Top Tips for a Swift Property Sale ProcessAndrew Burrows
Buying and selling houses is stressful.
The rules and procedures when buying and selling houses are complicated and can often become a minefield for clients. Sometimes the professionals involved forget that the back story to the transaction is you making one of the biggest decisions and financial commitments of your life.
Over the years, many attempted solutions to ease the process – like “Home Information Packs” for example – have been put in place, with varying degrees of success.
Whether we like it or not, Covid has changed the market and the way that the service is delivered forever. The lack of housing stock combined with high demand and the momentum still retained from the lifting of lockdown restrictions means that matters can move very quickly in the first instance.
In order to ensure the process of selling your property is as swift as possible, here are some top tips to keep in mind:
- Where are the deeds? The Land Registry says that 87% of the land mass of England and Wales has a registered title. That means that 13% doesn’t have an electronic record of ownership and so needs old paper deeds to prove ownership. If a house has changed hands since 2003, the title to the property will be registered at the Land Registry and it is very easy for the solicitor to check this. In most cases title registration commenced with purchase transactions in the late 1980s.
- If the title isn’t registered, and you need to produce the deeds, establish where they are. They could be with a bank or building society, as security for a mortgage or just for safe keeping, or with a firm of solicitors, perhaps even with your Wills. Locate these deeds and ask your solicitor to look at these to make sure that they are complete, include all of the land that you are selling, and that you won’t have a problem when you come to sell.
- You don’t need to have a registered title to sell a property and it shouldn’t take any longer because of this. You don’t need to register your title before you sell. You do, however, need to have some evidence of title and occasionally deeds are lost or destroyed. If you can’t find the deeds, speak to your solicitor regarding the restructure of the title at the Land Registry. This can take some time, even if the application to restructure is expedited by the Registry, and so you need to move quickly on this if you intend to sell.
- If the title is registered, it may be subject to a restriction. This is a requirement that must be complied with before the purchase can be registered at the Land Registry. Typical restrictions involve a management company on a development where there are common areas to be maintained, and so if you pay any annual payment, there may well be a restriction on the title. Speak to your solicitor to see if there is any action to take at this stage regarding information that will be requested by your buyers’ solicitors regarding this during the course of the sale.
- If you’re selling an apartment or leasehold house, ask the solicitor to look at the lease to ensure that its terms will be acceptable to any potential buyers. The law is in a state of change in this area and leases which were acceptable a few years ago may be problematic now. If any potential issues are resolved at an early stage, a prompt and cost-effective resolution may be achieved in anticipation of this being raised by the buyers. Also provide the solicitor with information regarding the present ground rent and service charge to see if any action should be taken with this information at an early stage.
- If you’ve had works carried out at the property, please ensure that you can locate the relevant certificates for these works. This isn’t just planning permission, listed building consent and building regulations consent, but certification regarding replacement windows, gas installations, electrical work and multifuel appliances, like log burners. Make sure that you have all relevant guarantees to hand, and if you have solar panels that you have contacted the energy company to ask what their requirements are on a sale. If you can’t find this, ask your solicitor what action you should consider taking. If you have any form of indemnity policy speak with your solicitor to ensure that you are not intending to take any steps which would invalidate that policy.
- If the property is less than 10 years old, ensure that you have the relevant structural guarantee documentation available, such as the NHBC guarantee and the local authority consents and supporting documentation for the construction of the property.
- Finally, check with the solicitor how the move will affect your Will and if your Will needs to be updated in any event.
In short, if you are thinking about moving house, speak to your solicitor at an early stage, to see what action they recommend so that you stay “ahead of the curve”, and head off any delays that could arise, whilst time is on your side.
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