We’ve all heard of the importance of ‘kerb appeal’ – making the most of your home’s visual appearance to provide the best possible first impression to prospective buyers. Dressing the house for sale, adding pot plants or hanging baskets, even making freshly brewed coffee just before a viewing, these are all tactics designed to entice buyers into making an offer.
Once you have a sale agreed and solicitors have been instructed, the conveyancing process can begin in earnest. This is when the transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer takes place, leading up to exchange of contracts and, ultimately, the completion of the sale.
‘Legal kerb appeal’ describes the presentation of a property in such a way to facilitate that administrative process. From legal queries to missing documents, it’s a good idea to put your house in good order at the outset. It’s what can make the difference between your sale progressing swiftly and smoothly to a positive conclusion, and delays and hick-ups occurring along the way that could derail your sale.
Provide information early
In a fast moving housing market, a property for sale where a solicitor has already been instructed and the paperwork is ready has a clear competitive edge. What’s more, involving your conveyancer at an early stage gives you the opportunity to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the property and find the best way to present it.
Enquiries from the buyer about known problems such as structural issues or subsidence claims, or environmental risks such as flooding, can be anticipated and an appropriate response drafted.
Check your lease
Your property may look like a dream home, but if you are selling a leasehold flat, it’s all about the lease. Many a sale has failed because the terms and conditions of the lease have on reflection turned out to be deeply unattractive to the buyer.
If you are selling your leasehold interest, do your homework to establish that your lease and associated legal documents are all in good order. If the lease has less than 85 years left to run, think about getting a lease extension before you put your flat on the market, or investigate the possibility of buying a share of freehold. Calculate the costs incurred which should be recoverable by a higher sale price.
Reassure your buyer
While the vast majority of home buyers have no legal experience and therefore rely on their solicitor to deal with the nitty gritty of the property transaction, that’s not to say that they won’t react badly to perceived problems.
Misconceptions do arise on occasion, and there is a risk that you could alienate your buyer because of an unfounded fear or a legal issue that you have not addressed. The best way to deal with this is to be honest and transparent in providing all the required information upfront, so there are no nasty surprises to explain later on. The fewer worries your buyer has about the property, the more confident he will be about wanting to proceed with the purchase.
Avoid unnecessary delays
Once a sale has been agreed, both buyers and sellers are generally highly motivated to keep the conveyancing process moving along, particularly if there is a chain involved. And in the current climate of COVID-19 and its disrupting effect on the property market this year, it is understandable that everyone is exceedingly keen to just get on with it.
The more delays there are, the bigger the risk that the sale might not complete, for all manner of reasons. The important thing you can do is to be on the front foot, whether it’s answering buyer queries or chasing up missing documents, so that time is not wasted unnecessarily.
Improving the legal kerb appeal of your flat doesn’t have to be a huge chore, it just requires a bit of forethought and a pragmatic approach. Here are the main takeaways:
Keep channels of communication open between all parties to facilitate the sharing of information and insights and encouraging problem solving. That way, everyone pulls together towards the same end goal.
Complete property information forms promptly and source the management pack from the freeholder or managing agent at the earliest opportunity, as this is one of the main reasons for a delay in the conveyancing process.
Think forensically about getting your property’s paperwork in order including lease documentation, contractor warranties, planning and building regs approval. Ask your solicitor about indemnity insurance for missing paperwork.