How to ensure your property transaction doesn't fall through

Warren Lewis
3rd August 2017

About a quarter of fall throughs are for material and understandable reasons, such as broken chains, finance issues, dramatic discoveries such as subsidence, and changes of circumstances such as death, separation or loss of income.

Sally Fraser, of Stacks Property Search, has this advice: "About 10% can be put down to lack of commitment or changes of mind, 65% are generally for preventable reasons. If buyer and seller had played their hands differently, the sale would have gone through. There are steps that both parties can take to maximise the chances of a deal progressing safely to exchange and completion.

Speed and efficiency are of the essence. The less delays that are built into a transaction, the more likely it is to succeed, removing opportunity for gazumpers, gazunderers, changes of mind and second thoughts. Maintain the momentum, and make sure your solicitor has the same mindset. If he or she doesn’t understand the need for speed, efficient communications and the benefits of finding solutions rather than problems, then you need a new solicitor.

Good communications and goodwill between solicitors, estate agent, buying agent, buyer and seller is vital. Bad communications can give the impression that there’s a real problem, rather than just a lack of activity on somebody’s part. So don’t just assume that everything’s happening, keep on top of it and chivvy in a friendly but insistent manner. If there’s a real but unforeseen reason for a delay, then be patient and try to assist in a resolution.

A weekly update from all parties is a wonderful thing and my advice to buyers and sellers alike is to get an agreement from agents and both solicitors at the beginning of the process that this is something that will happen. It keeps everyone on track, catches difficulties and delays before they become a problem, and helps with goodwill.

Try to establish a realistic target date for exchange, so everyone has a deadline to work towards. If buyer, seller, or both aren’t in a rush to move, build in more time between exchange and completion rather than being relaxed about the exchange date. If somebody asks you to do something in the way of form-filling, do it by return.

Realistically, a problem-free journey from agreeing a price to exchange is unlikely. All parties should be resolved to iron out these wrinkles rather than turning them into dramas. A good estate agent plays an important part, so when selecting your selling agent remember that they do more than just find a buyer. Some agents have a ‘sales progression’ department that focuses on progressing sales; and remember that online agents don’t rely on a sale progressing to completion for their fee. Buyers who are using a buying agent will find this is the stage of the process that they get maximum benefit from being represented.

Both buyer and seller should adopt a diplomatic approach to the process. Confrontations and outrage over small issues can escalate, and turn into insurmountable hurdles to the detriment of all parties. So pick your battles, and remain supplicant and servient if it really doesn’t matter."

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