Should we hand over the deposit for a house before getting all the documents?
Property Clinic: The vendor should give you all relevant documents before you agree to buy
The absence of relevant documentation can compromise your ability to sell your property. It will, at the very least, diminish its value.
My partner and I are in the process of buying a house in Co Wicklow. Our solicitor has on several occasions contacted the vendor’s solicitor to get copies of planning permissions and compliance, but they won’t give them and have now asked for a deposit. What should we do?
You need to clarify if the vendor’s solicitor won’t provide, or simply does not have, these planning permissions and certs available yet. Either way, it is the vendor’s responsibility to provide them before you sign unconditional contracts. We generally have these documents in place if possible well before a sale is agreed to avoid such uncertainty.
If you are seeking a mortgage for the purchase, your bank will require these documents before issuing your written loan offer.
The saying “the day you buy is the day you sell” comes to mind in these situations. In other words, even if you pay cash and waive your requirement for these documents (definitely not recommended), when you come to sell the house in the future, your buyers will also require these same documents. If you don’t have them, this will compromise or even sabotage your ability to sell, and at the very least, will significantly diminish the value of the property, where you could only sell to a cash purchaser who might be prepared to waive their need for these documents. This would be very unlikely.
Again, if you really want to secure the house, you could go ahead and sign conditional contracts subject to these documents being made available, provided that your solicitor retains your signed contracts and your balance of 10 per cent deposit until these documents become available within a reasonable time.
Then, and only when these documents are made available to your solicitor, and provided your solicitor is satisfied that all the required documents are in place (including your loan offer, if applicable), you could exchange contracts quickly. This would not only show proof of your genuine interest but would ensure a speedy exchange at the appropriate time.
The value of the house and your ability to sell in the future will be seriously diminished if these documents are not available and therefore must be supplied by the vendor if you are to proceed.
Roger Berkeley is a chartered residential surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland