There are quite literally dozens and dozens of things that can actually go wrong, but the most common - which have been observed from hundred of conveyancing clients per year - are here:
1. Choosing the wrong estate agent. This could cost you thousands if you get it wrong. Will they squeeze the purchaser for that bit more, and so pay their fee by clever negotiation, or will they simply advise you to take the first buyer because you paid upfront/paid a low commission etc. and they have little incentive to bother? Estate agents really do differ in quality. Automatically choosing a brand name, or the one simply promising the highest valuation are an immediate 'no no'. Do some basic research. Ask your conveyancer who they recommend, as of course they work with them all, and they know who are good, and those to avoid. Those estate agents who promise wildly high valuations are quite probably simply after your business, without your best interests are heart. So start by selecting three to visit you, and judge how you take to them, but equally, how you think they will impress (or not) members of the public who are coming to view your property. Get an impression not only that they will be god at securing a buyer, but that once an offer is accepted that they will remain active and chase the legal chain, as some estate agents 'give-up' at that point and the lawyers never hear from them until the chain aborts because the estate agent did not keep involved and earn their commission for keeping the deal together.
2. Choosing the wrong conveyancer. This is probably the most serious way you can go wrong, and it happens every day to members of the pubic. Some discover once the legal work starts when they simply cannot get hold of their lawyer, or once their bill arrives and it has a multitude of charges that were buried in the fine print. Some discover it just after they move in and the nightmare dispute with the neighbour starts (or continues) because the lawyer missed something through speed or inexperience. Maybe an extension was built in breach of a land obligation not to, or your commercial van or caravan is not in fact allowed on the drive. Or maybe there is no legal access to get to you property without crossing someone else's land and there is no consent. You could face a knock on the for within days of moving in. Or you could find it very difficult to sell, when a buyer's lawyer spots the error your layer missed.
Going cheap with a conveyancer means you should ask "How can they do it for so little?". What corners are being cut. Equally important is who will be your lawyer? Are they even qualified as a solicitor or chartered legal executive, or have you no idea as the team page on the website is non-existent, and they remain anonymous?
How do you choose a good conveyancer? Start with making sure they are Lexcel accredited as a legal business, and on top of that they have secured the Law Society badge of excellence - Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS). Simply being fobbed off with the line 'use our recommend conveyancer will make everything far quicker' is a classic which should in fact ring alarm bells. Rarely will it be a actual solicitor. Do your own research, Take their telephone number, then telephone them and speak to them as that will be the person you will be speaking to over the length of your legal transaction (sale or purchase).
3. Choosing the wrong buyer. "Oh no my buyer pulled out!". No matter how good your conveyancer is, they cannot make a transaction progress any faster than your buyer allows. How was your buyer selected? Did your estate agent vet their credentials and advise you whether they are serious, or just a time waster without a real chance of securing a mortgage. The quality of your estate agent is key to weeding out a buyer who will cause difficulties later on.
4. Choosing the wrong surveyor. Make sure you insist on a chartered surveyor. There are some in the market place who are not qualified, and certainly not chartered. If in doubt, ask your conveyancer, as they must at least recommend that you have a survey and they can recommend how to go about choosing, if not recommending, a surveyor personally.
5. Choosing the wrong mortgage adviser. There are mortgage advisers who consider every single mortgage provider on the high street, including those lenders who will only deal with customers and not mortgage advisers. And there are those mortgage advisers who only consider a handful of lenders. The choice is obvious. Do not be tempted to choose one who quickly glosses over that question, as it is a crucial factor in who you should choose.
6. Choosing the wrong mortgage company. Mortgage advisers will all say who the best ones are in terms of being quick to make an offer (where speed is as crucial as the interest rate) and those who make you jump through hoops piling on the stress in the process. Ask your conveyancer who are the good ones once an offer has been made, as conveyancers find some very difficult to deal with and where lots of hoops have to be jumped through for even the lawyer to be able to request the mortgage money. Issuing a mortgage offer is one hurdle, but once it is issued, the lawyer still needs to do the necessary legal work for the lender, and some lenders may make it hard for them, and this could mean your purchase aborts if delay is caused and a party gets cold feet, or fails to take you seriously.
7. Choosing the wrong removal company. You only need to Google for some horror stories. Having battled the above 6 factors, you then choose a cowboy removal company. They do not turn up, they cause damage, they find a reason why they need to change your booking.
8. Taking too long. No one party is in control of timescales in a house moving chain. Not the seller at one end or the buyer at the other. Everyone has their own timescales and agenda for when and how quickly they can move. Many people are not even thinking of timescales when they agree an offer. Why? Are they so pleased to just have a buyer/found a property? That is a mistake, especially in the current climate. Conveyancers will always ask what dates have you agreed, as they want to know how prompt they must work. If they do not ask, then maybe you have failed point 2 above already. Try and have the ball park dates circulated, as a legal chain can early abort when one party gets cold feet because they had circulated dates but another party fails to and just meanders along, leading to a party getting cold feet and walking away. Do not be just pleased you have found a buyer, as this goes to point 1 above, and the quality of your estate agent, as not only should they vet the buyer for how reliable and worthwhile they are, but also how committed they are - is it this month, next month, in 3, 6 or how many months do they plan to take? Certainty in a chain at an easy start will stand you better than no timescales.
9. Getting your finances wrong. Don't forget your existing mortgage lender may charge you an early repayment charge when you come to sell, even if you are taking out a fresh mortgage with them. Check this, as it could be that you cannot then afford to buy for the budget you have left. In addition, do not forget stamp duty of 1% between £125,000 and £250,000 / 3% between £250,001 and £500,000 / 4% between £500,001 and £100,000 / 5% between £1,000,001 and £2m
10. Giving notice on a rental property. If your buyer is in rented accommodation, it may be overlooked that they need to give notice to their landlord, which is usually 1 month. Many buyers in this position will not want to give notice until exchange, and in some tenancy agreements, notice must be given to coincide with the end of a rental period, which can mean almost two months waiting. This is because those same buyers are not prepared (or able) to pay rent and their new monthly mortgage amount. Many a conveyancer has seen a seller overlook this, or even their own buying client and then the deal falls apart as people in the chain are not prepared to wait two months, or even a month. So check a buyer's notice period and when they are prepared to serve notice.