Understanding the costs

When you move home, it can be confusing to talk of ‘legal costs’. Below we separate out some of the common costs to help you understand better what’s involved. There are two main types of cost – legal costs payable to your lawyer and costs payable to others (called ‘disbursements’) that your lawyer will handle on your behalf.

Legal costs

Your true legal costs are the costs payable to your lawyer for their work on your behalf. These are usually based on the value of the property involved and you should be able to be told this cost before you decide which law firm to use. Be careful of conveyancing services that promote a low initial cost but add in lots of hidden extras in their small print in order to bump the final cost up.

Searches

These are charges for checks about the property and the surrounding land. In each case there is a fee payable to the company providing the search which your lawyer usually pays on your behalf and then reclaims in their bill to you. An examples of a search is a local authority search (a search which looks to see if there are plans which might affect your property eg building a new road or a new housing development close by). Other common searches include a water authority and drainage search (which looks at details about the mains water supply and sewage removal) and an environmental search (which looks at past uses of the land the property is on to check for risk of contamination). Part of the skill of your conveyancing lawyer will be to advise which searches you are best to pay to be done.

Stamp duty

This is a tax payable to HMRC on any house purchase. Because law firms often deal with this on your behalf it is sometimes included as part of the quote for conveyancing. The current stamp duty amounts are as follows:

You’ll pay:

  • nothing on the first £125,000 of the property price
  • 2% on the next £125,000
  • 5% on the next £675,000
  • 10% on the next £575,000
  • 12% on the rest (above £1.5 million)

Other costs

There are other fees which you should be told about by your conveyancing lawyer, for example the land registry charge a fee to update their records of who owns a property (if you’re buying) or to produce a copy of their records to prove your own a property (if you’re selling). Another common cost is a charge that has to be paid for dealing with mortgage companies. Again – all these costs should be set-out and explained by your chosen lawyers upfront. 

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