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What do property solicitors do? Here's a round-up of what they'll take care of when you're buying or selling a home.

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  • Whether you're preparing to put in an offer on a new home, or listing your current property for sale, one of your first tasks will be to line up a property solicitor.

    What is a property solicitor?

    A property solicitor coordinates all the legal aspects of the transaction on your behalf. But their role does vary between England and Wales, and Scotland. Many Scottish property solicitors, for example, are involved in the marketing of property as well as the legal process of transferring home ownership from one person to another.

    Here's the detail of what you can expect...

    1. What do property solicitors do in England and Wales?

    Buying a property

    Stage one: Agree sale

    Once the sale is agreed, your property solicitor will:

    • Organise searches at the local authority on your behalf and ask you for a sum on account of such expenses
    • Receive replies to questions raised and report to you with the contract for signing
    • Request your deposit
    • Deal with the formal mortgage offer and all the conditions on your behalf
    • Receive the search results and communicate any problems

    Stage two: Exchange contracts

    Once contracts have been exchanged, your property solicitor will:

    • Hand over the deposit to the seller's solicitor
    • Prepare a final completion statement for your approval
    • Collect any balance of funds required
    • Prepare the deed of transfer and mortgage deed and arrange for you to sign them
    • Organise final searches to check for debts and bankruptcy

    Stage three: Completion

    On completion, your property solicitor will:

    • Receive and arrange for payment of any Stamp Duty to HMRC
    • Prepare and send off application to Land Registry to register your ownership
    • Send deeds to the lender (if the property is mortgaged)

    Selling a property

    Stage one: Agree sale

    Once the sale has been agreed, your property solicitor will:

    • Obtain your title deeds and ask you to fill in a detailed questionnaire
    • Prepare and send out a package of legal information and a contract for sale
    • Request a settlement figure for your mortgage and any other secured loans
    • Liaise with all relevant parties and negotiate a date for moving ('completion')

    Stage two: Exchange contracts

    Once contracts have been exchanged, your property solicitor will:

    • Receive the deposit as a down-payment 
    • Organise final accounts and prepare a final settlement for your approval
    • Collect any balance of funds required
    • Approve the deed of transfer and arrange for you to sign it

    Stage three: Completion

    Upon completion, your property solicitor will:

    • Pay off the mortgage and notify Land Registry
    • Hand over the deeds and send any balance of money to you

    2. What do property solicitors do in Scotland?

    Buying a property 

    Property solicitors in Scotland can also negotiate deals on your behalf so consider appointing one early on in the buying process.

    Stage one: Before an offer

    Before an offer is made, your property solicitor will:

    • Contact the seller's agent notifying your interest in the property (they may try to obtain an assurance that the property will not be sold once you have put in an offer)
    • Confirm you have a loan in place sufficient to cover the expected offer

    Stage two: Make an offer

    Upon making an offer, your property solicitor will:

    • Arrange a survey for you, if necessary, and report the contents back to you. Note that sellers in Scotland provide Home Reports, which include information about the property for buyers. 
    • Write an official letter, with the details of your offer and any conditions you have attached - for example, a time limit
    • Submit it to the agent marketing the property
    • Receive written confirmation from the seller's solicitor as to the acceptance, or not, of your offer
    • Act on your instructions as to accepting any of the alterations proposed and return a letter to the buyer's solicitor (this process may be repeated a number of times)

    Stage three: Conclude an offer

    Upon concluding an offer, your property solicitor will:

    • Acknowledge conclusion of the offer (missives)
    • Perform any necessary searches with relation to the property for sale
    • Prepare and send off application to Land Registry to register your ownership
    • Send the title deeds to the building society or bank (if the property is mortgaged)
    • Receive and arrange for payment for the property to be sent to the seller's solicitor and for any Land and Building Transaction Tax, which is the equivalent to Stamp Duty in England and Land Transaction Tax in Wales. 

    Selling a property 

    In Scotland, sellers may have an estate agent or developer to market the property and a solicitor to effect the transaction. To simplify matters, in some cases the agent is also the solicitor (where the term 'solicitor' has been used, this could also be an agent).

    Stage one: Before an offer

    Before an offer is made, your property solicitor will:

    • Obtain title deeds from the bank or building society whose loan the house is secured on 
    • Request a settlement figure for your mortgage and any other secured loans
    • Receive and process any formal notifications of interest and pass relevant details on to you

    Stage two: Receive an offer

    Upon receiving an offer, your property solicitor will:

    • Receive formal legal offers from the agent marketing the property, summarise them and ask you what you want to do
    • Confirm with you that the content of any offers is acceptable
    • Recommend changes to offers where necessary and forward alterations to the buyer's solicitor in writing (this process may be repeated a number of times)

    Stage three: Conclude an offer

    Upon concluding an offer, your property solicitor will:

    • Complete the missives
    • Once all parties are agreed on the final terms of the offer, including any amendments, send a final letter concluding the purchase to the buyer's solicitor (this is called 'concluding missives' and is legally binding)

    The property solicitor will then:

    • Receive full payment for the property on the agreed date of entry from the buyer's solicitor
    • Pass over title deeds and any other relevant paperwork to the buyer's solicitor
    • Repay the mortgage/secured loans (if applicable)

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    Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. PrimeLocation strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advice from a qualified professional.

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