We are sale agreed, but the seller is now caught in chain. What can we do?

Property Clinic: We signed contracts but now seller is delayed in securing their own home. Can I push to close the sale?

Property chain: There are any number of reasons why a sale could be delayed: planning, mortgage, survey or even holidays.

Property chain: There are any number of reasons why a sale could be delayed: planning, mortgage, survey or even holidays.

 

I have gone sale agreed on a property I am buying since the first week of May. Within the last two weeks, I have signed contracts and all other documentation required to close, along with the deposit. My sellers are ready to move but their sellers are holding the process up. What rights do I have to push for a close/move date?

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Unfortunately, the same applies to a property sales chain, as each sale depends on the other to progress.

You agreed your sale in early May. Post Covid-19 activity really only picked up pace since June 8th. However, most solicitors that I know of, being an “essential service”, were actively progressing sales during lockdown.

You have not said if you were advised what the cause of this delay is at the top of the chain. Your solicitor would be in a position on your behalf to inquire further up the chain with the other solicitors involved to identify the issue. Your estate agent should also be liaising with your solicitor on this.

In the meantime, your solicitor should not release your signed contracts or deposit at this stage in order to protect you should the chain fall down.

Property Clinic

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There are any number of reasons why a sale could be delayed: planning, mortgage, survey or even dare I say it holidays.

Reason for delay

Once the cause of delay has been established, you will be in a much clearer position to be advised on your best option. Depending on the reason for delay, your solicitor can advise if it would be prudent for you to issue a 28-day notice to your sellers and a similar notice could be served up the line. However, this would be a last resort as first, it is not your sellers that are causing the problem and second, this would allow a further 28 days – or more – of further delay.

Sometimes it can be something simple that can be solved reasonably quickly. On the other hand, if the sellers at the top of the chain are delaying because they may still be endeavouring to secure a purchase, then you would really have to consider if you want to be held to ransom for further and potentially indefinite delays.

Digital speed

While we’re on the subject of delays, one of the takeaways from lockdown was the extent to which agents, buyers and sellers have embraced the use of online viewing tools and bidding technology.

However, while the use of technology has been forging ahead in some areas, the same cannot be said about conveyancing, where the continued use of paper-based conveyances either causes or adds to delays.

According to an SCSI survey earlier this year, the average time for a house sale to close is five-and-a-half months. We really need to speed up this process, drop the current reliance on a paper trail and introduce electronic conveyancing or e-conveyancing as a matter of urgency.

Roger Berkeley is a chartered residential surveyor, registered valuer and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie

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