Conveyancing – the legal process of buying a house – is mystifying to many. Who knows what all the to and fro is about, why it takes so long and how to get things moving when you don’t understand what the hold-up is.
Approximately a third of sales fall through in the conveyancing process. When this happens you still have a legal bill to pay, but no house move to show for it.
In fact conveyancing doesn’t need to be a painful process and the risk of a failed transaction can be minimised. While many view conveyancing as a commodity, the expertise and service level you commission can make or break the sale of your home.
I’ve worked with Manisha Bhula of Blandy & Blandy Solicitors on several successful sales now, she gives her insights into conveyancing.
Q. What are the most common reasons a sale falls through?A1. The transaction is taking too longThe longer the chain, the more likely the delays. The chain can only move as quickly as the slowest solicitor, and some really aren’t very pro-active, taking a long time to reply to enquiries. Some sellers decide to break the chain and move into rented accommodation to reduce the risk of the sale falling through. If this isn’t an option, ask your agent to check everyone in the chain is using a good solicitor.
A2. Survey resultsIf something problematic comes up in the survey that will cost the buyer time and money to fix, they may reduce their offer and the resulting negotiation can take time. Or they may pull out of the purchase altogether.
Sellers can reduce the risk of this by considering any structural or maintenance issues their property may have before putting it on the market. If there are issues with the property it’s best to be honest with your agent up-front so buyers are aware, before offering, of potential additional costs.
A3. Problems with communicationIt’s really important solicitors and agents stay in touch to keep things moving and resolve issues. Equally important is for sellers to answer enquiries quickly. Where everyone works together unnecessary delays can be avoided and everyone in the chain can be kept informed of where we are in the process.
Q. How long should the conveyancing process take? A. The common perception is it takes 3 to 4 months, however it should take 6 to 8 weeks. It can be done in 4 or less depending on circumstances. One sale went through in 48 hours!
Q. Indemnity policies are becoming very common and the liability to pay usually sits with the seller. What are the main reasons a buyer’s solicitor requests one?
A. These are required to protect the buyer against potential consequences of missing documentation for alterations to the property or ambiguities relating to the title. You may be able to acquire this paperwork but it could take months and cause the sale to fall through. That’s where an indemnity policy comes in. They usually cost from £50 to £300 but can cost significantly more and cover e.g.
· Lack of planning
· Lack of building regs
· Breach of covenant
· Fensa and heater certificates
If documentation is missing speak to your solicitor before you talk to the local authority, there are indemnity policies that can cover issues so the sale can proceed quickly. They can be very useful in resolving issues so long as the buyer is willing to accept an indemnity.
Q. When should a seller appoint a solicitor?
Ideally when you start marketing the property. This gives time for the required protocol documents to be completed, all property documentation to be gathered and your solicitor to write a draft contract. This means once an offer has been accepted a draft contract can be issued straight away.
Q. How do I choose a solicitor?
A. There are several ways to evaluate the right solicitor for you:
· Check independent review websites, these can be very revealing.
· Check if you will have a dedicated point of contact you can talk directly to. Have a chat with them, do you feel comfortable with them?
· Will there be a back-up contact if your main contact is out of the office, who is knowledgeable about your case and can keep things moving?
· Check they are accredited with Lexcel and CQS, this means they will be on the majority of ‘lender panels’ (solicitors recommended by lenders) which will save time.
· Don’t be guided by price, the level of service you’ll receive is important in seeing your transaction through quickly and successfully.
Top Tip: Be prepared. Collect all your documents together for planning permissions, building regulations and anything relating to the house. This saves time as your solicitor can hit the ground running. When you bought your house may have been given a property information pack by your solicitor. This will be very useful to the solicitor representing the sale of your property, please send it to them if you have it.
A word from Kai Carter Estates
One of the best pieces of advice I give buyers and sellers is “get a good solicitor!” They really do make all the difference. Last year I sold a property to a lovely couple who struggled to understand the legal process and jargon. Consequently their solicitor never once returned their calls or emails as they simply couldn’t be bothered to explain what was going on. Two weeks into the conveyancing process the buyers said they wished they’d taken my advice and gone with a better solicitor. It took another 3 ½ months of constant chasing to complete the transaction, which almost fell through a few times due to the delays.
A good solicitor is a critical part of your team, as is a good estate agent. I often find myself chasing the whole chain as not all estate agents are on the case. We also work with sellers to identify any issues that could scupper a sale before you even go to market, and advise clients on how best to proceed to increase the chance of a successful sale.
Selling your home is one of the biggest transactions you will undertake, make sure you have the right team in place to support you and put you first.
Blandy & Blandy
0118 951 6800