Few of us buy and sell property more than a few times during our lifetimes. Anything we do so rarely is bound to make us feel a bit uneasy. This is a brief “who’s who” to give you a basic understanding of what motivates the various people involved in a transaction.
The first thing to understand is that there are two opposing teams. One, for the seller and another which looks after the buyer.
The seller’s team
The captain of “team-seller” is the owner who wants to sell his property. This person picks his team of professionals. The team’s aim is to secure the highest offer and then sell the property for that price as quickly as possible. On the team there will often be an estate agent who’s job is to advertise the property and to conduct negotiations to secure that highest offer from a ready and able purchaser. There will also be a firm of lawyers on the team to conduct the legal process to transfer ownership of the property for the seller. The legal and rather old fashioned term for this process is “conveyancing”.
Team-seller don’t have a duty or responsibility to tell the buyer about the property especially not any problems or legal issues associated with it; quite the opposite in fact. For example, just because the agent’s information sheet is in writing, it doesn’t mean that the buyer can rely upon it. If you look carefully, you will see an exclusion of liability term in the small print. Team buyer’s job is to fill this gap.
The buyer’s team
Let’s imagine that you are a buyer and that your offer has been accepted for a property. Just like team seller, you get to choose (and you’ll have to pay for) the professionals on your team. Usually a mortgage provider is required. This might be a “mortgage broker” (someone to shop around and advise you about the different mortgages available); but if you know which mortgage you want; you could go directly to the mortgage department of your chosen lender.
Property is “sold as seen”. This means; if you find something wrong with it after you’ve bought it, you can’t ask for some money back. This is why the surveyor is a very important member of your team. In recent years, mortgage providers have started choosing a surveyor for you; after all, they often put up most of the money and this is one of the lender’s safeguards against fraud. This is fine! You are both on the same team and the surveyor will report, both to you and the mortgage provider. If there are condition problems with the property, the surveyor can also advise you about remedies or if you are happy to take on these works yourself, he may help you to renegotiate the price to cover these costs.
“Team buyer” will also need a firm of lawyers. The legal system in Jersey is totally different from that in the UK. Here; a buyer’s lawyer does much more because there is no Government department in Jersey to register ownership to property (which we call “title”). As with condition issues; legal issues can hugely affect the potential, saleability and most importantly; the value of a property. There are also many pitfalls which your lawyer will avoid for you. This work is complex and time consuming, they must undertake much research.
Both teams share the same goal; which is the sale of the property, but the interests of the buyer and the seller in reaching that goal are often very different. Further negotiation during the sale process is not uncommon.
Buyers often feel at a disadvantage in the early stages of their negotiations. Dealing directly with an experienced estate agent is difficult when you aren’t used to it. My advice, to get the best deal is not to give too much away.
Agents may give the impression that they’re on the buyer’s side; they want them to drop their guard. Another little trick is to try to influence a buyer in the choice of the members of his or her team. Perhaps they’ll say “the seller’s lawyer already knows all about this property he can work for you too and do so more quickly or cheaply”. Maybe they’ll recommend a lawyer they know really well or someone who will do the job cheaply. Don’t fall for any of this; the ploy is to gain the advantage for team seller. Always appoint your own totally independent team from people you trust.
The same applies when developers offer a deal to pay your legal fees. Always ask whether they will be paying for a lawyer of your own choosing or theirs. There’s no reason why they can’t offer to pay the same amount to your lawyer.
Another of team-seller’s tricks is setting a tight completion schedule. Three weeks may be enough time to do the basic job, but it may not be enough to fix any potential problems. This encourages the buyer to book removals, make childcare arrangement, find somewhere for the dog to go for the day and all that stuff; before having all the facts and for their team to find and solve problems. Of course it’s tempting to get your hands on your new home as soon as possible and “team seller” know this. They also know that once you’ve made all your arrangements you’ll be in a much weaker negotiating position. You’ll be better served if you can buy your team at least five weeks. If you are competing with other buyers I know that this is not always possible but try to be firm on this point, if you can.
Finally, when buying make sure you give your team an overview of what you’re expecting to buy, together with any future plans you may have for it. Do this as early in the process as you possibly can.
We understand the issues that you will face in your property transaction and will offer you pragmatic and helpful advice in our friendly, client-focussed style. If you’d like to discuss your proposed purchase or sale, please get in touch.