Now that Home Information Packs (HIPs) are mandatory for almost all property sales, vendors are learning to prepare the ground-work prior to putting a house on the market. But we should all go further, says Bertie Hoskyns-Abrahall, partner at Withers.

1. Reply to enquiries in anticipation of them being asked. It takes the wind out of a buyer’s solicitor’s sails to provide full replies at the outset. In addition, the process can throw up issues that you can solve before they’re raised in negotiations against you.

2. Update tenancy agreements or employment contracts that affect the property, and formalise grazing agreements and horse-livery arrangements. These are best dealt with before a sale becomes public knowledge, lest tenants start being difficult.

3. Make sure documentation is to hand. One of the principal delays can be planning permissions, building certificates and guarantees for work that’s been done. Seeking out these troublesome pieces of paper can pay dividends. A buyer’s solicitor will scrutinise the documents more closely if some are missing.

4. Scrutinise sale plans. The seller’s agent will produce a plan of the property from the particulars of sale. It’s essential that this is checked off against the title plan before the particulars go to print. This is key if the seller is only selling part of the property that they own, and it can focus the mind in relation to any shared services that will need to be documented.

Put these documents in a ring binder with a draft contract and transfer prepared by the seller’s solicitor. Then, the seller can demand a quick time frame for exchange of contracts.