In this brief guide we are going to answer the question “  do I need a solicitor to buy a house?“

Do I need a solicitor to buy a house?

No, you do not need a solicitor to buy a house, but buying a house does require some legal work which you may not be able to do on your own. Some of the legal work a conveyancer does when their client is buying a house includes:

Verifying the identity of the seller

Verifying the legal ownership of the property

Reviewing draft sale contracts and providing any feedback

Carrying out legal searches on the property to discover any issues (such as legal disputes, planning constraints, flooding, mining, contaminated land)

Liasoning with the seller’s conveyancer to resolve any issues found on the searches

Reviewing the mortgage lenders mortgage offer

Reviewing the mortgage deed

Preparing a full legal report on the property and any findings from their investigation

Reviewing the signed sales contract

Liasoning with the mortgage lender to receive the mortgage funds

Arranging a completion date and exchanging contracts

Prepare a draft transfer document and get it approved by the seller’s conveyancer

Applying for the pre-completion searches

Send the Land transaction return form to inland revenue for stamp duty

Receive stamp duty certificate from the inland revenue

Apply to the land registry for you to be named as the legal owner of the property.

Confirming to the mortgage lender that you are now registered at the land registry as the legal owner of the property

If you feel you can comfortably handle all of the tasks mentioned above then, by all means, you may not need a solicitor to buy a house. If you look at the list above and you feel you won’t be able to handle it without the need of someone who is experienced and trained for in this matter then you do need a solicitor to buy a house.

You can see a conveyancing process flow chart here highlighting the role of the conveyancer when buying a house.

The reality is that if you are buying with a mortgage then the decision may be out of your hands as almost all mortgage lenders will require you to use a solicitor (conveyancer) to complete on the mortgage. 

This is because if anything goes wrong with the purchase the mortgage lenders funds are at greater risk in comparison to the mortgage deposit you may have put down.

Can I buy a house without a solicitor?

Yes, it’s perfectly possible to buy a house without a solicitor as there is no legal requirement to buy a house with a solicitor. If you do want to buy a house without a solicitor then HM land registry does provide some procedural guidance such as how to fill a transfer form.

There are a lot of issues with doing the conveyancing process for a home purchase by yourself. Firstly, if anything goes wrong there will be no one to blame and hold responsible or seek any damages from but yourself. If you had used a solicitor (conveyancer) on the other hand you would have been able to seek compensation from the conveyancer as they will be covered by their liability insurance for cases like this where there may be some negligence on their part.

If you do not do the conveyancing process right then you could face serious issues after you have bought the property and you may end up realising you don’t even own the property and your money has gone to waste and is no irrecoverable. 

A simple mistake such as not verifying if any other third parties have any interest in the property you want to purchase. E.g purchasing property from someone who has recently been bankrupt could mean that the property is recovered from you as it was illegally sold to you. Purchasing property which was party gifted to you within 7 years could also mean that you may have some inheritance tax liabilities in the future.

The conveyancing process may also be unusually complicated depending on the type of property you want to purchase and the procedural guidelines provided by HM land registry may not suffice.

Even Hm land registry “advice” against doing the conveyancing for yourself when buying a home.

Why you need a solicitor to buy a house?

There are several things which you may not consider if you do not use a solicitor to buy your house.

If you are buying with someone else:

Do you need a declaration of trust?

Do you need a tenants in common agreement?

What will happen if either of you dies?

Do you need will writing to prepare your estates?

Do you need a cohabitation agreement?

If you are buying a new build:

Do you need a snagging survey? (Snagging issues are defects or unfinished pieces of work in a new build home.)

If you are buying a leasehold:

Are there any restrictive covenants?

Do you have the right to extend the lease?

Can you buy a share of the freehold?

The above is in no way legal guidance or all the factors which you should consider when buying a house, they just go to show you that there are several considerations which you may not have thought of when looking to do the conveyancing process yourself. So if you are still asking, “Do I need a solicitor to buy a house?” we hope you now have your answer.

What documents do you need from the seller?

If you are still asking, “Do I need a solicitor to buy a house” then this quick test should help you determine if you need a solicitor or not.

The basic documents which will usually be required from a seller( or their conveyancer) are listed below. If you already knew everything in the list below then you may very well not need a solicitor, if you didn’t then you should think hard about it.

The property information form: This is a form which tells you all about the property.

The leasehold information form: If your property is a leasehold then you will likely need the leasehold information form.

Leasehold property enquiries (LPE1 form): to be filled in by the landlord or managing agent of the property

The fittings and contents form: this form tells you what the fittings and contents are in the property. It states which ones will be included in the sale and which aren’t.

Copies of any planning consents

Electrical and gas certificates

In this brief guide, we discussed the question“  do I need a solicitor to buy a house?“ If you have any comments or questions please let us know.

John Bate

John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.