Buying a property is probably the biggest investment you ever make in your life.
It involves the transaction of a decent amount of money, a lot of documents, and a, sometimes, tiring conveyancing and legal process.
When you’re buying property in a foreign country, the risks increases as you often don’t understand the local laws, legal process, language, and documentation involved.
That’s why it’s highly recommended, if not mandatory, to work with a solicitor when buying property.
In some parts of the world, solicitors are also known as conveyancers. By definition, there is a difference between a solicitor and conveyancer, but they do exactly the same job when it comes to handling procurement of property.
The Difference between Solicitor and Conveyancer
A Solicitor is a qualified lawyer who can provide you full legal services, including assistance in buying property.
A Conveyancer, on the other hand, is specialized in legal matters related to property, and cannot provide help in other legal matters.
If you’re dealing with a large transaction, or going through a complex deal, like buying off-plan property in a foreign country, solicitors are generally recommended over conveyancers.
When it’s recommended to work with a solicitor in a foreign country, a conveyancer can also fulfill your needs though.
Even if it’s not mandatory to hire a Solicitor in most countries, in some countries like the UK, you can’t transfer the legal ownership of the property in your name without a solicitor.
In the US, solicitors are commonly referred to as attorneys, but it is not mandatory to hire one in most states.
Why do I need a solicitor when buying property?
Solicitors make the buying process easier for you. They understand the documents involved, they know local laws and they know how to speed up to the process.
Although some real estate agents and developers don’t find it necessary to hire a Solicitor, promising you an easy process, you should think over.
Realtors and developers don’t like working with solicitors as it’s difficult to manipulate a solicitor or conveyancer, compared to an actual buyer.
Solicitors are well taught about the potential legal issues, local laws and the common tricky practices.
In many countries, a Notary can do the job to transfer the property, but in this case, you have to go through a lot of documentation and legal process on your own.
Doesn’t sound very pleasant, right.
Notaries in most countries, like Spain, most often get involved at the final step of the conveyancing process, to witness and ensure that the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer.
Working with a solicitor can not only make your life easier, but it can also make the process risk-free.
What can a Solicitor help me with?
Let’s have a look at some of the things that a Solicitor can help you with.
- Advising you on contract terms
- Looking into the contract provided by the seller
- Conducting conveyancing or property searches (conveyancing searches are inquiries made by the solicitor to get more information about the property
- Contact local authorities and other parties)
- Creating a report based on the property searches and presenting it to you
- Preparing and exchanging contract with the seller
- Preparing the documents related to transfer of land
- Looking into the mortgage documents and advise you
- Notify the local authorities of purchase at your behalf
- Registrations at the Land Registry
In which countries are Solicitors part of the buying process?
In most countries, solicitors, lawyers, attorneys, and conveyancers do the same job, when it comes to buying property. In many parts of the world, you can buy a property on your own without involving a solicitor.
- Is it mandatory in the US? No, other than a few states
- Is it mandatory in the UK? Yes
- Is it mandatory in Australia? No, but recommended.
- Is it mandatory in Thailand? No, but highly recommended
- Is it mandatory in Vietnam? No, but highly recommended
- Is it mandatory in Malaysia? No, but recommended
Simply put, in most parts of the world, working with solicitors is not mandatory by law, but it is still highly recommended and common practice.
Benefits of hiring a Solicitor
Even if it costs you some extra pennies to hire a Solicitor, it’s a small fee in comparison to buying a new home. It also offers convenience, security, giving you peace of mind.
You have to ask yourself, do you have time to do a property search?
This process alone can take weeks, and if you’re buying property in a foreign country, it becomes near to impossible to conduct conveyancing searches on your own.
Buying complexity differs among countries
Taking the decision to work with a solicitor, or buying property on your own, also depends on where you’re buying property.
For example, if you’re buying property in the US, you can probably do it on your own, fairly easily compared to many other countries (like in Southeast Asia).
This is because the real estate transaction process in the US is simplified and standardized.
On the other hand, if you’re buying property in countries like Spain, that are known for frauds by developers, you should definitely work with a Solicitor.
Similarly, if you’re buying property in emerging Asian markets, like Vietnam, it’s highly recommended to work with a Solicitor. Here, new laws are introduced on a frequent basis and you’ll most likely face issues with language barriers.
We have already published a detailed guide for investors interested in buying property in Vietnam and why you need a lawyer.
Depends on your knowledge and experience
Hiring a Solicitor also depends on your personal experience, knowledge, and expertise.
If you have previous experience in buying property, understand the process, local laws, and have skills and time for property research, you might be able to do it yourself.
But if it is your first time, or if you’re making your first investment in a new country, working with a solicitor is a safer and recommended option.
How much do I need to pay a Solicitor?
The amount of money you have to pay depends on the country.
In the United States, attorneys mostly charge by the hour, which can cost a lot, as most attorneys charge between $150 and $350 per hour. But you can also find attorneys who charge a flat fee for specific needs, like when preparing a specific document.
In Malaysia, there is a fixed scale of fees that vary from 0.4% to 1% of the total value of the property.
It’s recommended to not work with solicitors or conveyancers that charge hourly rates as it can result in high costs. Also, make sure to get the quote that itemizes all charges, to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Just some interesting facts:
In the UK, the average fee of solicitor ranges between 850 to 1500 pounds.
In many countries, Stamp Duty is included in the solicitor’s fee.
How can I find a Solicitor?
Finding a solicitor is generally an easy task, but also depends where you’re buying property.
For example, in the UK, one of the best online sources to find a solicitor or conveyancer is Homeowner’s Alliance Panel.
You can find 150 assured law firms on their website. The site also allows you to compare quotes, locate the nearest solicitors, and show you ratings.
Similarly, there are more online options in the UK like the Council of Licensed Conveyancers and Law Society.
Finding Malaysia Solicitors
In Malaysia, you can find a conveyancer or lawyer on the official website of the Malaysian Bar. Simply, you can filter the names of lawyers based on their location.
In most countries, you can easily find the lawyers’ or solicitors’ websites, with names and contact information.
Finding a solicitor is not a major problem, as you can easily find and contact a good solicitor online in most countries.
Working with a solicitor is highly recommended for investors who are investing in property in foreign countries.
Although it’s optional in many countries, solicitors make the buying process less risky, quicker, and convenient.