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What to expect the first time you buy a house

Buying your first home? Unsure about what conveyancing solicitors do? Graysons team offer some expert advice.

Last updated on January 16th, 2024 at 04:27 pm

Latest posts by Caroline Murray (see all)

    Buying a house for the first time is an exciting milestone, but it can also be stressful and overwhelming. The house-buying process involves a whole host of legalities, documentation, and what can often seem like a lot of frustrating red tape. Therefore, you need an expert property solicitor on your side. Commonly known as conveyancing solicitors, they will guide you through the house buying process. Here are some of the most important things you’ll need to know about the conveyancing process.

    What is property conveyancing?

    Conveyancing is the process of legally transferring land and property ownership. A property solicitor will be appointed by both the buyers and the sellers. This ensures that the parties meet all legal obligations and that their rights are protected. The residential conveyancing process starts as soon as you have had an offer accepted. It ends once contracts have been exchanged and money is paid over on formal completion. A conveyancing solicitor will act in the best interests of their clients during the conveyancing process. Due to the complex nature of legal conveyancing, it is best to hire a specialized solicitor for buying a house, such as the legal property experts at Graysons.

    When do I need to engage a property solicitor?

    You should engage a property solicitor once you have had an offer accepted on the house you would like to buy. This is when the house conveyancing process starts, so it is crucial that you have an expert to help manage the process for you.

    What does a conveyancing solicitor do?

    There are numerous things that a conveyancing solicitor will manage for a first-time buyer. Some of the key steps include:

    • Carrying out identity checks
    • Confirming the source of funds
    • Raising any pre-contract enquiries
    • Carrying out local authority searches and investigation of title
    • Dealing with your mortgage lender
    • Managing payments, including stamp duty
    • Handling the exchange of contracts
    • Formal completion and transfer of ownership
    • Registering the title for you and your mortgage lender

    How long does it take to buy a house?

    The length of time the house conveyancing process takes depends on several factors. This includes how long the searches and pre contract enquiries take, and whether the replies cause any further investigations to be necessary. Other issues that impact how long it can take include, whether there is an extended chain of sales and purchases, and how efficient the various buyers and seller’s conveyancing solicitors are. As a first-time buyer, you will not have to worry about a chain on your side. However, you may encounter a long chain above the property you wish to buy. You can expect the process – from offer acceptance to completion – to take from 8 to 12 weeks.

    What property searches does a conveyancing solicitor do? 

    Searches are an essential part of the job of a conveyancing solicitor. The results of searches will give you more information on the property you wish to buy and may reveal things that you were not aware of. Not all searches are legally required, however mortgage lenders will often request additional searches. Your house conveyancing solicitor will advise which searches are needed. Some common searches include:

    • Land registry – this will confirm that the seller is the legal owner of the property that you wish to buy
    • Environmental – this will tell you if the house you want to buy is, for example, built on an old landfill site, on or near contaminated water, on land that was used for industrial purposes, or if there is a risk of flooding.
    • Water authority – this will advise of any public drains on the property and where the property’s water supply comes from
    • Local authority – this search will advise on any prospective planning permission or restrictions, who is responsible for the maintenance of paths and roads adjoining the property, and any other information held by the local authority

    Less obvious searches can include:

    • Chancel repair – this will advise if the property owners are responsible for any repairs on the local church. Instead of carrying out the search, it can often be cheaper to take out chancel repair insurance instead.
    • Location-specific searches – this can include investigations for mining and fracking.


    What precontract enquiries does a conveyancing solicitor make?

    Your conveyancing solicitor will submit precontract enquiries to the seller and request information about the property you are interested in at the same time as dealing with searches.

    The replies will reveal important information about the property you wish to buy and satisfy the requirements of your mortgage lender. Enquires raised may for example relate to:

    – Planning permissions and building regulations approvals

    – Whether there have been any neighbour disputes or boundary disputes

    – Any adults other than the sellers living the in property who might have an interest

    The answers to these could result in you or your mortgage lender requiring further information.


    How long do property searches and precontract enquiries take a conveyancing solicitor?

    Precontact contract enquires and property searches can take up to a month to carry out, and may take longer, especially if the searches prompt your conveyancing solicitor to raise further enquiries. The timescale for precontract enquiries depends on the seller and the seller’s solicitor. Staying in regular contact with your house conveyancing expert can help to ensure all parties are aware of the timescales and any further investigations that may need to be raised.


    How much should I budget for conveyancing costs?

    The cost of conveyancing varies, depending on the purchase price of the property and the complexity of the transaction. When looking at conveyancing solicitors’ quotes, carefully check what is included. Many conveyancing solicitors quote low fees, but then add on extra charges, significantly pushing up the true cost. Look for a property solicitor, like Graysons, who offers a transparent and honest quote for conveyancing costs. This will help you budget and avoid any financial surprises. Finally, while a house purchase is an expensive project, do not be tempted to go with the cheapest quote. The lowest priced property solicitor may not be the best.


    How do I choose a conveyancing solicitor?

    You will want to choose a specialized solicitor for buying a house. The first thing you will want to do is to check a potential property solicitors’ credentials, to ensure they have the experience and qualifications required. You can check if they have accreditations like Lexcel or the Conveyancing Quality Solicitors mark. If you are buying with a mortgage, you will want to check if the conveyancing solicitor is on your mortgage lender’s approved panel of solicitors. If your solicitor is not on your mortgage lenders approved panel, you can ask your chosen conveyancing expert to register with that lender. This will help to avoid extra costs and unnecessary complications. Finally, ask for recommendations from friends and family, or check online reviews.


    Do I need to hire a conveyancing solicitor near me?

    You do not need to hire a local property solicitor as the entire house conveyancing process can be carried out via post and email. At Graysons, our conveyancing solicitors have both local and national clients. While hiring a legal conveyancing expert that is local to you may give you the benefits of being able to drop documents off by hand, instead of by post, and having face-to-face meeting. These are not essential requirements, just convenient. When you are buying your first home, you are likely to be making the most significant purchase in your life, so you will want only the very best conveyancing solicitors on your side.


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