property is a flat, not a house as you initially informed us. For a free quote and breakdown of related Disbursements known at this time, please use our quote enquiry form.
In addition to receiving instructions direct from buyers and sellers, we also work alongside brokers, referrers and property agents who refer clients to us. If we've agreed to pay to them a referral fee for recommending us to act for you then we'll disclose the amount to you and we'll pay the amount involved to the referrer out of our fee.
When do I have to pay all the fees?
Fees for conveyancing, and other related costs are payable just before completion, but searches are paid for by you up front when you’re ready for us to start them.
If I don’t purchase a property is there a fee?
Will I have a direct contact number and email for my conveyancer?
What are the key stages of the conveyancing purchase process?
Once you've had an offer accepted, made a mortgage application (if necessary) and instructed your conveyancer there are several steps which must be completed before you can get the keys and move into your new home. The main stages are:
- You instruct your conveyancer and the usual Identity and Anti Money Laundering checks are undertaken
- A Contract pack is requested and then received from the seller’s conveyancer. It's then checked by your conveyancer and any pre-contract enquiries are raised
- The required conveyancing searches and ownership checks are carried out. If a buyer wishes to proceed quickly these can be undertaken whilst you have your survey carried out and you're progressing your mortgage application. You need to pay our fee for obtaining and advising on the searches before that work is undertaken as we have to purchase the information
- Pre-contract enquiries are answered by the seller’s conveyancer
- You receive a written offer of mortgage and your lender sends a copy to us with details of its legal requirements
- Your conveyancer reviews the pre-contact enquiry answers, the results of the searches and the mortgage documents and reports to you in writing on the Contract and property generally so that you can raise any issues that you might have
- We send you a full completion statement dealing with all financial aspects of the transaction
- Once you're happy with everything you'll be asked to pay your deposit to us in preparation for the exchange of contracts. You sign the Contract
- A completion date is agreed between you and the seller through the parties’ conveyancers and the contracts are exchanged by the conveyancers during a telephone conversation. Once contracts are exchanged you're legally obliged to go through with the purchase on the agreed completion date. You should insure the property from this point unless it's a flat insured under a joint policy
- Your conveyancer will carry out final pre-completion searches and obtain the balance of any monies due from you together with any mortgage funds from your lender
- On the day of completion we send the balance purchase monies to the bank of the sellers’ conveyancer. Once the funds are received the transaction is completed and you'll officially be the owners of your new home and will be able to collect the keys at a time and place as agreed with the seller or the sellers Estate Agent
- Once the purchase is complete your conveyancer will register the property in your name and you'll receive a copy of the title and proof of ownership from The Land Registry
How long does the conveyancing process take?
Unfortunately nobody can say for sure how long the process will take – every transaction has its own different circumstances. The length of the chain of properties and the speed at which other parties involved in the transaction work will all be relevant. Furthermore, if a new mortgage is required by one or more parties involved that can also cause delay as, generally speaking, mortgages appear to be taking longer than people expect.
For a straightforward purchase, completion should take place within 8 – 12 weeks of instructing a conveyancer provided it's not subject to any major hold ups, however, the longer a chain the more likely there'll be delay as if one party or property causes delay it will affect all of the transactions in the chain. Generally speaking, where a flat is involved – rather than a house – the transaction is likely to take longer because of the additional legal work involved.
Can I speak to someone out of office hours?
What is Stamp Duty Land Tax?
Stamp Duty Land Tax – SDLT – is a tax on land that is payable to HM Revenue and Customs. You can find out how much stamp duty is to be paid on a property by visiting the government website.
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