Property professionals in Plymouth are once again playing a key role in an exciting new initiative designed to speed up the house buying process.

A number of law firms in the city are working with members of the Plymouth Area Property Professionals Association (PAPPA), trialling a new information document known as a Sellers Electronic Advanced Legal (SEAL) pack.

The pack contains all the important legal information property lawyers are required to source for a proposed house purchase – with one very important difference. Under the SEAL process, the information is gathered as soon as the property is put on the market, rather than when a sale is agreed.

The trial period – which involves 12 Plymouth law firms – is now well underway, and is due run until the end of January 2021, with a progress review after Christmas.

Steven Hudson who is the senior partner at Gard & Co – one of the firms taking part – said that currently, the period between the property listing and a successful sale was largely seen as redundant in terms of a lawyer’s required work.

“It’s about working smarter and using that time to assemble the SEAL pack and check it for problems,” said Steven.

“If such an approach could be taken in all property transactions, this could lead to a dramatic reduction in transaction times, even in short chains – and minimise the risk of abortive work, for all concerned.

“If the sale falls through for any reason, the sellers will only be committed to whatever has been agreed with the property lawyer acting on their behalf.”

It’s the second pioneering property initiative that PAPPA has been involved with. In 2018, the association was part of the launch of a standardised enquiry checklist, the brainchild of the PAPPA Law Panel Team.

The team is made up of Julie Milton of Bright Solicitors, David Wallis of Gill Akaster, Suzanne Broughton of Wolferstans, Liz Seal of Curtis Whiteford Crocker, Julia Ludlow from Nash & Co, Neil Keatt from Thompson & Jackson, Joe Cunningham from Woollcombe Yonge and Peter Hawkins from Chartahouse.

The checklist is designed to stop property transactions being held up by important questions relating to a sale or purchase, either not being raised, or directed to the wrong person. This enables the participating firms to work together to ensure sale and purchase transactions progress more efficiently.

PAPPA Chairman Darren Lawson said he is delighted that the association, in partnership with the law firms, is once again blazing a trail with the new SEAL packs – and putting Plymouth on the UK property market map for innovative approaches to improving transaction processes.

“This is a very simple concept, but will make such a difference in terms of time saving potential, as the standardised enquiry checklist has since 2018.

“I commend all those involved for their foresight and I’m certain the pilot project will be a great success.”

James Clarke of Plymouth estate agent Lang, Town and Country, a PAPPA member agency, is excited at the impact the initiative will have. He said it was a great example of PAPPA working together with solicitors for the benefit of everyone involved in a house transaction.

“As the solicitor is instructed as soon as the property goes on the market, as opposed to when a buyer is found, it should greatly speed up the process,” said James.

“By doing it this way, solicitors can get key elements of the legal work done so contracts can get issued as soon as there is a buyer in place. It’s a simple idea, but should be extremely effective.”    

The legal firms that have signed up for the trial are: Brights, Chartahouse, Curtis Whiteford Crocker, Earl & Crocker, Evans Harvey, GA, Gard & Co, Kitsons, Nash & Co, Thompson & Jackson, Wolferstans and Woollcombe Yonge.