So, over the past couple of months of homebuying, you’ve spoken to your bank or a mortgage broker and worked out how much you can afford. You’ve pummelled Rightmove and Zoopla into submission, finally found the perfect property (or near enough), and now your offer has been accepted. This is the part where your solicitor steps in and delays everything for weeks and weeks, right? Well, not exactly. Allow us to explain…
Despite Brexit and all those General Elections, the property market remains relatively buoyant and homes don’t come cheap. The average UK house price these days is about £235,000, rising to around £375,000 in Sussex. If you’re buying, you’ll likely be putting in a pretty big chunk from your savings and your mortgage lender will be advancing an even heftier sum. It’s a valuable asset and your solicitor’s principal aim is to make sure that there are no nasty surprises for you, or your mortgage lender, after you’ve moved in which might make your dream home worth less than you paid for it. It’s worth remembering that ‘your’ solicitor will almost certainly be acting for your mortgage lender as well as for you. Unfortunately, all this can take time.
Your solicitor will make a number of checks and ask a lot of questions of your seller. This is to make sure that everything is as it should be. These checks and questions cover a very wide range of issues, some small and some not-so-small. For example, is that dilapidated shed going to be removed before you move in with your young family? Does every Tom, Dick and Harry have the right to wander across that footpath at the bottom of your garden? Did the local authority ever sign off on that lovely loft conversion? Why is your seller selling the property having only owned it for two months? You really don’t care how long they’ve owned it, but your mortgage lender might: it’s also an indication of potential money laundering. Your seller has a mortgage and three other loans secured against the property. Are they going to be able to pay all that off from the agreed price?
All of these questions can require your solicitor (or the seller’s solicitor) to deal with third parties. The Land Registry, the sellers, estate agents, the local authority, insurers to name a few. Not all of whom will have the expeditious completion of your purchase as close to their hearts as you or your solicitor. Most buyers will find themselves somewhere in a chain, so you can multiply the questions above a few times. Plus all the others that get asked and throw in a several more uninterested third parties for good measure.
Having an expert on the law of property and the whole conveyancing process is always handy in these situations, but that should really be a given, it is here at Parfitt Cresswell. We think that the real key to managing all this is communication. If there are things you’ve noticed about the property that worry you (like those ramblers at the bottom of the garden), then tell your solicitor straight away. Even when there are things that don’t bother you (you might think that dilapidated shed can be beautifully restored) then say so. If your mortgage lender has problems with anything then your solicitor needs to tell you (and your mortgage broker) so that those issues can be resolved well in advance of exchange of contracts. In most cases the issues that crop up when you’re trying to buy or sell a house can be fixed. The delays come when people don’t communicate them.