Whether you're buying or selling a property, our team of dedicated specialists can help make the process as stress-free as possible.
Once you have agreed a sale price with your intended buyer, you need to instruct a property lawyer to guide you through the legal paperwork. This can be a complicated process but at Eric Robinson Solicitors our expert team can help you with the documents that need to be organised, making sure that everything goes smoothly.
Selling up can be an emotional experience. From the moment you decide that it’s time to move on, you’ll be wrestling with decisions. Which estate agent to use? Where to pitch the asking price? To take or leave behind the coveted range cooker?
Then there’s the legal conveyancing process. We won’t pretend that it’s stress-free. But we’re experts in helping the right deal happen at the right time – here are our top tips for making the whole process a little easier.
TIP 1 - BE REALISTIC
Buying or selling a house doesn’t happen overnight. It usually takes between 3 to 16 weeks from the “for sale” board going up to handing over the keys.
The system in England and Wales isn’t perfect because it hinges on trust. In a chain of sellers and purchasers, everyone relies on others to do what they say they’ll do. Unfortunately, it’s only at the point of exchange of contracts (by which time much of the work has been done and hearts have been set on new homes) that there’s a significant financial disincentive for a party to withdraw from their sale or purchase.
Take comfort from the fact that the vast majority of people who have moved house will have faced the same challenges as you. Go with it; things generally work out.
TIP 2 - UNDERSTAND YOUR FINANCES
Your decision to move house has to be based on the financial realities. That’s why speaking with your existing mortgage provider should be your first port of call. Establish the status of your mortgage and find out about redemption penalties associated with changing any of your arrangements.
Shop around for a new mortgage. There’s a huge selection available, with a range of options on fixing interest payments. Talk to your independent financial advisor, if you have one.
TIP 3 - KNOW WHEN TO SELL
You may be in a quandary, and it’s a common one: is it better to agree a sale on your property before finding your new home, or the other way around?
There’s no hard and fast rule. It comes down to the sort of house you’re selling (is it a good house in a popular area?) and the state of the market. The key question is how quickly will your house sell? You also need to think about the type of property you’re looking to buy. If they are few and far between, rarely coming onto the market, you should really consider getting into a great position on your sale (ie having a buyer in place) as soon as you can. That way, when the right property becomes available, the seller will take you seriously and you could well leapfrog your way to the front of the queue.
On the other hand, if you are confident that you can sell your house quickly (we have clients who have accepted offers within hours of their houses going on the market) then it would be acceptable to hold fire on your sale until you find a house to buy. Remember, though, that you’ll need to convince that seller that your offer is a serious one and that you really can get into a position to move as quickly as they’d like.
TIP 4 - FIND AN AGENT YOU TRUST
It’s not essential to use an estate agent to sell your property but if you decide to, do your homework beforehand. We always recommend getting three quotes from good, local agents who you know are active and well-regarded in your area. Try to get your own feel for what your house may be worth, too. Websites like www.rightmove.co.uk are a great resource.
Don’t feel obliged to go with the agent who comes up with the highest valuation. You’ll need to work closely with them over a period of time and so it’s important that they’re approachable and that you think they’ll do a good job in selling your house for you. Also think about their fee. Agents typically charge a small percentage of the sale price. It’s worth negotiating on this and, of course, getting it all in writing.
TIP 5 - GET A GOOD LAWYER
We’re not just saying that because we’d love to help you sell your house (although we would). Ask anyone who has been through the conveyancing process recently about their experience of lawyers and we think you’ll get a range of responses.
People’s experiences differ. The important point is that you need to find the lawyer you can work with – one you trust to proactively manage the process, to understand your concerns, advise you thoroughly and to do everything they can to make your sale happen on the right terms.
Invest some time in this. Recommendations from friends and colleagues are a great starting point. Ultimately, trust your instinct; you’ll know who’s the lawyer for you.
TIP 6 - FIXED FEES ARE FUNDAMENTAL
Most lawyers will quote a fixed fee for your sale. Make sure that the fee you’re quoted is all you’ll need to pay. Some add charges – fee for repaying any mortgage, for example – later on.
The legal fee should cover all work needed to sell your property. That means preparing the draft contract, applying for title deeds and checking through your documents including building certificates and guarantees. It also includes liaising with other lawyers in the chain to push the deal through and, of course, advising you and keeping you up-to-date on what’s happening.
TIP 7 - BE ORGANISED
Your lawyer will ask you for all documents relating to your house, so it pays to pull these together as early on as possible to avoid a last minute panic. The sort of paperwork you’ll need to have readily available includes building regulations approval, guarantees for work on the house, and certificates for gas or electrical work.
TIP 8 - GET YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER
We’re lawyers, not designers. But we’ve advised enough house-movers (and moved enough ourselves) to know that there are certain things that help homes sell.
There are some basics: hide your clutter, clear away dishes, make your place clean and tidy. There are psychological tricks like brewing coffee and baking bread. And then there’s appealing to your market; in other words, recognising the kind of buyer your house is likely to attract and playing to their lifestyle. So if yours is a great home in which to bring up children, show off its family-friendly features.
And if there’s one piece of advice we’ve picked up over the years, it’s that a fresh coat of paint works wonders.
TIP 9 - DON'T LEAP AT OFFERS
This obviously depends on your circumstances. If this is the first offer you’ve had in 12 months then it could be pretty hard to resist. But an offer is only a great offer once you’ve established that the buyer is in a good position to proceed. So find out if they have a property to sell (and if there’s a long chain) and how they’re funding the purchase (do they need a mortgage?). This will help you decide whether this buyer is the right fit for you.
TIP 10 - STAY INVOLVED
We’re yet to meet a seller who hasn’t been in regular contact with their lawyer, their bank and their estate agent throughout the course of their house sale. And that’s how it should be. We encourage our clients to contact us whenever they have a query about something, and we make sure to keep them in the loop on how their transaction is coming along. That’s because, as we said at the beginning, selling a house is an emotional process. It’s your property, your sale. So you should always feel able to be as involved as you choose to be.
Before you buy a property you need to look very carefully into the rights relating to it. This is a process called investigation of the legal title and it involves checking various search results and dealing with the financial issues including mortgages. Our team of experts will tell you exactly what to expect from the property you are purchasing, using the latest technology to keep you fully informed.
There is an adage that goes with moving house. But just how stressful does the purchase process need to be? We’d love to tell you that it can be a complete breeze (it’s true that some transactions are easier and quicker than others). In reality, though, there will always be a fair amount of pressure because of the way buying and selling works in England and Wales. But there are things you can do to minimise this. Here are our top tips:
TIP 1 - BE ON THE MONEY
Surfing estate agents’ websites may deliver the voyeuristic kick you need, but it’s only of real practical benefit once you know how much you can afford to spend on a house.
For most people, that begins with a mortgage. Look around for the right lender, and the right deal, for you. These days it can be really useful to arrange your mortgage before you start looking for a property – it can place you in a great position in a competitive housing market, and you’ll avoid pressure later on. But keep a close eye on the terms of your mortgage offer, particularly if you are porting an existing mortgage across; you may find that a penalty applies if you take up your new mortgage after a set period of, say three or six months from the date of the lender’s offer.
TIP 2 - SEEK OUT HIDDEN COSTS
An affordable mortgage is one thing, but you’ll only know whether your monthly payments are viable once you’ve taken account of additional outlay. Some will be upfront and payable in the lead-up to and on completion of your purchase: surveys, valuation, searches, removal costs, Stamp Duty, legal fees etc.
There will be ongoing monthly costs of living in your new home, and these may be higher than you currently pay. Are you likely to move into a higher council tax band? Could you be paying more in utility bills and insurance costs? Don’t simply think about crossing those bridges when you get to them. They’re all things to take into account when deciding what and where you can afford to buy.
TIP 3 - SEE EVERYTHING FOR YOURSELF
A viewing is your chance to get a feel for the property - and don’t underestimate how important your initial feel is; it’s usually a great measure of compatibility.
You’ll have in mind specifics such as the size and configuration of rooms, the type of outside space, and the general appearance of the property, as well as of course the value for money. But look out for other things too when you walk around the property. Are there any signs of damp or other significant disrepair? Is there a lot of road noise? Does the heating and plumbing look in reasonable condition? How much would it cost you to decorate or modify the property?
It’s a good idea to get as much information as you can from the estate agent. Don’t be shy about asking why the current owners are selling, and rely on your instinct to tell you whether you’re viewing a much-loved home or a problematic house or area.
TIP 4 - MAKING AN OFFER
There’s no science involved in pricing a house. Ultimately, it’s about how much someone will be willing to pay. For potential buyers, that’s problematic because it makes the task of pitching an offer incredibly difficult.
No one wants to spend more than they need to, but losing out for the sake of an affordable amount of money can be sickening. Our advice is quite love then offer as near to the asking price as you can (provided the asking price isn’t wildly high). That’s especially so if you’re looking in a part of the country where houses get snapped up quickly. While there are bargains to be had, make sure that you really understand the market in your region and what you are getting for your money.
Getting a bit of background on the sellers from the estate agent is useful in this regard too; if they’re in a hurry to sell because they’re relocating for work, for example, then you could negotiate a great a good deal. Of course, if you are in position to move quickly (with a mortgage in place and a buyer for your own property) then that can be a huge advantage.
TIP 5 - CLOSE OUT OTHER HOUSE-HUNTERS
Make it a condition of your offer that the seller takes the property off the market immediately. That reduces (but unfortunately doesn’t eliminate) the chance of you being gazumped – someone offering more than you and securing the house.
TIP 6 - CRACK ON
Once your offer has been accepted there should be nothing to stop you arranging a survey (see next Top Tip) and instructing your conveyancing solicitors (Top Tip 8) to begin the legal process. Your lender will want to carry out their own valuation of the property to make sure that it offers genuine security against the mortgage; so get the wheels in motion there too.
TIP 7 - SURVEYS; WORTH THEIR WEIGHT IN GOLD
Most people can’t tell the true extent of a property’s failings and when think we’ve found the ideal property, we might choose to overlook tell-tale signs of problems like rotten wood or messy brickwork. That’s why instructing a surveyor to carry out an in-depth survey before you buy is so important. Once the house is yours, it’s usually too late to raise any issue with the previous owners about its condition.
There are four types of surveyor’s report. A homebuyer’s report will tell you about structural integrity, problems and the property’s value. A building survey is in some ways a more detailed report, usually commissioned for older properties; it doesn’t look at value but does highlight problems and issues to be investigated before committing to the purchase. A home condition survey alerts you to problems and, while it doesn’t give a valuation, it does specify the rebuild cost for insurance purposes. Finally, the new-build snagging survey will spot problems in new homes.
We’d always recommend as extensive a survey as you can afford, but this largely depends on the type of property you’re buying (generally, older houses need more investigation). Bear in mind that a survey helps you properly understand what you’re committing to before you sign on the line; and it can also enable you to negotiate a reduced price depending on the valuation and the extent of any work that is needed.
TIP 8 - GET A GOOD LAWYER
We would say that, wouldn’t we? But it’s certainly the case that an approachable, efficient and proactive conveyancing specialist (like the ones at Eric Robinson Solicitors) can be the difference between a smooth transaction and a lengthy period of anxiety and uncertainty for a buyer.
Your conveyancer will be alongside you for an intense period of weeks or, more likely, months. You need to be able to trust them to deliver the information and the advice you need, as well as having the energy and commitment to nudge the transaction along when it appears to be slowing down.
TIP 9 - THE POINT OF NO (INEXPENSIVE) RETURN FLEXIBILITY
Exchange of contracts is the first point at which there is a legal commitment towards other parties in the chain of purchase. At this point, you will pay a deposit (usually 10%) on the property you are buying.
Exchange is a big step to take. If you decide to pull out of your purchase after paying the deposit, you’ll lose that money and you could be sued by the seller for their losses. So make sure that you iron out any issues with the property before reaching this point.
TIP 10 - AND....EXHALE
Completion is when you get the keys to your new home. This usually happens a few weeks after exchange, but can be earlier (it can happen on the same day if absolutely necessary).
Completion day is a busy time. It’s when your lawyer and your lender ensure that purchase money is released and passed up the chain, and existing mortgages are redeemed. It’s only when that’s all done that keys will be handed over and the unloading of boxes can begin.
Our final top tip is this: once you’re in, close the door, breathe a sigh of relief, and relax in your new home.
Offices in: Basingstoke, Bitterne, Bracknell, Chandlers Ford, Hedge End, Lymington, Richmond, Southampton, Winchester