A ‘Legal Eagle’ eye for first time buyers
By Philip McBride, Head of the Property Law Team at McKee’s Solicitors
People can be surprised to find out that a solicitor plays quite a significant role in the home buying process. Choosing a firm you are comfortable with therefore is very important. Contacting a solicitor as early as possible allows you to get a feel for the person and the process. Checking out reviews, websites, asking friends and family for recommendations and even cold calling can help you decide on the best provider for you. Getting quotes in early can also help you budget and ensure there are no unwelcome surprises down the line. Legal fees are typically paid at the end of the process so it’s good to know where you stand early on!
Essentially the first step for us as the solicitor is confirming with your bank that there are funds available and that you as the home buyer can afford the property. The solicitor acts for the purchaser as well as the bank to make sure that the funds are being used to buy the property. In that sense, we safeguard the interests of both parties.
At the first meeting, you will need to bring photographic identification and a utility bill. These key documents allow the solicitor to open a file to start the work. Following this, you’ll be required to provide proof of a mortgage offer. Once we have all the documentation, we will complete a report which outlines the property’s history and background along with any other relevant information. Solicitors aim to make this as straightforward as possible and recommend a face-to-face meeting to finalise and go through the report together.
One of the questions we get asked the most by prospective buyers is how much legal fees cost. While each firm is different, costs normally start in the region of £500 - £750 plus VAT. However, this can also depend on the cost of the property you are purchasing. Some solicitors base their fee on a scale, others may charge on a percentage of the purchase price. This is another reason to research and get in touch with a solicitor early on.
Home purchases can of course fall through. You can pull out at any stage before the contract is officially signed and there will be no cost and no liability for you. However, once you have signed the contract, it can be tricky to put the brakes on, so do be mindful of signing documentation before you are fully committed. It is likely you would incur a legal service charge if a purchase falls through after you have signed a contract. At McKee’s, we would refer to this as an ‘aborted sale cost’ which would normally be around £100, certainly not the full amount!
Solicitor’s Top Tips
My top tips for local homebuyers getting ready to purchase their first home are:
1. Stay in contact with your solicitor regularly, it’s a transactional partnership and we progress best with your assistance.
2. Keep on top of documentation and deadlines for a smooth transaction.
3. Keep calm and enjoy it! It can be a pressurised process but ultimately, you’ll be stepping into a new home at the end of it.
4. Discuss the end date with the vendors early, this gives everyone a goal to work towards, instead of leaving it open ended.
5. Buying a home is a busy process, it is essential to choose a solicitor or a firm that you can trust. Read reviews, speak to family and friends, find out what professional bodies they belong to.
Whether you are buying your first home, moving home or just have a mortgage question, AIB’s expert team of mortgage advisers are here to help. Whatever your mortgage question, you can bank on us. Find out more here.
To get in touch with McKee’s Law visit their website here.