The property market is continuing to flourish as buyers and sellers look to take advantage of the temporary cut to stamp duty, but delays will mean some face an anxious wait.
Before the pandemic, house purchases were taking as long as 20 weeks to go through, and movers are now facing further delays due to a surge in demand since the market reopened.
With this in mind, a group of property professionals has joined together in an attempt to streamline the home-buying process, with the aim of speeding up moves and preventing sales from falling through.
Here, Which? explains the simple steps buyers and sellers can take to keep their move on track.
Industry group pledges to speed up house moves
The Home Buying and Selling Group (HBSG), comprising leading estate agents, property solicitors, house surveyors and removalists, has published a pledge to help movers in England and Wales progress their moves and navigate delays.
The HBSG pledge aims to help people gather the information required for property transactions more quickly, giving buyers and sellers (and their solicitors) greater time to resolve any issues, and help prevent sales falling through.
The pledge includes promises from agents, conveyancers, mortgage brokers, surveyors and valuers, as well as advice for home movers on what they can do to help.
Earlier this year, the HBSG produced the official guidance on reopening the property market after the COVID-19 lockdown and the government has welcomed its latest move.
Christopher Pincher, Housing Minister, said: ‘I Iook forward to seeing [the pledge] deliver a smoother and more efficient experience for all those looking to buy or sell their home.’
The HBSG has provided the following tips for buyers and sellers.
Tips for buyers: how to speed up your move
1. Get your mortgage sorted
The HSBG says buyers should obtain a decision in principle from a lender before making an offer.
Having a decision in principle will give clarity on how much you might be able to borrow and estate agents might ask to see yours if you’re competing with other buyers over the same property.
- Find out more: how to get a decision in principle
2. Appoint a conveyancer or solicitor
The legal process of moving home (conveyancing) can cause frustration for buyers and sellers, but there are some steps you can take to help speed up the process.
The HBSG advises that buyers instruct a solicitor before they make an offer on a house, rather than after their offer is accepted.
Solicitors can’t start work on the purchase until they’ve conducted anti-money laundering checks, so by instructing (hiring) one earlier and providing the required ID information you can get ahead of the game.
- Find out more: conveyancing for buyers
3. Complete the paperwork
The seller’s estate agent plays a key role in the early stages of the sale.
The agent must complete a disclosure about the property under Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, which must then be shared with your conveyancer.
If you’re buying with a mortgage, you’ll need to ensure this disclosure is passed on to your mortgage broker.
4. Arrange your survey quickly
Getting a property survey is a must when buying a property. It will uncover any major issues with the home, including those who might require you to renegotiate or think twice about making the purchase. The sooner you can find out about any problems, the better.
The HBSG says you should instruct a surveyor quickly and ask them to recommend which level of survey the home requires.
For example, older homes might require a full building survey, which assesses the entire structure of the property, while a mid-range survey may suffice for a newer home.
Once you have the survey report, you should provide a copy to your conveyancer.
- Find out more: house survey types and costs
Tips for sellers: how to ensure your sale goes smoothly
1. Instruct your conveyancer or solicitor early
The HSBG recommends you instruct a conveyancer or property solicitor before, or at the same time as putting your property on the market.
As with buyers, sellers will need to provide ID information to help with anti-money laundering checks.
It’s also helpful to get together key documents the conveyancer will need and those that may be relevant to a prospective buyer.
These can include any deeds and notices, and leasehold information such as lease details, and ground rent and service charge statements.
- Find out more: conveyancing when you’re selling
2. Complete the property information form
When selling a home, you’ll need to fill out a property information form, in which you’ll have to answer a series of questions about the property to the best of your knowledge.
These include details of any notices or proposals involving the council, any alterations made to the property, any disputes or complaints and key documentation such as certificates for renovations including double glazing, damp proofing and electrical work.
The agent will also require this information to complete the Consumer Protection from Unfair Regulations documentation.
- Find out more: managing a property chain
3. Assess any possible issues
The sooner you identify any issues that could slow down the sale, the better.
For example, if the property was bought using Help to Buy, you’ll need to have a valuation done so you can pay off the equity loan based on the property’s current value.
How to protect yourself against fraud
Property transactions are frequently a target for fraudsters and scammers, who look to exploit the transfer of cash during the conveyancing process.
The HBSG says if you need to send money to your lawyer, you should always ensure you’ve been given bank details in a secure manner, such as by post on headed notepaper, by hand or via a secure portal. Emails are not considered to be secure.
You should transfer a nominal sum first and check that it has arrived safely in the solicitor’s account before sending any significant amount of money.
The HSBG says lawyers will rarely change their bank accounts, so if you’re asked to send money to a different account you should check by calling your conveyancer on a published number or one you have used before.
If you attempt to transfer money and receive a warning from your bank that the account name is incorrect, double check with your solicitor before making the transfer.