Tips on Navigating the Housing Market

There are rumbles of a revival in the housing market with inflation down and an expectation that the Bank of England will soon make a base rate cut.  That’s been enough encouragement for high street lenders to drop their mortgage rates.  The cuts - of up to 0.45 per cent – are expected to give a further boost to house sales, which have shown an upturn already during the first quarter of the year.

More than 84,000 sales completed in March according to HMRC, and mortgage approvals were up 20 per cent on the same month last year[1].  The property portal Zoopla is predicting the housing market is on track for 1.1 million sales this year - a 10 per cent increase on 2023. 

But with the house sale process averaging around 12 weeks, and unexpected setbacks often adding eight weeks or more to the process, motivated home movers are being encouraged to get organised before they kickstart any sale or purchase. 

The factors that can affect getting a sale over the line swiftly often start with lost or mislaid paperwork, or failing to get financial matters and in-principle mortgage offers sorted before starting the process.  Once underway, delays are frequently caused by slow mortgage valuations and surveys, or local searches to identify any planning matters that affect the property. 

And the longer the chain of buyers and sellers, the more likelihood of delays among all the different players.

For those who are selling after many decades in the family home, the bumps in the road are often due to changes that have taken place in terms of how title deeds are held and the sort of information required when going through the sales process.

Any property bought before 1991, with no subsequent change of mortgage or owners, may not be on the digital register of the Land Registry, the government department which maintains a record of information about land and property ownership and interests. 

Whenever any land or property is bought, transferred or mortgaged, there is a legal requirement to register the transaction at the Land Registry, and since 1991 all titles have been stored electronically, replacing original paperwork. Once registered, they are an easily accessible record for all, showing who owns the property together with any charges, such as mortgages, and any details on rights of way or other important matters that relate to the property.

But if no transactions have taken place, then all the deeds and documents to prove ownership of your property will still be in paper form. Typically, banks and building societies used to hold these for safekeeping until a mortgage was repaid and would then send the document bundle to the owners. 

“It’s surprising how many properties in England and Wales are still not registered and this means that paperwork will need to be found and submitted to the Land Registry in the event of a sale.This is going to add to the timeline, so if a property isn’t yet on the digital register, then ideally owners would get this sorted before the property goes on the market. Otherwise a sale could fail if there are any queries and it takes a long time to get them resolved. You will need to make sure you have all the paper deeds tracing ownership of the property back through the years,” explained Sheena Aston, Head of Property Law. 

 “When you’re selling, being prepared really pays off.  And even if you have a property that is on the digital register, you may still have a bundle of deeds and conveyancing documents that are relevant.  These old deeds may contain detailed information that does not appear in the digital records.”  

[1] Bank of England

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Other key paperwork that will be required includes any relating to modifications to a property that required planning permission, or building regulations consent.  Here, certificates will be required to show these aspects have been properly followed through. For leasehold property, any works requiring approval by the freeholder will need to be documented too.   

She added: “Sellers who want to get ready before they go to market should ensure their solicitor has examined the title, lined up all the paperwork, anticipated any problems and dealt with them in advance.  It’s a tactic that avoids delay later and means they are ready to act immediately when a buyer is found, and avoids potential fall-out when a slow-down occurs.”

Quick check list:

  • Instruct a lawyer when you put your house on the market or, if you have nothing to sell, when you start your house search
  • Look out all the conveyancing paperwork from when you bought the property including any paper documents needed to prove your ownership and the title to the property
  • Check you have all the other necessary documents needed to complete the legal paperwork, including:
    • Planning permission and building regulations for any works carried out by you or previous owners
    • Installer and product certificates for any gas, oil or electrical works and for windows
  • If the property is leasehold, request an up-to-date management pack
  • When you receive an offer, check if the buyer is well prepared with legal and financial matters in place before accepting, or give a deadline for arrangements to be made before you accept
  • Every source of funds must be validated and sources checked. If a deposit or capital contribution is being gifted or loaned to you or your buyer by anyone, make sure this is cleared through the necessary money laundering process well in advance.
  • Keep a calendar check on the validity of your mortgage offer and other time-sensitive components, and apply for any necessary extensions in good time
  • Ask about holidays from everyone in the chain and those of their lawyers, to enable forward planning to avoid last minute derailments

Call our helpful team on 01256 844888 or email enquiries@lambbrooks.com. Alternatively, you can give all your property details to our online chat assistant who can arrange for someone to come back to you with a quote.
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