So, to answer the first question! Every buyer wants to pay as little as possible for their dream house and every seller wants to sell for as much as they can, and so never the twain shall meet. This is where a good solicitor is worth their weight in gold. They have the experience to decide when to play the trump card and will guide you throughout the entire process. Clients undoubtedly have a personal connection or investment in a property, and this can therefore cloud their judgement. The market is very different now to what it was in the boom time and I would certainly look at every property on its own individual merit. Look at all the reasons why someone is selling; whether its to move up the property ladder, financial hardship or downsizing, this can all contribute to how quickly and how much they want to sell it for. From a buyer's perspective this is when the poker face is essential, as it can be the difference between paying a premium or not.
As to how quickly a transaction can complete? The average time for a conveyance is usually 6 to 8 weeks but we often see cases where clients are trying to get transactions through in 4 weeks or less. Whilst solicitors are aware that clients are always keen to progress matters as soon as possible, it should always be remembered that we need time to do the conveyancing, to check there is a good title and report any issues to the client, regarding title conditions or ensuring all paperwork is in place for alterations. 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 then, there has been a 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 now 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, one of the reasons is new regulations around affordability checks resulting in it taking longer to process a mortgage application.
In conclusion, the key is communication! Speak to your solicitor at an early stage, who will guide you through the whole process from start to finish, hopefully without any bumps in the road.