Communication is key to a smooth sale. Asking the right questions at the outset goes a long way to ensuring that this is achieved.

What’s the position of the buyer?

As soon as you have found a buyer for your property, establish their precise financial position. Are they a cash buyer? Do they require a mortgage? Are they already part of a chain? How quickly can they exchange, complete and move?

The central question, ‘what is the position of the buyer?’ will give you a much better sense of the circumstances surrounding their need to move,  and will give context to further communication.

What is the position of the seller?

Likewise, if you have had an offer accepted on a property, you will want to know more about the circumstances of the person or people selling their home.

For example: Have they already started looking for their next home? Have they already had an offer accepted on a property? Are they already part of a chain? When are they looking to move?

Again, asking about the position of the seller will allow you to move forward, safe in the knowledge that you feel confident about what is happening in the process, and you can plan accordingly.

Should I use a mortgage broker?

Instructing a mortgage broker could help speed up the home-moving process, because they can chase underwriters and lenders for you, and have direct contact with a bank or building society.

However, it is worth knowing that a mortgage broker will charge you a fee for their time. You must decide what is appropriate for you. Butler Sherborn work closely with John Charcol, who offer clients a truly independent mortgage advice service.

Has my buyer’s mortgage application been submitted?

Most buyers will be financially pre-qualified by an estate agent before you accept an offer, but do make sure you ask when you receive offers on your home.

An estate agent will usually ask the buyer for proof of funds, or for proof that a lender has agreed to a mortgage in principle.

However, if you are a seller, it is also worthwhile asking if your buyer has actually submitted their mortgage application.

This is important, because this particular part of the process is taking longer than usual at the moment. The sooner your buyer can get a mortgage application approved, the quicker you will be able to proceed with the sale.

Am I choosing the right solicitor or conveyancer?

You may choose a solicitor that has been recommended to you by a friend, you may choose one your agent suggests, or you might do your own research.

It is up to you who you decide to instruct, but you should first call them and ask to speak to the solicitor who would be acting on your behalf. You could ask the following the questions:

  • How will the solicitor be communicating with you?
  • Will it be by post, or email, or both?
  • Is there cover in place if they have any plans to be away?
  • What should you expect from the process?
  • How much will they charge?
  • If you absolutely have to move by a certain date, ask them if they think that is possible – they won’t know what hurdles may arise, but they should be able to give you their opinion, based on previous experience

Is my solicitor working from home?

As anyone who has moved home before will know, there is a lot of paperwork to fill out before you get your hands on the keys.

You will need to send verification of your ID, as well as various signed documents, to your solicitor.

Make sure you double check with them where to send any documents if they are working from home, or if they will accept electronic versions.

Are Searches underway?

Before you are committed to buying a property (by exchanging contracts), you need to know as much as possible about what you’re buying.

Searches are enquiries that are made on your behalf by your solicitor, or licensed conveyancer.

They contact various authorities with enquiries about the property you are buying – for example, regarding the land the property is built on – which may directly (or indirectly) affect the property’s future value.

Most searches are requested very soon after you have had your offer formally accepted, but they usually take a number of weeks to complete.

So if you are a buyer, make sure that whoever you have instructed to take care of the searches, is on the case for you. Likewise, if you are a seller, you should ask if your buyer has begun this enquiries and search process.

No matter where your property is located, there are three main searches you need as a minimum:

  • Local Authority Searches – e.g. planning issues and highways issues
  • Environmental Searches – e.g. flooding issues and subsidence issues
  • Water and drainage Searches – e.g. if the property is connected to a public water supply and sewer.

What paperwork do I need to complete?

As a seller, your estate agent and solicitor will ask for various documents throughout the process. If you can collate all the relevant documents ahead of time, you should avoid delays further down the line.

If you need to call your solicitor about a specific document, try to write down all the questions you have before you pick up the phone. It is better to make one phone call to go through everything, rather than calling five times when different questions come up. It is may also be cheaper.

Some of the documentation to collate in advance:

  • HM Land Registry title documents
  • Gas checks completed by a Gas Safe registered engineer (or Corgi-registered engineer prior to 2009)
  • Electrical checks – an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) or a NAPIT or NICEIC certificate/report from a registered electrical competent person
  • FENSA or CERTAS certificates for windows
  • Planning permission for any major work carried out
  • Building regulation completion certificates and builder’s guarantee certificates for alterations or additions
  • Subsidence guarantees/ warranties
  • Damp guarantees/warranties
  • Party wall agreements (if relevant)
  • If a Listed building, listed building consent for interior and exterior works
  • If your home is in a conservation area, conservation area consent for works
  • Any title insurance policies you may have taken out to solve title defects

When is the target exchange date?

Naturally, exchange never seems like it can come soon enough! However, by prompting others to think about a target exchange date, or even agree to a realistic target date for exchange, it gives everyone involved a specific deadline to actively work towards.

This should help to give the whole process a little more structure and certainty.

Depending on your circumstances, you may not have the option to be flexible with an exchange date.

However, if you can, it can help a sale go through more quickly. You may ideally want a couple of weeks between exchange and completion to have time to pack everything up, but if the buyer asks for one week, consider if you think you would be able to compromise on this.

 Any Hidden Horrors?   

These are issues that can ambush and derail a sale at any stage. Sellers should ensure that they are fully informed about the following matters relating to their properties BEFORE they launch the property to the market.

  • Septic tank (if not on private drainage)- comply or be aware of new regulations.
  • Installation certificates wood burners and windows.
  • Covenants, Rights of Way, Footpaths and Access rights.
  • Flooding
  • Unadopted roads, By Ways, and hammer heads to Highways.
  • Tenancies in annexes and holiday lets.
  • Listed Building Consents, Building Regulations and Complex Titles



Cirencester Estate Agent

Mr Knowles June 2020

Butler Sherborn, have been an absolute dream. After a long and unfruitful search we went to them with our requirements and they quickly found our dream home in a matter of days. Highly professional and an absolute delight to deal with. Thank you.
— Mr Knowles, June 2020