Jonathan Williams
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Can you sell your property? How forward planning can smooth the house-buying process.

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Most of us live happily in our houses for years and we assume we own our home and the land on which it sits. In almost all cases this is correct, and the vast majority of property transactions go smoothly.

However, there are cases when things don’t go quite to plan. Last minute hitches and surprises can slow down transactions and cause unexpected delays and unwanted costs.  In the worst cases, homeowners may even discover they don’t in fact ‘own’ the property they have lived in for years.  The problems are usually solvable, but it’s something you can probably do without, particularly at an already stressful time.

As experienced property specialists, we’ve seen many instances where issues have arisen which possibly could have been avoided with a little forethought including:

  • The property owner who walked into his solicitors with instructions to handle a mortgage on what he thought was an unregistered property, only to discover that it was registered in another parties’ name.
  • The buyer who bought a property and discovered ten years later when he wanted to sell, that he did not in fact own the garden that went with the house.
  • Two neighbours who were ‘technically’ living in the wrong houses because of a mix up when the titles  were registered.

So how can these problems be avoided?

1.           Instruct us to get working as soon as you put your property on the market

All too often we get involved in transactions once an offer has been accepted, and it’s ‘all systems go’ for a quick move.  Whilst we can always act quickly, being bought into the transaction late in the day leaves less time to resolve any issues that may arise from things that could have been checked as soon as the property went on the market.

Forward planning is the key.  The more time your legal team has to prepare your property for sale, the more chance there is that it will go smoothly and without any hitches. 

Some of the things we can do early include:

  • check with the land registry that you do in fact own what you think you do, and if there are any problems, get to work making sure all is in order for when you find a buyer.
  • review all certificates for the building and for any alterations to the property to make sure they are correct and up to date.
  • investigate any restrictive covenants, and be fully prepared for the inevitable questions that will come from your buyer’s solicitors.

Therefore as soon as you decide to sell your property, have a chat with one of our expert property team to see how we can get started so you’re ready to go.

2.           Keep a record – the ‘full-service history’ of your house

You should also keep as many records as you can – these are often needed by the buyers of your property at some stage in the process, so you might as well get them ready early.

It’s good practice to pull together a ‘bible’ of documents (either in paper or electronic form) containing important documents.  In some ways it is no different to car owners keeping a ‘full-service history’ of their vehicle for when they sell.  The types of documents you might want to collate include:

  • Copies of the title and a plan.
  • Details of any restrictions.
  • Planning consents obtained during your ownership.
  • Building regulation approvals and completion certificates.
  • Consents issued from third parties, for instance when a neighbour can enforce a covenant but grant consent.
  • Warranties or guarantees for building work, doors and windows and conservatories.
  • The estimates and receipts for work (they may be relevant for any of the guarantees).
  • Gas or electrical certificates.
  • Rating information including revaluation assessments.
  • Details of any notices received.
  • Relevant correspondence relating the property.
  • The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), albeit it has to be updated every ten years.

By having all of these in one place, we will be able to check all is in order in good time, so that when you accept an offer from a potential buyer, we can move quickly.

The secret of success?

With a mixture of contacting us early and getting together the ‘service history’ of your house, you will be getting ready to move as soon as you have accepted an offer.

It’s no guarantee of an easy move, but hopefully with the preparation beforehand, the process will be a smooth and as trouble free as possible.