Five legal tips to ensure a smooth house sale

For many potential homeowners, buying and selling residential property can be very daunting, due to the numerous factors to consider during the transaction.

Melissa Cooper, an experienced solicitor in WHN’s residential property team with a wealth of knowledge surrounding residential conveyancing work, offers her five legal tips to help you navigate a smooth house sale.

1. Make sure to be organised

Being organised from the outset is key to avoiding unnecessary delay. If you are selling a property, your solicitor cannot commence any work on your behalf, or prepare the necessary contract bundle (which is shared with your buyer’s solicitor), without the following documentation from you – so make sure to have it available.

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of address
  • Completed TA6 property information form
  • Completed TA10 fittings and contents form
  • Any documents relating to the property (including building regulation compliance certificates, guarantees and any title deeds in your possession)
  • Energy Performance Certificate.

If the property is leasehold, you will also need to supply the following:

  • Completed TA7 leasehold information form
  • Up-to-date ground rent receipt
  • Up-to-date service charge receipt (if applicable).

When completing the TA6, TA10 and TA7 form (if the property is leasehold), it is important to note that these forms are an integral part of the contract bundle that your buyer will rely upon.

It is extremely important that you take your time to complete the forms correctly, to avoid providing incorrect or misleading information which may lead to the buyer being able to claim damages or compensation. It is also important that questions are not left unanswered as missing information from the outset can cause delay.

2. Respond to enquiries promptly with detail

It is the buyer’s responsibility to carry out the extensive investigations and searches to ensure the property is saleable and mortgageable. The buyer’s investigations will include instructing a surveyor to inspect the physical structure of the property and instructing a solicitor to raise enquiries about the property and submit searches to authorities to eliminate any potential issues.

The exact nature of the enquiries raised by the buyer’s solicitor will vary, and as the seller, your solicitor may require help from you or third parties, such as freeholders, management companies and the local authority to provide adequate answers.

Depending on the complexity of the information required, it can take several weeks for enquiries to be satisfied, so you can assist your solicitor by ensuring you answer any enquiries in a timely manner and accurately, and with as much detail as possible.

3. Avoid duplicating correspondence

Whether you are the buyer or the seller of a property, it is important to feel informed of the progression of the conveyancing process but avoid duplicating correspondence to your solicitor as this will inevitably cause delays. Your solicitor will inform you of any progression of your matter or update upon receipt.

Your solicitor will also proactively chase a response from other parties if items remain outstanding.

By sending duplicate requests for updates to your solicitor, the conveyancing process can be delayed if your solicitor is obliged to action multiple update requests before they are able to complete any work to progress your matter.

4. Be ready for exchange of contracts and completion

The exchange of contracts is the moment towards the end of the process when both the buyer and seller become legally committed. Once the contracts have been exchanged neither party can legally withdraw from the transaction without severe financial penalties.

Once the contracts have been exchanged on the sale of the property the seller can confirm removal arrangements for the agreed completion date. The seller should also plan to deal with the following:

  • Council tax and water – advise the Local Authority of the intended completion date and your new address so they can prepare and send statements showing the amount under or overpaid.
  • Gas and electricity – arrange for the electricity and gas meters to be read on the day of completion and notify the providers of your new address.
  • Keys – do not hand over any keys to your buyer until your solicitor has confirmed that they have received the purchase monies. At least one full set of keys should be left with the estate agents the day before completion with clear instructions that they are not to be released without your solicitor’s authority. Any remaining keys may be left at the property.
  • Buildings insurance – you must maintain buildings insurance on your property until actual completion of the sale.

5. Set realistic expectations

Conveyancing is the legal and administrative process of transferring property accurately and safely from one person to another. The conveyancing process can take several weeks, and your solicitor will advise you throughout the transaction what work is required before a completion date can proposed.

The process will always be more efficient if you’ve chosen an experienced conveyancing solicitor who understands how to resolve or mitigate any risks or issues that may arise. WHN Solicitors’ experienced, proactive team can assist you in your house sale.

If you are a first home buyer see also our helpful blog post: I’m about to buy my first home: What’s the legal process?

For further advice on buying or selling a house, please contact Melissa Cooper on 01200 408300 or by email: melissa.cooper@whnsolicitors.co.uk  or visit our Residential Conveyancing page to find out more about how we can help.