Prior preparation prevents purchasers pulling out

Vendors should ensure their title deeds are in order and that any potential obstacles are ironed out well before they put their house on the market or risk their sale being delayed or falling through, says estate agency Strutt & Parker.

Unexpected terms and conditions written into title deeds can derail sales or, at the very least, delay them for several months if they come to light between an offer being accepted and the sale completing.

Sam Gibson in Strutt & Parker's Morpeth office says: "It is all very well finding a buyer but making the buyer perform and getting them to the contract stage is the challenge these days. It has to be in the seller's interest to shorten this window of uncertainty if at all possible.

"If you are thinking of selling your property, please check your deeds carefully and make sure all your paperwork is in order. It is essential to have listed building consent and planning permissions if you have extended your property so make sure copies are provided to your solicitor. A buyer will not proceed until building regulations have been signed off. Be sure that this has happened and that you have the paperwork to prove it. It is much easier to get everything together before you go on the market than get a nasty surprise and end up trying to sort things out in the middle of a sale. Normally, there will not be anything to worry about - and it is rare that a sale is actually jeopardised as a result - but it is best to check everything through and be prepared.

"We are trying to encourage our clients to be much more forward-thinking and to 'frontload' a sale. The last thing anyone wants is an unnecessary glitch just as the sale is close to completion. We have in some cases seen agreed sales delayed by months because of a surprise obstacle in the title deeds. We make every effort to sort these issues out but they take time and occasionally a buyer is unable to take the strain or loses that all-important confidence and the deal falls through."

Mr Gibson cited a recent example where a buyer halted their purchase of a property they adored because of work done without listed building consent up to 45 years ago by a previous owner. The absence of listed building consent meant the conservation officer had to inspect the property and issue enforcement proceedings. "While this was an entirely resolvable situation it was symptomatic of today's market place where buyers are either not prepared to 'take a view', or are being advised not to by their solicitors," he said. "As little as four years ago, when the marketplace was in an entirely different state of repair, buyers were pressing ahead regardless of such issues in case they lost the property."

Gibson added an example of a house which Strutt & Parker recently sold where they discovered, after the sale was agreed, that the deeds stipulated all the owners in a cluster of barn conversions had the right of veto over a new buyer. "All the owners had to give their approval," he said. "In the end, they had a meeting to thrash it out and remove those terms from the deeds. After all, this would have affected all the neighbours' future sales, not just the sale in question. It would of course have been much better for everybody to have had that meeting in advance of the sale campaign."

13 December 2012

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