Safe journey to completion

Newsletter Autumn 2016

Reasons for sales falling through vary, but one thing is for sure, the faster you can get to exchange, the less opportunity there is for second thoughts, changes of mind, gazumpers and gazunderers, says Bill Spreckley of Stacks Property Search in Hampshire and West Sussex.

A study from the Nottingham Building Society finds that the biggest reason for house transaction fall-throughs is mortgage issues. Other significant reasons include problems with chains, buyers or sellers changing their minds, and problems with surveys.

Research from Which? Mortgage Advisers has found that around 28% of homebuyers have had a house purchase fall through after their offer was accepted over the course of the last two years. Some research suggests the figure may be as high as 40%.

Complicated chains mean that some problems may be completely beyond your control, but there are plenty of steps you can take to maximise your chances of a deal progressing successfully to exchange and completion. Your biggest ally is your solicitor, so it’s important that you choose carefully. There are some very good conveyancing solicitors, and there are some very bad ones. If both sides have a good solicitor, it’s entirely possible to get to exchange within four to five weeks, but some solicitors regularly drag it out to three to four months.

Try to establish a realistic target date for exchange, so everyone has a deadline to work towards. If buyer, seller, or both aren’t in a rush to move, build in more time between exchange and completion rather than being relaxed about the exchange date.

The key as a buyer is to instruct your solicitor immediately and pay him up front for the searches. You will also need to pay your mortgage company the fee for the mortgage valuation and ask them to instruct this as soon as possible.

The vendor needs to instruct their solicitor and ask them to send the draft contract to the buyer’s solicitor immediately, and also get them to send all the forms that as a seller, you are required to fill out. Get these back to your solicitor as soon as possible. Then stay on the back of your solicitor and your estate agent.

Good communication between solicitors, estate agent, buying agent, buyer and seller is vital. You need a solicitor who will pick up the phone when a snag arises, and who will pick up the phone when you call. And you need a solicitor who will take a view with an understanding of the big picture. If you receive a letter from a solicitor when a phone call or e-mail could have been employed, my advice would be to find a new solicitor without delay.  A lack of communication and information in what is a very emotional and stressful process just causes concern, and can turn into resentment and a belief that someone’s hiding something from someone. This can easily culminate in the collapse of a sale. However, if there is a genuine, unforeseen reason for a delay, then sometimes you just have to be patient.

In my experience, keeping everyone informed of progress on at least a weekly basis is one of the best ways of ensuring a sale is prevented from falling through. This is one of the reasons why the fall through rate for my clients is under 3% over the course of the last ten years. Alert the selling agent, and your solicitor, that you will be expecting a weekly update on progress, and that in the event it’s not forthcoming, you will be on the phone to them!

The best positions to be in as a buyer are when there’s no chain or when you’re a cash buyer who has, if necessary, already sold your own property. There’s not a lot you can do if the property you fall in love with is bogged down by a tricky chain, but be aware of the complications when putting in an offer; forewarned is forearmed. And if you’re prepared to be flexible by selling your home before you find its replacement, moving into rented accommodation in the short term, you will be improving your chances of a stress-free purchase on good terms significantly.


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