We’re delighted to introduce our latest guest blogger, Eleanor Richardson, who is a Consultant Solicitor in the Property Team at Keystone Law. She has extensive experience in the world of property law and offers her insights and advice to help sellers take a smooth ride to completion.
Tips for Selling Residential Property
Many people put their house on the market and think the hard part is done as soon as the estate agent’s board says sold, but this is the start of the hard work! Here I have set out some tips to overcome common reasons for delays. It is, however, also important to manage your expectations regarding likely timescales. Even on a straightforward chain, if there is a mortgage involved the average time from the “sold” board going up to completion is approximately 3 months. If both parties (and the relevant mortgage companies) are willing, it is possible to reduce this timescale considerably and the main way to achieve this is to make sure that all of your paperwork is in order at the start!
- Timings are key: Mortgage companies are tightening their criteria all the time so make sure you have answers to potential queries and that you do not hold matters up at all, so that completion happens within the period specified within the Buyer’s mortgage offer. Ask the agent to check when this period expires at the start of the transaction.
- Identity check: If you have changed your name since you bought your property then it is likely the property will still be registered in your old name so along with the other papers, make sure you provide a certified copy of your marriage certificate or change of name deed poll. The Buyer’s solicitor will need this and your solicitor may well need this too to verify your identity.
- Works undertaken to the property – get your paperwork ready: Give your solicitor any planning consents and building regulations consents for works carried out during your period of ownership and if you have them, the previous period of ownership too. This includes FENSA certificates for window installation, Part P certificates for electrical works and Building Regulations compliance certificates for boiler installations.
- Boiler check: It is important to ensure you’re up to date with your boiler service and have an electrical certificate to avoid any queries arising from the survey up front. Obtain a gas safe certificate when you have your boiler serviced. Although this is not a legal requirement unless you are letting, surveyors always ask to see it.
- Warranties and guarantees: Dig out all warranties and guarantees and give them to your solicitor at the start of the transaction. Some warranties, e.g. for damp work, last for up to 30 years, so it is worth having a good search for these as they can provide easy reassurance to a buyer when queries are raised on a survey report.
- Missing documents: If you’re missing any planning consents or building regulations consents, then consider obtaining or offering insurance up front. This is usually very cheap if none of the works have been carried out within the last 12 months and no enforcement action has been taken or threatened by the local authority.
- Replying to enquiries: When filling in the Property Information Form take care to fill in as accurately as possible. It is OK to say you don’t know if this is the case. In fact it is better to say you don’t know than to guess.
- Local knowledge: Keep hold of “to the occupier” letters about upcoming major works e.g. in relation to highways/railways and give these to your solicitor. Such works should come up in the local search, but if they do not and the works affect the value of the Property then you will be deemed to have had knowledge of them if you had received a letter about them. Failure to disclose could lead to a claim if the works go ahead after completion. If you have any queries about whether you should disclose something speak to your solicitor.
Selling Leasehold Property
When it comes to selling a Leasehold Property, there are few extra things that you need to consider:
- Terms of lease: Ask your solicitor to check the terms of the lease and find out landlord requirements at the start of the transaction.
- Management Company: Make sure you obtain a management pack from the Management Company (if applicable) up front to avoid delays. The management company may charge for this and you need to factor in these charges into your selling costs.
- Service charges: Provide all service charge information that you have and any correspondence from management company about future proposed works. Even if this is contained in the management pack, you should also disclose any correspondence that has been addressed to you as leaseholder.
- Landlord consents: Check you have Landlord consents for any works and seek advice from your solicitor on whether to get retrospective consent or insurance against enforcement before you sell if necessary.
- Evidence of payment: Make sure you have evidence that rent, service charge and insurance have been paid on time/on demand.
- Missing Landlord: If you own a leasehold property where there is a missing Landlord ask your solicitor whether to offer Defective Title Insurance at the start
- Length of Lease: Check how long the lease is and whether you need to serve a lease extension notice to maximise the value on sale. As part of this it is important to check that your agent knows the length of the lease remaining and this is shown in the particulars to avoid arguments about a price reduction as soon as the lease is disclosed.
- Lease Extensions: If there is less than 80 years remaining on your lease extending the lease becomes more expensive. Talk to the agent about the value of the Property with or without a lease extension in place and advice on the cost of obtaining a lease extension so that you and your solicitor are able to negotiate any price reduction in full knowledge of the facts.
- Mortgage restrictions: Make sure the agent checks at the start whether the Buyer’s mortgage offer specifies a minimum length of lease remaining. It may be that the mortgage company requires a lease extension to be completed prior to draw down of the mortgage, which could cause significant delays.
Eleanor Richardson is a Consultant Solicitor in the Property team at Keystone Law.