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Anyone changed solicitors during house sale?

(17 Posts)
HoggleHoggle Mon 13-Apr-15 17:14:10

Am about a month into house sale and purchase. Process complicated slightly by the chain agreeing at acceptance of offers that there was to be 8 weeks to exchange and then 4 weeks to completion (there is a reason for this but boring and prob not relevant to question).

Our solicitor has so far proved themselves ineffective, obstructive and downright bloody rude. They are not confirming direct questions I am asking about dates connected to the formal exchange/completion agreement and keep changing their reasons as to why this is. I now suspect it is because they don't want to be dictated to and plan to do everything at the pace they decide.

I will be speaking to my agent tomorrow to try and get advice on this, as solicitors behaviour is jeopardising our purchase plans - if we don't have a certain amount of notice of the date we are exchanging then we can't do work planned to our purchase. All parties know this, as did the solicitor - in writing - when they were engaged by us. Im aware that exchange/completion dates are not usually decided so far in advance but as it was all agreed right at the beginning, I am now beyond frustrated that this is not happening. As far as I can tell, the fault for this lies with our solicitor. Our chain only has 3 links so our solicitor is the middle man and much rests on them.

I do not want to continue working with this solicitor on principle apart from anything - I can only put up with so much rudeness from someone I'm giving £££ too. But is it not advised to do this at this point? I'm aware that it could make things much more complicated and delayed, however I have no faith in the ability or intentions of our current solicitor and that I find that worrying.

Any advice?!

TheCrowFromBelow Mon 13-Apr-15 17:34:27

from my v limited experience i think you should try and meet with your solicitor to see what is outstanding as well as discuss with your agent.

There are many reasons why there could be delays and IME solicitors will not absolutely guarantee exchange dates as the factors dictating when a property is ready to exchange are not within their control, and they'd be opening themselves up to lawsuits.

Is there another partner or conveyancer you can speak to at the firm?

Quitelikely Mon 13-Apr-15 17:39:34

It's frustrating. Why not complain to the senior partner.

DelphiniumBlue Mon 13-Apr-15 17:53:25

It is all very well you saying when you would like to exchange, but if all the solicitors queries have not been adequately dealt with then they cannot exchange.

So you need to find out exactly what is preventing exchange - have they received all documentation, searches etc? Has the mortgage offer been received? Does it raise any issues? Have the contracts been agreed? They should be able to answer those questions. Once all queries have been adequately dealt with, and the mortgage offer and survey have been received, then ( and only then) will the solicitors do a written report to you, sending you the documents for signature and requesting funds for the deposit. Once they have those back, and all the other solicitors in the chain are in a similar position, you would be able to exchange. And don't be surprised if they ask you to reconfirm or reconsider the completion date.

However, whatever the situation with the paperwork, you should be able to expect a courteous service.

I'd suggest rather than changing solicitors at this point in time, which would create considerable delay, that you contact the practice Manager or Senior Partner and explain the problem, and ask if there is someone else there who can deal with your matter as you no longer have confidence in the current fee-earner. There may be all sorts of reasons for the fact that exchange has not yet happened, but there is no excuse for rudeness or lack of openness.
The agents may be able to help if they know the legal team.

HoggleHoggle Mon 13-Apr-15 18:42:51

Thanks all, good advice. The senior partner in the firm is good, if a little old school, so I will approach her.

delphinium just to clarify, I don't mind that we haven't exchanged, just that we don't know when we will. The chain had agreed to exchange within 8 weeks, but 8 weeks starting from when? At first solicitor said the deadline started from offer acceptance, then they said from contracts being issued. That's happened now but they still won't clarify when they will start the 8 weeks countdown or if it has already started. It's like getting blood out a stone.

Our issue is that we will be doing work to the house between exchange and completion - which is one of the reasons for the formal date outline - so if our solicitor turns round and says 'oh the 8 weeks deadline started a while ago so we'll be exchanging in 2 weeks' then we will be screwed. We have 5 different trades we need to come in, and obviously any decent tradesman needs way more notice than that. The work being done between exchange and completion was part of the deal - and we increased our offer accordingly - so if that doesn't end up being possible for us then we need to think about whether we buy this house.

I hate this whole thing. I've done it 3 times in 4 years, you'd think I'd have got better at it by now.

DelphiniumBlue Mon 13-Apr-15 23:48:17

Well the thing is, the 8 weeks can only be a guideline. So asking when it runs from is not actually what you need to know, and in any event , it wouldn't be the solicitor who had the answer to that question, as I think you said that agreement had already been made by the time you instructed them.
I'd assume this meant 8 weeks from the date of acceptance of the offer, but it's irrelevant if the paperwork is not ready to go.

I think you might need to reconsider your timetable.

The whole deal is not definite until exchange of contracts, anyone could pull out until contracts have been exchanged.

I think if you need certainty, you should push for an exchange asap ( within 8 weeks if possible,) but ask for a long completion date eg 6 weeks between exchange and completion. Otherwise, you can book the workmen, but there's no guarantee of dates until exchange actually happens.

In reality, the way it usually works is that no-one really knows exactly when exchange will take place; once all the parties are ready ( in that the paperwork is satisfactory, signed and cleared funds are available) then exchange would normally take place within a few days. But you just can't predict when everyone will be ready - there could be delays with mortgage offers, or extra conditions imposed on them, or issues with searches, or someone goes on holiday and isn't available to sign immediately etc etc.

By the way, if you want access between exchange and completion to carry out work, you must flag this up so that it is a term of the contract, otherwise you won't get it. Access will always be on the basis of specified arrangements - you would normally expect to specify the works, and clarify responsibilities in the event of things going wrong. Most vendors would expect the deposit to be released to them straightaway, and you would need to check insurance arrangements, and keyholder arrangements. All of this needs to be formalised before exchange. I'm sure you already know this, but make sure your solicitors have brought this up with the sellers solicitors, and that they are drafting additional clauses to go into the contract to cover everything. I would expect there to be an additional charge for this if you have a fixed fee agreement, as it can be time-consuming.

DelphiniumBlue Mon 13-Apr-15 23:50:35

Oh, and you may well be asked to pay the seller's additional costs relating to access for works prior to completion - their legal team will also have extra work involved.

Pookamoo Mon 13-Apr-15 23:55:10

The thing is, OP, that a date for exchange cannot be agreed in advance.
Upon exchange, a date for completion is set in stone.

There could be any number of reasons why a chain of 3 links has not yet reached a position where all parties are ready to exchange.

It would be a good move as delphinium says, to speak to your solicitor or their supervisor to establish the reasons (as far as they are aware) that exchange has not yet been achieved.

But no solicitor would guarantee exchange on a particular date, they just wouldn't.

HoggleHoggle Tue 14-Apr-15 06:33:26

Thanks. I see where you're all coming from and as mentioned, this is my third house purchase in 4 years so I know the usual rules re exchange not being able to be definite. But I frankly feel now that I've been led to believe that this unusual scenario in this case is possible, when it doesn't seem it is.

It was our vendors who stipulated the timeline (although in theory it would be useful for us too) and you've all made very good points as to why it's not really workable, and your thoughts on this have been really helpful. I think in reality it's not going to work so I will be speaking to our agent today - he's doing our sale and purchase.

What I absolutely will not allow to happen is to be locked into this deadline by the vendors and then once it happens, not be able to do the work agreed before completion - because then the deadline has worked for the vendors in terms of minimising the number of mortgage payments they're paying on an empty house (which is why the deadline is in place) but is of no use to us at all. And we would not want to buy the house if we can not do the work involved before we move in. We've been honest to all parties involved as to this fact at all times. And we increased our offer on the house as part of the arrangement.

We've stipulated what the work will be for contract purposes etc so we're being clear about that.

delphinium I think your suggestion of exchange when everything is ready but a long completion afterwards is a good one, thank you.

Spickle Tue 14-Apr-15 07:23:06

Agree with everything Delphinium has said. The deadline is in place simply because your vendors don't wish to make extra mortgage payments but this has absolutely no bearing on the work that needs to be done to bring the transaction to exchange. If it all slots into place, great, but there would be no guarantees.

HoggleHoggle Tue 14-Apr-15 08:21:44

Thanks spickle. Will chat to agent and see where we can go from here. The house is great but very much a head over heart decision so if it stops working for us in terms if its potential then we need to consider whether we carry on.

Hopefully once we have a chat with agent I can then work on the solicitor side of things.

DelphiniumBlue Wed 15-Apr-15 00:00:14

Any news, Hoggle? I know how frustrating this must be.

HoggleHoggle Wed 15-Apr-15 06:24:55

Thanks delphinium, good of you to check in!

Had very useful meeting with agent yesterday. Def better understand where the solicitor is coming from now. Apart from anything else she is utterly overworked and understaffed, so I'm assuming that's where the rudeness is stemming from. Not ok, but at least makes sense.

Solicitor confirmed that we will not get a confirmed exchange date as you mention but that behind the scenes they are all aiming for a certain date as per the agreement. So he advised me to also aim for that date in terms of booking tradesman and if I have to delay, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

We're changing our plans too so the kitchen won't be done until after we move in. Not ideal and not what we wanted but otherwise it was just getting too complicated. The other trades we plan to book can at least be more flexible if the exchange moves back.

So I have guarantees, as you predicted, but at least I've managed to talk to someone who is being clear about what's going on.

HoggleHoggle Wed 15-Apr-15 06:26:05

* sorry, agent confirmed as per third paragraph, not solicitor!

HoggleHoggle Wed 15-Apr-15 06:27:09

gah, I have *no guarantees! Sorry, typing this with a toddler gadding about.

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