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Top tips to keep your property transaction on track

Now more than ever there are huge incentives to keeping your home purchase or sale on track. Thanks to the pandemic, more property transactions are collapsing and the associated costs are even greater this year. You’ll need to complete by the end of June to get the full benefit of the stamp duty holiday. Here are our top tips for buyers, sellers and those stuck in a chain.

7 minute read

Top tips to keep your property transaction on track

More than 300,000 property transactions fell through last year, a 12% rise compared to 2019, according to TwentyCi.

When a property transaction falls through it can make a serious dent in your bank balance. Our research has found 51% of sellers lost an average of £2,700 when a sale fell through, with a further 12% losing more than £5,000.

And those costs could be even greater this year. If you’re buying a home costing more than £250,000, you’ll need to complete by the end of June to get the full benefit of the stamp duty holiday. If your transaction falls down and you need to start all over again, you’ll be hard pushed to meet that deadline.

So, there are huge incentives to keep your property transaction on track. Here’s what to do:

Buying – keeping your property transaction on track

1. Understand the home buying process

Your first step should be to make sure you understand the house-buying process. This means you’ll be in a much stronger position to ensure everything goes according to plan. Read our step-by-step guide to buying a home. And if you’re selling too, read how to buy and sell at the same time.

2. Be careful that you don’t get carried away and spend too much

When you’re working out how much you can afford, don’t factor in the savings you could make from the stamp duty holiday. It’s important to see these potential savings as a bonus. That way, if delays mean you end up missing out on benefiting from the holiday, you’ll still be able to afford your new home.

3. Get your finances sorted

You don’t want a delay on the financial side to jeopardise your purchase. Many lenders and brokers are experiencing COVID-related delays and mortgage choices have reduced, especially for first time buyers. So, start your research early. Start by finding out how much you can afford to borrow then speak to a mortgage broker about your options. If you have a small deposit, you may consider one of the new government-backed 95% loan to value mortgages announced in the Budget, which will be available from next month. Next, get a mortgage agreement in principle. Ideally you’ll have one in place when you make an offer.  Start the mortgage process now.

4. Don’t delay choosing your conveyancing solicitor

When it comes to keeping your transaction on track, speed is key. So, choose your solicitor or conveyancer as soon as possible and ideally get them in place before making an offer. Consider choosing a legal team using a digital platform with online document verification and real-time case updates. Digital Move claims cases can be completed up to 6 weeks faster and you can use your mobile phone to prove your identity.  Compare conveyancing quotes now with our Digital Move enabled conveyancing panel.

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Then, as soon as your offer is accepted, formally instruct your solicitor straight away. It’s more important than ever to act quickly right now as the current boom in activity caused by the stamp duty holiday means solicitors are extremely busy, which is causing some delays.

As soon as you’ve instructed your solicitor, they can get your searches ordered. Depending on where you’re buying a property, you may experience long delays in getting your searches back. See how long local authority searches are taking.

5. Line up a surveyor

Similarly, don’t forget good building surveyors can be in high demand too. So do your research and find a good surveyor in your local area. And give them advance notice that you may need them.

6. Be aware leasehold properties take longer to complete

If you’re buying or selling a leasehold property, it’s important to be aware these typically take on average 4 weeks longer to complete. To try to avoid further delays, ask for the management pack in advance of putting in an offer. And bear in mind a lender may need to see the EWS1 form; these forms are a way for residential building owners (above 18m in height) to prove to lenders and valuers that the external cladding has been assessed by an expert.

7. Consider buying at auction

One way to avoid lengthy and uncertain buying procedures is to buy at auction as the sale is agreed when the hammer falls. This means there’s no risk of your purchase falling through. Buying at auction isn’t without its downsides though. There are now 2 different type of auctions available so it’s important that you know the difference between online property auctions (also known as conditional auctions) and how to buy at a traditional auction. Do your research and  compare the online property auction providers.

8. Keep talking

To keep your transaction on track, it’s essential to communicate with your solicitor and estate agent regularly to find out what’s going on and to find out if anything is needed from you. Having weekly updates will make sure everyone is working on your transaction and should keep things moving move forward.

9. Consider homebuyer protection insurance

But while you can do as much as possible to keep your transaction going, the reality is it could fall down. So, consider getting homebuyer protection insurance. This helps cover legal, survey and mortgage lending costs should your purchase fall through.

Selling – keeping your property transaction on track

1. Be prepared

Just like if you’re buying, if you’re selling your home you should choose your solicitor or conveyancer as a matter of urgency. And instruct them as soon as your list your property. There are extra steps you can take to speed matters up further. If you’re selling a property, get all your paperwork together including deeds, planning permissions and guarantees. If it’s a leasehold property, find the lease.  Here’s a round-up of the essential documents you need and our handy step-by-step guide to selling to keep track of all the key steps in the process.

2. Help the buyer

Delays in receiving searches is a sticking point for many buyers. And it could mean the difference between the buyer being able to get the full benefit of the stamp duty holiday or not. And if they’re relying on the stamp duty holiday to be able to afford their purchase, this could risk the sale falling down. You can speed things up by ordering the searches, then selling them to your buyer.

3. Choose the right estate agent

For the best chance of making sure your property transaction doesn’t fall down, make sure you pick an estate agent with a strong track record. You can use our estate agent performance tool to find the best local estate agents based on how quickly they sell,  their success rate, how likely they are to achieve asking price and more. Online estate agents are worth investigating as an alternative. They are usually cheaper and typically have online dashboards to help monitor progress of offers and your transaction. Check out our online estate agent comparison table which compares all the main providers, their packages and ratings, from PurpleBricks to YOPA.

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4. Price your property realistically

It is a balancing act getting to the right sale price, but for a relatively speedy sale, you’ll want to price your home realistically. Whilst you will want to get three valuations from estate agents, remember, it is you, not the estate agent, who decides in the end what price to put the property on the market at. The only solution is to turn yourself into an expert on local house prices – both how much houses have actually sold for, and how much they are on the market for. Our free instant online home valuation tool is a good starting point to get a high and low estimation.

5. Can you sell before you buy?

Our research has found that sales falling through further up the chain accounted for 20% of collapsed sales. So, can you avoid this potential pitfall by selling your current home before buying a new one? As well as increasing the chances of your eventual purchase going to plan, you’ll also be in a much stronger position when you make an offer. Another way to avoid being in a chain if you’re buying a new build is to take advantage of a part-exchange scheme on your current home if the developer offers this.

In a chain – keeping your property transaction on track

1. Take charge of communication

Your solicitor may not agree, but there can be benefits to managing communication of all parties in the chain. So, ask the owner of the house you’re buying and the buyer of your home for contact details and communicate via email or set up a WhatsApp group. They can add people if there are more links in the chain. It’s a good way to make sure everyone knows what’s happening and unplugging any blockages.

2. Use your estate agent

However, if you don’t feel comfortable doing this or are too pressed for time, get your estate agent to do it instead. They’ll want to get you smoothly and quickly from accepting an offer to exchange of contracts. In most cases this role will be carried out well but if you don’t hear anything from your agent – or indeed you hear too much and think they may be adding stress to the system – then discuss the level of their involvement with them.

3. Consider alternative financing (bridging loan)

A bridging loan can be used to ‘bridge the gap’ if you need to buy one property before selling another. You can quickly borrow the money to keep your property transaction on track but you will pay for the convenience of fast, flexible bridging loans with a high interest rate.

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