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Common conveyancing problems and what to do about them

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The conveyancing process is an essential part of buying or selling a property, covering key things such as preparing and exchanging the contracts of sale, having checks and searches carried out on the property for the buyer, the transfer of funds and registering properties which are purchased at the land Registry.

While conveyancing normally runs smoothly, as long as you use an experienced and reliable conveyancer, there are a number of problems that can occur during the process. When this happens, it is important to have the right legal advice and support to ensure those problems can be resolved, while a good conveyancer can usually help you avoid these issues in most cases.

What if the buyer and seller cannot agree the terms of a sale?

During conveyancing, the seller’s solicitor will draw up a contract of sale covering details such as the agreed price and exactly what is included in the sale. The buyer’s solicitor will then review this with the buyer and see if there are any parts of the contract that need clarifying or altering to suit the buyer e.g. which fixtures and fittings are included in the sale.

Normally such issues are fairly easy to resolve, but sometimes there can be key points that the two parties simply cannot agree on. For example, the buyer may have assumed that an expensive oven in the kitchen was part of the sale, but the seller wants to take it with them. The buyer then asks for a discount as the price they offered was based on the assumption that the oven was included in the sale, but the seller is not willing to renegotiate.

These kinds of issues are where a skilled conveyancer can make all the difference. Firstly, they can help avoid such situations by making sure whether or not key items are included in the sale at the earliest opportunity. Secondly, where such problems arise, they can use their negotiating skills and experience to find a solution. For example, while a seller may not be willing to make a deal over one specific issue, they may be willing to compromise elsewhere.

What happens if property checks and searches uncover a problem?

One of the most common issues during conveyancing is that the checks and searches carried out by the buyer’s solicitor uncover an issue, for example, a right of way across the property or a history of subsidence at a property.

In some cases an experienced conveyancer can find a solution to these problems, such as insuring against a risk. However some problems cannot be insured against (such as the risk of subsidence).

These kinds of problems, as well as any issues with the property uncovered during a building survey, can significantly impact the buyer’s idea of what the property is worth. Some of these issues can also be a problem for completing a mortgage on the property because a mortgage offer will be based on a particular valuation.

In these situations, the buyer generally has two options: they can simply walk away from the sale or they can try to renegotiate the price to take account of the problems uncovered. While there are no guarantees, a seller will often be willing to accept a revised offer under such circumstances to avoid the risk of the same problem happening again with a new buyer.

Again, having a skilled conveyancer is critical here as they can give you the best chance of uncovering such problems as quickly as possible and handle any renegotiation of the sale price for you, giving you the best chance of getting a fair deal.

What to do if the seller accepts a higher offer from another buyer? 

While this can be frustrating, until the contracts of sale are exchanged, the deal is not legally binding on either party. This means the seller is perfectly within their rights to accept a higher offer from another buyer.

If this happens, you can choose to match the new buyer’s offer or you could attempt to negotiate a price somewhere between your original offer and the new offer. Depending on how far down the conveyancing process you are, the seller may be willing to accept a slightly lower offer from you than from the new seller as you can likely achieve completion faster because the conveyancing process is already under way.

What can you do if the seller makes changes to the property after the sale is agreed?

Once contracts have been exchanged, both parties are bound by the details included in those contracts. However, if there is any ambiguity in the contracts of sale, this can sometimes lead to disappointment if the buyer finds that the seller has removed items they assumed were included in the sale.

A common example here might be if the contracts of sale do not specify anything about the contents of the garden. The buyer might assume that everything in the garden is being left behind, but the seller would likely be within their rights to remove items from the garden, including plants, furniture, sheds, summer houses etc.

Once contracts have been exchanged, it is usually too late to do anything about this, so it is important that you make sure anything you consider integral to the deal is covered in the contracts of sale while they are still open for negotiation.

To find out more about our conveyancing services for residential property, call us today on 01476 372 036 or use our contact page to find details of your nearest office.