If you’ve just put your home on the market, you’ll be making every effort to present it in its best possible light. But you’ll also need to consider your home’s legal kerb.
What’s ‘legal kerb appeal’?
Chris Salmon, director at Quittance Legal Services, says:
“Legal kerb appeal means the strengths of your property when considered from a legal perspective. This could include positives like a right of access over another property, or existing planning permission for a proposed extension.
“Improving legal kerb appeal also involves addressing legal problems before you find a buyer.”
So, in the same way a neat hedge improves your property’s literal kerb appeal, having your ducks in a row from a legal standpoint could also improve its saleability.
Do buyers care about legal issues?
“Don’t underestimate buyers’ legal awareness,” Salmon argues. “Buyers are increasingly aware of the legal pitfalls that can cause conveyancing delays and problems for themselves as new owners.”
At a viewing, a savvy buyer will spot the warning signs. This could be as simple as a right of way query, or as complex as questioning the planning approvals on an extension.
“If a buyer is also selling, they will be very aware of the knock-on impact that conveyancing delays on a purchase could have on their sale,” Salmon adds.
“Anything that makes your property seem the more straightforward option could swing the odds in your favour.”
What can you do to improve legal kerb appeal?
1. Instruct a solicitor as early as possible
Improving legal kerb appeal requires you to know what the strengths and weaknesses of your home are, from a legal perspective.
You might remember some points from when you bought the property, but for the full picture, you need to bring in the experts.
Most conveyancers offer ‘no move, no fee’. So there’s no reason not to instruct one early in your selling process.
If you’re selling a leasehold property, instructing a solicitor early also means they can obtain the management information pack from the freeholder before you find a buyer. This information often takes weeks to get hold of, so it’s good to get ahead.
“As the market recovers, backlogs at some managing agents are likely,” Salmon says. “This will cause even more serious delays.”
2. Identify strengths and weaknesses
Your solicitor will ask you to complete the standard property information forms. These forms include questions about a wide range of issues, from building regulations to neighbour disputes.
The information you provide will help identify potential legal issues with the property.
If you have any information or concerns about possible issues you think are not covered in the forms, you should tell your solicitor as soon as possible.
3. Be completely honest
When you’re completing the forms and corresponding with your solicitor and your agent, do not hold anything back.
If you have any concerns about how to answer a question, ask your solicitor. If you cannot find a certificate or warranty that the property forms ask for, tell your solicitor as soon as possible.
Hiding something now, even if it seems relatively minor, can create difficulties down the line. If the buyer’s solicitor discovers the problem later, it could jeopardise your sale.
Even if the issue can be easily resolved, delays are likely and the buyer might lose confidence.
4. Be prepared to pay
From missing electrical installation certificates to rights of way, legal property defects can often be solved with a simple indemnity insurance policy. Indemnity policies are relatively inexpensive, and often considerably faster and cheaper than other options.
If any defects can be addressed with an indemnity policy, you should make it clear to your solicitor and your agent that you’re willing to cover the cost of the policy. Your solicitor can then present this solution alongside the potential problem, avoiding a debate with the buyer’s solicitor and saving considerable time.
5. Communicate with your solicitor and agent
When you agree on how to solve each legal issue with your solicitor, keep your agent in the loop.
Your agent (or a member of their team) will have had experience selling property with similar issues in the past, and they’ll be able to offer you practical insights.
Why legal kerb appeal matters now
Salmon argues that legal kerb appeal should be a key part of sellers’ post-lockdown strategy.
“By identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your home from a legal perspective, you, your solicitor and your agent can all make more informed decisions. You will have a better chance of finding a motivated buyer, and a better chance of getting the sale process completed faster.”
If you address your home’s legal kerb appeal early on, you’ll know what issues could arise, and what strategy you’ll take when they do.
This forewarned and forearmed approach will help to ensure your sale proceeds smoothly, more quickly and with less stress.