Even if you are meticulously organised, you are subject to the unpredictable behaviour of buyers along the chain.
As a residential property lawyer who deals with buyers and sellers across Yorkshire, I see many common and avoidable issues that needlessly delay transactions and add to the overall stress of the experience.
I want to share some tips that will reduce anxiety and see off challenges before they become problems. There is no need for property sales to be so drawn-out. Forewarned is forearmed!
- Prepare yourself: your lawyer will want to see passports to prove your identity. If you bought the house a long time ago, are your names and title up to date?
- Get your paperwork ready. Locate title and other important documents relating to your property including planning permissions and building regulation consents. Have any pre-existing covenants been breached? What if you have misplaced any documents and need to source replacements? I have seen entire chains collapse because a seller is unable to produce the right document for building work done on the property. People get nervous. Think through every step you are likely to encounter on the journey and what evidence you will have to demonstrate. Get these basics sorted into a ‘sales pack’ at an early stage and your property will be ‘sale-ready’.
- Is your property freehold or leasehold? If it’s a leasehold, how long until the term expires? Some people decide to buy the freehold to make the property more marketable. If so, don’t just accept the first price – get advice first to avoid over-paying.
- ‘Buyer Beware’ is a thing of the past. It always used to be the buyer taking the risk, nowadays it is incumbent on the seller to disclose all relevant information upfront. You are likely to experience challenges to the price you want to achieve if your purchaser can point out unexplained title problems, historic planning, building irregularities or other anomalies. Your conveyancing solicitor should be able to prepare a full report highlighting issues that a prospective purchaser is likely to raise. We include a full title report and advice on how to resolve any issues which may limit the saleability of your property.
- Don’t assume that all mortgage lenders are the same. Each one has different requirements. At an early stage, think about anything in the title which might limit the ability of a purchaser to obtain mortgage funding. This can slow things down – another reason why you should have everything present and correct before you start.
- Work smart. Use online services to supply documents where possible and use your device to respond quickly to questions. Technology is great for speeding up the sale process but it gives you less time to respond and rectify issues.
- Finally, know the difference between what your heart and your head are telling you. Homes are bought with the heart but, as a seller, you need to have your head engaged from day one – and even before you put your property on the market.
These are all situations that I have experienced first-hand as a residential property lawyer. I have spared you the horror stories! There is no doubt that selling your property can be a challenging experience but by planning ahead it need not be that way.
If you get the right advice and map out the journey in advance, from putting your property on the market through to loading up the removal van, those stress levels can be managed.
Sarah Sargent is a Partner and Head of Residential Property at Lupton Fawcett, which has offices in Leeds, Sheffield and York. The firm’s Quickstep programme helps property sellers to identify issues early in the sale process and reach the desired outcome.