A recent survey confirms what we have always thought – that instructing your solicitor as early as possible on a property sale really can save time on the conveyancing – up to 11 days apparently.
Consulting a solicitor early on can also help avoid a sale falling through.
We have always recommended that anyone thinking of selling a property should instruct their solicitor even before they put it on the market. But it seems that many people still only instruct a solicitor far too late in the moving process – and this costs them valuable time as well as causing sales to fall through altogether.
The survey by estate agent network Move with Us found that over 80% of sellers only thought about instructing a solicitor once an offer was accepted, rather than when the property is put on the market.They estimated that doing this costs sellers an average of 11 extra days on the time taken to complete as sale, based on analysis of more than 1,000 completed conveyancing files last year.
Here are some of the advantages of instructing your solicitor early on:
- You have time to compare quotes – nowadays it is worth getting quotes from several firms. But not all quotes are alike, and it is worthwhile taking the time to ensure that your chosen firm will be able to deliver the service you expect. Go for a fixed-fee quote and make sure there won’t be any hidden extras on completion.
- It won’t cost any more provided you get a ‘no completion-no fee’ quote. Solicitors should quote for conveyancing work on the basis that they will carry out all the work from start to finish, so if your solicitor starts work before you have a buyer this will all be included in the final fee.
- Your solicitor can start the preliminary work. This will include carrying out security checks to confirm your identity. Fraudsters continue to try and sell properties which they don’t own, so the Land Registry now requires solicitors to check that all sellers are really who they say they are.
- Any problems with the title can be sorted out. Your solicitor will be able to get a copy of the title and have time to sort out any problems. For example if the property was owned by someone who has died a sale cannot go through until a grant of probate has been obtained. Perhaps you think that you own the property in your sole name after a divorce settlement, but the deeds show that it is still registered in your ex-husband’s name. Or your title might not yet be registered at the Land Registry, in which case it may be better to get your title registered before selling. Problems such as these can take some time to sort out, so it is better to do this before trying to sell.
- You will have plenty of time to complete the property questionnaires. As part of any conveyancing transaction the seller will be asked to complete a property information form which will then be sent to buyers’ solicitors. This contains numerous questions about the property, and can take some time to complete fully.
- You have time to get any documents which a buyer may need to see. If you have had work carried out to the property, such as an extension or replacement doors and windows, you will be asked to supply copies of relevant documents such as planning consents, building regulation approvals and guarantees. If the house was built within the last ten years the buyer will want to see the NHBC warranty documents. Such documents may not be readily available, so instructing your solicitor early gives time to get copies of anything a buyer is likely to want.
- The draft contract package can be prepared and ready to send out as soon as a sale is confirmed. It’s really nice when your solicitor can hit the ground running by sending out a draft contract and all the supporting documents as soon as they receive sales details from the agent. An efficient firm can despatch everything the same day – this will save you days on your conveyancing and give your buyer far less excuse to back out.
- It is annoying for solicitors to receive a letter or fax from an agent saying “We understand that you act for Mr & Mrs X on the sale of their property and we enclose full sales details for your attention” when the solicitor doesn’t know anything about Mr & Mrs X or their sale. This means that the solicitor will have to try and contact them, agree a quote, do security checks, and check the title before being able to do anything further – all of which means delay.
- When there is a problem on the title it can take weeks or months to rectify – if this happens a buyer is more than likely to pull out. So instructing your solicitor early on gives an opportunity to sort out any such problems and prevent any delays once a buyer has been found.
Buyers can also save time on conveyancing if they instruct a solicitor before finding a property. Although there is less work that can be done in advance it is still helpful and does give you the opportunity to shop around rather than just going with a firm recommended by the estate agent.