Kirsty Burnham, Head of Property for Movewise, a company which provides support to law firms selling properties through probate, offers some advice for probate specialists on how to sell quickly and efficiently on behalf of clients – and achieve the maximum price.
As a probate lawyer, you will be well aware of the time it takes to sell property for your clients. In fact our research shows that an average property sale takes 45 phone calls and 71 emails, that’s around 20 hours of expensive legal time.
Probate specialists tell us over and over again that they are frustrated by the time the whole process takes – often due to HMRC hold-ups – and that their priority is to achieve a good price and a quick sale for their clients.
Having 20 years’ experience in property, including many probate sales, here are my top tips to help you accomplish these two goals.
Choose your agent carefully
It sounds obvious, but your aim is to match your client’s property with a buyer, and you need to identify the agent most likely to find them. Speak to two or three of the most active agents in the area, in the relevant price range, and see who has genuine enthusiasm for the property. If it’s a prime property, widen your net and speak to boutique agents as well as chains. We use technology for an initial regional research, but to find the very best agent, you’ll need to pick up the phone and make a personal connection.
Negotiate the best fees and terms
We are in a unique position, so we wouldn’t usually select a sole agent, however as a probate solicitor, this is likely to be your best option. Try not to agree to long sole agency terms as then you will have the flexibility to move to another agent should the first agent not perform as hoped. Always begin by asking your first-choice agent for their best fees and use that as your starting point for discussions. Agents are sometimes prepared to renegotiate fees when they have viewed the property – perhaps, for example, when they know they have specific buyers on their books who are likely to be interested.
Monitor viewings and respond to feedback
Your agent is unlikely to call you unless they have an offer, so you’ll need to make a diary note to speak to them every week to check in on viewings and consider any feedback. Establish a single point of contact and ask for honest advice as a result of the viewings; for example if the property needs cosmetic work . For our probate sales we implement an automated appraisal form which can be really useful.
Review offers wisely
If you have followed steps 1-3 you should expect to receive an offer on your client’s property and in some cases, multiple offers. Choosing the right one will be critical to completing a successful sale. In my experience there are three key elements to consider; is the buyer financially qualified, is the chain complete and viable and are the timescales agreed? I am still surprised by how many people are afraid to broach timings of sales – it is one of the top causes of sales falling through.
Manage the sales progression
Speed is of the essence at this stage as buyers have a habit of changing their minds if the sale begins to slow. As it’s highly likely that your firm is handling the conveyancing, you are in a great position to stay in touch with this side of the transaction, but you will need regular contact with all solicitors to keep the sale on track. Think about getting as much ready in advance as possible and push for a fast exchange with a long-stop completion if necessary to avoid any last minute wobbles from the buyer.
If you would like to understand more about how Movewise works with contact Kirsty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Today's Wills and Probate.