Prior to the recession the process of buying and selling flowed relatively easily, with buyers trusting when a lender said they could provide a mortgage and the legalities being dealt with efficiently. However, since last Spring when there showed signs of a more consistent recovery in the housing market, we have seen a change creeping in, which is causing concern.
Missives are the legal contract for buying and selling a house. When an offer is submitted for a property it contains lots of different conditions, further letters are exchanged between the two Solicitors until such time as both sides agree on all the conditions and "missives are concluded". This then creates a legally binding contract from which neither the seller nor buyer can withdraw without incurring penalties. Without having missives concluded, neither party can book removals, the buyer can't plan for the new sofa to be delivered or have the services connected. As you can imagine this causes problems all round, not least of which is trying to get a removal company at the last minute. We find this to be a very common problem and its difficult to forward plan as clients are reluctant to commit to a date until they have their missives concluded.
It isn't unusual for missives not to be concluded until much closer to the day of settlement or on the actual day. We have also seen an increase in the number of transactions where the completion date has come and gone, missives remain open and all parties are left hanging, having no security as to whether the transaction will proceed. Clearly this makes for a very stressed seller, buyer and Solicitor on both sides! So what causes missives to remain open and un-concluded? Mostly the delay is caused by buyers in a chain who are not willing to commit themselves until such time as they have the mortgage offer from their lender or their own sale further down the chain is not concluded. As to why it takes so long for mortgage papers to be issued, only the lenders can answer that but perhaps during the recession staff numbers were reduced and now there has been increase in mortgages, lenders cannot meet the demand.
Whilst we try our best to reassure clients and are very pro-active in pressing for the desired outcome, we have now taken to saying it’s a question of "holding your nerve". So what can be done? First and foremost communication is always the key, it’s the not knowing that's the worst! As long as Solicitors continue to communicate between themselves and their clients so that everyone is kept in the loop, that helps enormously. Hopefully as 2014 unfolds and the market, if as predicated, improves, we will slowly see this situation reverting to a more secure system whereby missives are concluded reasonably quickly after offers are submitted and hence less grey hairs all round!
A Happy and Healthy 2014 to all.