Ask the Solicitor: Hill & Company’s Richard Kershaw on conveyancing through the pandemic

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We’ve partnered with Altrincham law firm Hill & Company to bring you a regular Q&A feature with one of their trusted legal advisors.

You can find the other Q&As in the series here.

This week, we speak to solicitor Richard Kershaw about conveyancing and the pandemic.

ALTRINCHAM TODAY: So how has Covid-19 affected the conveyancing market?

RICHARD KERSHAW: It has been a year of ups and downs. 2020 started actively, with the market being buoyed by the post-election ‘Boris bounce’. This ended abruptly in March and the temporary closure of the housing market. As people reassessed their needs and priorities and the stamp duty holiday was announced, the market recovered strongly.

Elements of the conveyancing process are under immense pressure. We have noticed that several solicitor firms have automatic responses to emails stating that they are currently working on a five-day turnaround and it is not uncommon to be on hold for hours waiting to speak to a mortgage provider.

Hill & Company has continued to operate throughout Covid-19, albeit the office is currently closed to the public, with most of our staff working remotely from home. When we open our doors again after the current lockdown, we will continue to be committed to providing a safe and secure service and have already introduced robust measures to ensure the safety of our clients and colleagues.

Irene Seaman is Senior Partner at Hill & Company, which can trace its history in Altrincham back over 170 years

AT: What advice do you have for buyers who want to improve their chances of completing before the end of June?

RK: New buyers to the market are unlikely to complete before the end of June, however, there are several key things that can be done to maximise a buyer’s chances.

Firstly, to get the process up and running, the return of all necessary paperwork to the solicitor is crucial. This not only includes initial forms but proof of identity and funds. For sellers, they should provide their solicitor with documents such as warranties, building regulation certificates and inspection reports.

If a mortgage is required, then it should be applied for as soon as possible. The lender will need to carry out a property valuation before issuing a mortgage offer, it is therefore important to keep in contact with the lender to keep this process moving along.

Property surveyors are currently working through a backlog, so if a survey is required then it would be beneficial to get one booked as soon as possible as the next available date could be in four weeks’ time. Once the survey is done, it could take the surveyor up to a week to type up their report.

Another key aspect of the conveyancing process is property searches. Whilst the environmental and the water and drainage search results come back within days of ordering, the local authority search usually takes between three to four weeks.

Buyers should keep in regular contact with the estate agent and their solicitor. However, constantly calling to keep up the pressure can be counterproductive and delay the process as it takes your solicitor away from attending to the substantive technical legal work that they must do in order to progress matters.

The local housing market has recovered strongly after last year’s lockdown closure

AT: What is Hill & Company’s approach to conveyancing?

RK: The trusted conveyancers within our firm pride themselves in offering a bespoke, client-focused service aimed at alleviating the stress which purchasing and selling a property can create. Guiding clients through the process with a wealth of knowledge and experience, we offer a proactive service and strive to keep our clients informed throughout the process with a personal one-to-one service.

In addition to assisting with sale and purchases, we also assist clients with remortgages and equity releases, right to buy transactions, lease extensions, and the drafting of commercial property leases.

Richard is a solicitor currently working in the conveyancing department, who is committed to providing a premium client service. If you need assistance with a property related matter and would like to ask Richard a question, please contact him on 0161 928 3201 or email r.kershaw@hillandcompany.co.uk

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