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House Hunting? Some Early Prep Could Speed up the Process
- AuthorSarah Major
The conveyancing process in the UK can be frustratingly slow for those keen to get moving. But it's not all about waiting for the paperwork to be sorted by the solicitors: the house buyer and seller can both do a lot in advance to speed up the process.
The imperfections in the conveyancing process have been recognised by the Government which is currently consulting on how to improve and make it more user friendly. (See our blog from 5 January: "How to make home buying and selling cheaper, faster and less stressful".)
But in the meantime, buyers and sellers should remember that a deal to buy a house is not legally binding until the parties exchange contracts. This could be some weeks down the line – leaving both parties exposed to the other withdrawing for whatever reason.
Those few weeks or even months before the contract is exchanged can be tense and stressful. However, there are a few things that the parties can do to make the process quicker and reduce the risk of the deal falling through.
Tips for the Seller
- Find a good estate agent. Ask around, read online reviews and seek recommendations. Will they chase the buyer regularly to keep the process moving?
- Put together a 'house-pack' for the seller. This is rarely done in the UK but can be a real time saver in advance of offers being made. The pack could include details about:
- your gas, electric and water bills (and energy efficiency ratings);
- your boiler, when it was last serviced (and find the guarantee);
- any surveys done on the property;
- any planning permissions or building regulation approvals obtained for works that have been done on the house; and/or
- any rights of way over the land.
- Consider handing over this pack to potential, interested buyers early on – before the offer even. It could ensure that there is less chance of the buyer backing out later when they find out everything about the house.
- A solicitor will help you put this pack together and is a good reason for instructing solicitors earlier in the process.
- Try and get surveys done as soon as possible. A seller could even consider preparing the survey themselves (rather than leaving it to the buyer) to speed up the process.
Tips for the Buyer
- At the very least, secure your mortgage offer in principle from your lender early – before you make an offer. This will mean you know exactly how much you have to spend.
- Work out what all the other costs will be including for example, the conveyancing costs, disbursements, removal costs and stamp duty.
- Ask the seller for the information listed above (in the section about the house pack).
Tips for both parties
- Obtain recommendations for a reliable and reputable conveyancer or solicitor. Read online reviews.
- Contact the solicitor/conveyancer as early as possible to discuss your requirements and ask for a clear explanation of the costs. This includes not only the conveyancing fees but all the "disbursements" such as search fees.
- Check whether the solicitors pay referral fees to introducers.
- Don't forget that the fees for conveyancing are normally paid at the end of the process when the purchase/sale has been completed.
How to prevent gazumping
"Gazumping" happens when a seller accepts a buyer's offer then later withdraws after receiving a better offer from a third party. It can be intensely frustrating for the buyer who might even have incurred costs in the process in reliance on the acceptance – which are irrecoverable.
To protect yourself against gazumping, the seller could consider entering – or be persuaded to enter - an agreement with the buyer to take the property off the market for a fixed time after accepting the offer. Such an agreement would be binding. Each party would agree to forfeit a sum of money should they withdraw.
This agreement is particularly worth considering if more time is needed to carry out some of the conveyancing process.
Be prepared – and Reap the Benefits Later
All of the above will lessen the risk of a deal to buy or sell a house falling through and will take some of the pressure out of the process. It could also mean that the conveyancing process itself will take less time.
For more information about conveyancing process or for guidance on putting together a pack for buyers, contact Sarah Major on 0161 684 6949 or make an enquiry.
Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers LLP or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.