How to improve your property’s ‘legal kerb appeal’

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the property market, with many sales that have now restarted experiencing delays.

Improving your home’s ‘legal kerb appeal’ will help you get things moving and complete the sale.

On behalf of OnTheMarket, conveyancing specialist Quittance Legal Services has put together the following practical tips on how to to do this.

What is ‘legal kerb appeal’?

Legal kerb appeal is the presentation of your property’s strengths and weaknesses from a legal perspective.

Examples of strengths include rights of access over other property, planning approval for future alterations and covenants protecting adjacent land from development.

Weaknesses can range from relatively minor issues like missing gas or electrical certificates, to a right of way dispute that limits access to your property.

If you instruct a solicitor before you find a buyer, your solicitor can identify the property’s legal strengths and weaknesses and advise you on how best to present these to a buyer.

You will have more time to resolve potential issues, reducing or avoiding the risk of delays.

How understanding the legal condition helps

A house with a tidy front garden and a freshly-painted front door will be more appealing to buyers. A property’s legal condition is less obvious, but an experienced buyer may spot clues on a viewing.

If a buyer is anxious that a garage conversion lacks planning approval, they may not be aware that this is commonly addressed with an indemnity policy.

The buyer may be worried about access over someone else’s property when the Land Registry title documents make it clear that this isn’t an issue.

You don’t want to lose a potential buyer based on an unfounded fear or an easily-fixed legal issue.

Worse, you don’t want a buyer to get cold feet, weeks after you accept an offer, when their solicitor adopts an adversarial position over a solvable problem.

Reassuring the buyer

In the current market, some buyers may be jittery. The fewer anxieties that a buyer has about a property, the more confident they will be about making an offer.

Providing more information up front also means that potential issues won’t be a surprise later on, and won’t be an excuse for renegotiation.

Identify problems early 

If you are aware of the legal issues that could arise during the conveyancing process, you can act to resolve them sooner.

If you are missing certificates for electrical work carried out on the property, for example, you can chase up copies from the electrician who did the work, or arrange for another electrician to carry out a condition report.

If you tackle issues early on, these issues are less likely to delay or prevent completion.

Your solicitor can anticipate questions about a given defect. You’ll be able to quickly respond to the buyer’s enquiries with a prepared solution.

Five tips to improve your property’s saleability

1.    Proactive communication

As the seller, you are best-placed to facilitate communication between your agent and your solicitor. If your agent raises a possible issue, make sure your solicitor is aware.

Make sure your agent is also aware of the property issues you are discussing with your solicitor. Your estate agent may be able to offer practical insights on these issues.

2.    Complete the property information forms

After you instruct, your lawyer will ask you to complete a detailed set of forms with questions about the property.

Fill out these forms as soon as you can. Your answers will provide some of the context that your solicitor will use to identify problems.

3.    Get the management information pack ASAP

If you are selling a leasehold property, this is critical. Sourcing the management information pack from the freeholder or managing agent can cause long delays to leasehold transactions.

Your solicitor will need this information to identify and address potential issues relating to factors like service charge accounts or the maintenance of common areas.

A rush of activity as the coronavirus lockdown is relaxed has led to backlogs with managing agents. You should ask your solicitor to acquire the pack as soon as possible.

4.    Indemnity insurance

Many potential defects that look serious on paper, like missing planning permission for alterations to a property, can be addressed with an indemnity insurance policy. Fortunately, these policies are relatively cheap. You should be prepared to offer to pay for one when the buyers’ solicitor raises the issue.

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Sellers should be aware that contacting the local authority about an issue will make it impossible to obtain an indemnity policy.

5.    Communication, again

This point is so critical it’s worth making twice. Some delays, like those affecting searches or managing agent packs, can only be mitigated by tackling them early.

Other delays are entirely avoidable, and many are down to poor communication between the parties involved in the transaction.

Take every opportunity to control the narrative, to ensure that the buyer doesn’t inflate a problem. If you and your solicitor have agreed a strategy to address an issue, make sure the buyer is aware of the proposed solution.

Staying ahead of the competition

Buyers want to avoid delays in the conveyancing process as much as sellers do. If a buyer is choosing between two similar properties, the fact that you have a solicitor instructed and all the paperwork prepped could give you an advantage.

The longer the conveyancing process takes, the more likely it is that the sale will fall through. This is particularly an issue in an uncertain market. Price fluctuations could prompt a buyer to renegotiate, or to pull out.

Disruption to the property market because of Covid-19 will continue for some time. With most conveyancing solicitors offering ‘no move, no fee’, there’s no reason not to instruct early.

By working with your solicitor to improve your home’s legal kerb appeal, you have a better chance of finding a motivated buyer and completing the sale sooner.

OnTheMarket has a dedicated page for coronavirus information and advice.

Content provided by OnTheMarket.com is for information purposes only. Independent and professional advice should be taken before buying, selling, letting or renting property, or buying financial products.

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