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Do I need a solicitor to sell my house?

Ashton Berkhauer
Written by  Ashton Berkhauer
5 min read
Updated: 18 Mar 2024

Looking to sell your home? Then chances are you are weighing up whether to engage a solicitor to help with the process. Read on and we’ll explain what a solicitor does to help sell a house and whether you should get one.

What does a solicitor do to help sell a house?

A solicitor is registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and is, therefore, well versed in all aspects of property law.

When it comes to selling a house, a solicitor handles the entire legal process of transferring ownership, known as the conveyancing process. This includes the following:

  • Advising on the sale process: Depending on whether your property is leasehold, freehold, or listed, the sale process can vary significantly. A solicitor will guide you through these nuances and ensure you understand the implications of each.

  • Preparing necessary documents: From fire safety, gas safety, and electrical safety certificates to leasehold terms, a solicitor will inform you about all the documents required for the buyer to proceed with the purchase.

  • Communication bridge: By acting as an intermediary between you and the buyer's solicitor, they eliminate the need for direct contact, which can sometimes complicate negotiations. This means the seller does not need to speak with the buyer themselves.

  • Legal Issue resolution: If any legal issues arise during the sale, your solicitor will be on hand to address them promptly, ensuring that any concerns are resolved as they pertain to the sale.

  • Sale progress updates: Keeping you updated on the process of the sale, which can take anywhere between eight and 16 weeks depending on the length of the property chain and any other mitigating factors.

  • Contract exchange: A critical stage in the sale of a property, exchanging contracts legally binds both parties to the transaction.

  • Funds management: On completion, your solicitor will manage the transfer of funds, including deposits and mortgage money.

Handing over keys

Solicitor or licensed conveyancer: making the right choice

Understanding the difference between a solicitor and a licensed conveyancer is crucial when deciding who to hire for your property sale.

While both are experts in the field of property transfer, solicitors have a broader legal knowledge base and can handle additional legal disputes that may require court intervention.

On the other hand, conveyancers specialise in property ownership transfer and are usually a more cost-effective option.

Conveyancers are registered with the Council of Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), but they may not be equipped to handle legal disputes outside of property law.

The pros and cons of solicitors and conveyancers at a glance

  • Solicitors: They offer comprehensive services and can deal with complex legal issues beyond the conveyancing process. However, their fees are generally higher, which is often attributed to their wider legal knowledge and ability to handle more than just the conveyancing process.

  • Licensed conveyancers: More affordable and focused on conveyancing, they are a good choice for straightforward property transactions. However, if legal disputes between seller and buyer emerge during the sale that require court intervention, a solicitor would need to step in as conveyancers cannot handle such disputes.

First-time buyers: Why professional help is a must

It’s especially important for first-time buyers to make use of a solicitor or conveyancer.

The journey onto the property ladder is fraught with legal jargon and processes that can be daunting for the uninitiated.

Having a professional to guide you through the process can save time, alleviate stress, and prevent costly mistakes, especially if there are any legal concerns or the seller lacks knowledge of the conveyancing process.

Can you go solo on a cash sale?

While it's not a legal requirement to use a solicitor or conveyancer when selling your house for cash, it's highly recommended.

These professionals can efficiently handle the sharing of necessary documents and address any legal issues, such as anti-money laundering regulations, that could arise.

When selling a home for cash, you still need to go through the same process as selling to a buyer with a mortgage, which includes giving copies of key documents.

The verdict: solicitor or conveyancer?

Ultimately, the decision to hire a solicitor or a conveyancer comes down to personal preference and the specific circumstances of your property sale.

If you value a more comprehensive service and don't mind paying a premium for it, a solicitor may be the way to go.

However, if your sale is straightforward and cost is a major consideration, a licensed conveyancer could be your best bet.

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