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Selling your flat – our top ten tips

Although the end result makes it all worthwhile, buying or selling a home can be pretty stressful, and a flat or leasehold sale can have its own challenges.

The most commonly sold/purchased leasehold properties are flats or maisonettes, unfortunately more often than not accompanied by more than their fair share of problems and delays. However, careful planning on your part and specialist advice on ours can ensure the conveyancing wheels turn smoothly.

Challenges and problems

The law surrounding leasehold property can be complex and challenging to lawyers and clients alike. Common problems relate to the length of the lease (its 'term'), ground rent reviews, lease defects, rights of way, and inadequate management information.

Delays in obtaining and providing the documents and information needed by the buyer and their conveyancer are common, in addition to any specific problems which may arise whether real or perceived.

Peace of mind

At Wards Solicitors our experienced team of qualified conveyancers can advise on the issues correctly and provide solutions in a pragmatic and timely fashion.

So what can you do to make your sale go more smoothly, secure in the knowledge that if issues arise, you have the relevant expertise on your side?

Top ten tips

1. Appoint your conveyancer early
Don't wait until you have agreed a sale as it can take time to get off the starting blocks. Your conveyancer can help give you a head start once a buyer is found, including downloading your title information and lease.

If you are worried you may not sell - and the cost of this - discuss the options with your conveyancer including agreeing a fixed fee to apply if you do not find a buyer.

For more information on choosing a conveyancer see our special guide 10 Helpful Tips for Choosing a Conveyancing Lawyer.

2. Gather together your documents
It is particularly important to be organised in advance as your buyer's conveyancers will want to see a large number of documents before they will proceed, such as:

  • Current buildings insurance schedule;
  • Management company share or membership certificate;
  • Service charge accounts (for the past three years) and recent payment statements and invoice;
  • Ground rent latest invoice;
  • Minutes of any recent meetings or correspondence on any issues relating to the management arrangements or plans;
  • Current boiler service certificate;
  • Certificates for any improvement such as new windows and electrics;
  • Freeholder/management company consents for any improvements where required under the lease terms.

3. Obtain the 'management pack' as soon as possible

Your buyer's conveyancers will expect to be provided with management information in the form of replies to a standard form questionnaire. This will be provided by your management company or managing agents. It may contain much of the information referred to in 'Tip 2' above but also further important information including the legal arrangements when the flat changes hands.

A fee is usually charged for this, and it is worth putting plans in place to order it as early as possible as it commonly takes some weeks to obtain.

There can be a natural reluctance to do this before a sale is agreed and it is true that the information may become out of date and need to be renewed. This said, the delay in providing this information is probably the single most important cause of delays on flat sales.

4. Pay any service charge and ground rent demands

You should ensure you keep payments up to date and provide the receipts for these to your conveyancer. If you have paid these for any period beyond the eventual completion date, these will be 'apportioned' on completion so your buyer pays you back for their share. If you cannot afford to make the payments, then it is a good idea to make the managers aware of this, and make sure you will not be subject to any late payment fees.

5. Complete the Sellers Property Information Forms in advance

These will be supplied by your conveyancer for you to complete and then included with the draft contract pack to your buyer's conveyancers. Wards Solicitors has an information sheet to help you fill these in correctly and to avoid common pitfalls.

6. Searches

Searches are enquiries made when buying a property and normally ordered by the buyer's conveyancers. These include the 'local search' with the local authority. In some areas (although not currently in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset) there can be delays in which case it may be advantageous to consider ordering this to pass on to the buyer. In addition, your conveyancer will be able to use their experience to identity the 'next question' which may be raised on anything in the search. As a seller you have to factor in that it may take time before a buyer orders searches against the risk that they may lose their value if there is a long delay in obtaining a buyer. It is an extra cost but it may be possible to negotiate that the buyer buys the searches. Ensure your estate agent is aware that you wish to pass on this cost, so it can be part of their negotiation.

7. Consider supplying the estate agents with a 'Buyers Pack'

In a 'cooler' market, ready information may up the appeal of your property to prospective buyers. Home Information Packs may have had a bad press but particularly with leaseholds they had value in ensuring information was available early to a buyer and reducing delays. Indeed, when a property is sold at auction, for example, it is normal for a pack to be provided which includes the draft contract, property information forms, lease/title details searches and management pack.

Consider doing the same for your sale and providing this to the estate agents to make available to any prospective buyers. If costs are a worry, perhaps supply a 'light' version or just a copy of the title and lease. Discuss the options based on your circumstances with your conveyancer, including them agreeing a fixed fee for the service in the event your sale does not proceed.

8. Your Mortgage

Check your mortgage to ensure that there are no early repayment charges, common on fixed rate deals, when you sell. This may affect your decision as to when the sale may proceed.

9. Keys

Looking forward to that wonderful day when you complete on your sale, make sure you have keys for all doors and lockable windows to hand over.

10. Estate Agent

Choosing an estate agent can sometimes feel like a game of lucky dip. Here at Wards Solicitors we are happy to remove the guesswork and recommend agents who we deal regularly with and who we know are reliable and efficient.

Wards solicitors do not pay referral fees to estate agents in return for their business. Most estate agents however do work on referral fee basis which can mean that your buyer then uses a conveyancer they recommend in return for this payment. The conveyancer your buyer uses however will make a significant difference to the speed and smooth running of your sale.

Good luck!

Remember there is no one size that fits all, and every transaction is different, but being organised can be a game changer. Discussing what you want and need with your experienced conveyancer early on, can only improve your position further.

Good luck with your marketing and do contact your conveyancer with any questions.

For help, information and guidance about Wards Solicitors' Leasehold Conveyancing Services please contact Head of the Conveyancing, Susan Ellis or one of our conveyancers local to you.

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