Why does conveyancing take so long?

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Why so long?

The conveyancing process can be a long and frustrating process. But why does it take so long?

Moving house is right up there with life’s stress points.  Supposedly, it can every bit as nail biting as nail biting as divorce and bereavement.  And, even once you have found your next dream home, then the conveyancing starts!  So, why does conveyancing take so long?  Is it the fault of slow and unresponsive solicitors?  Or is the answer a little less black and white?

What is Conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the phrase commonly used to describe the legal process of buying and selling property or land in England & Wales.  It comes from a particular document that historically formed an important part in that transfer of land called a ‘conveyance’.

But, why does that legal process take so long?

How long does Conveyancing take?

The general rule of thumb is that an average ‘conveyance’ takes around 12 weeks.  That assumes that the buyer is taking a mortgage, and their chain is relatively normal without problems.

What happens in the Conveyancing Process?

Once the formalities of onboarding are done (ID/TOB’s), your conveyancing solicitor will need to get you through the following  stages to be ready to exchange contracts, and complete your purchase.  Those key stages of conveyancing are:-

  • CONTRACT PACK – prepared and issued by the seller’s solicitors at the very start
  • SEARCHES – the buyers solicitors does searches as part of their pre exchange due diligence
  • MORTGAGE – although the buyer will arrange their mortgage, their solicitor will do a mortgage report for their client
  • SURVEY – again something that the buyer arranges (not the buyer’s solicitor), nevertheless, if any issues arise in the survey they may give rise to pre-contract enquiries
  • PRE-CONTRACT-ENQUIRIES – formal questions raised by the buyer’s solicitor, all of which must be satisfactorily answered before exchange of contracts can happen

Until all of the above is dealt with, exchange of contracts (and completion) can not happen. And, until contracts have been exchanged, either party can simply walk away.  It is only exchange of contracts that legally binds buyer and seller.

Does Leasehold take longer?

Probably – yes.  And this is why.  In short, the legal set up when it is a leasehold property is more complicated (there is both a freehold and leasehold title).  And, the enquiries stage will need to examine the historical management accounts, and look to anticipate any future unexpected costs.  Although the seller provides a certain amount of leasehold information with the contract pack (including form TA7), leasehold enquiries are often necessary.  Moreover, the seller will often need to send those enquiries to the management company who looks after managing the building for them (the leasehold management company to answer).  As is so often in the conveyancing process, the moment a third party is involved both solicitors (for buyer and seller) become dependent upon a thirst party and therefore the whole process becomes liable to delay.  This can be terribly frustrating for everyone: buyer; seller; the estate agents; and even the solicitors!

Does signing the Contract speed things up?

No!  Signing the sales contract speeds nothing up.  It simply needs to be signed for exchange to happen.  Buyers and sellers will often be left unnecessarily fretting when their estate agent (agents often feel signing the contract speeds things up and it does not) keeps asking why they have not signed the contract.  There are MUCH bigger issues that need to be dealt with to allow exchange of contracts to happen.  A signature on it (the contract) is a minor point, and it does nothing to speed up conveyancing.

What happens at Exchange of Contracts?

The solicitors for the seller and buyer will deal with ‘exchange of contracts for you.  You do not need to be present.  Upon exchange of contracts:-

  • 10% deposit paid by buyer solicitor to seller solicitor
  • Completion date is set
  • Buyer and seller are now legally bound to go through with the transaction

What happens on Completion?

This is the day of your big move.  Your solicitor will have dealt with any legal matters due, and you will hopefully have:-

  • Removals – booked your removals
  • Work – got time off if needed
  • Care – booked child care if needed
  • Notifications – started to notify organisations and friends and family of your move

What is a Property Chain?

A property chain is a series of linked property purchases/sales that are dependant upon each other.

Property chains are very often the source of ‘delay’ and frustration up and down the ‘chain’.

Why do Chains slow conveyancing down?

One thing that many buyers and sellers don’t realise is that for exchange of contracts to take place, not only must their own sale/purchase be ready, so must every other transaction up and down their ‘chain’.  And so, however long your own transaction has been ‘ready to go’, you can generally only exchange contracts when everyone else in the chain is ready too.  This is perhaps the singularly most frustrating part of the conveyancing process in England & Wales.  If anyone in the chain is deliberately delaying, reasons for that will often not be made available leaving other terribly frustrated.  For all concerned, it often leaves client’s wondering why their conveyancing solicitor can not force the issue.  The simple answer is they (your conveyancer) nor the estate agent can force anything.

Will my Mortgage Offer run out?

Delay in exchange of contracts and completion might well see your mortgage offer run out.  You must avoid this at all costs as getting it re-instated can cause serious delay, and even see you lose out on favourable mortgage terms if the financial markets are moving.

Is my Solicitor holding up my Conveyancing?

There are lots of things that are outside of the control of your conveyancer.  And, if you are in a long or complicated chain this is much more likely to be the reason for delay.  However, choosing the best conveyancing solicitor can make all of the difference during your house move.  If you are with the right conveyancer, they will deal with what is in their hands as quickly as possible, keep you fully updated throughout, and frankly the value of that to you whilst you move home is enormous.

Check out our article on how to choose the best conveyancing solicitor >

Does buying jointly with someone else slow things down?

For many of us, our house purchase will include a second buyer.  This should not hold anything up, but the buyer’s solicitor will at some point need to know whether you want to hold the property as:-

There are significant differences between the two types of joint ownership, and you should make sure that you have carefully thought this through, and decided upon the right type of joint ownership for you.

Read more about whether to choose a joint tenancy or a tenancy in common >

Can my estate agent speed things up?

A good and experienced estate agent can provide valuable ‘glue’ to a conveyancing process passing valuable information up and down the chain.  Your solicitor is bound by strict professional rules of confidentiality meaning they can speak to no other parties (buyers/sellers) up and down the chain, and even only the solicitors directly above and below you (ie no other solicitors in the chain).

How to speed up my Conveyancing

So, to minimise the risk of unnecessary delay in your house move, make sure that:-

  • Best Conveyancing Solicitor – choose the right conveyancer
  • Property Chain – not something you can choose, but the shorter the chain the more likely there will be less delay
  • Mortgage – make sure your mortgage offer does not run out
  • Communication – keep in contact with your solicitor and estate agent, and your agent can, try to get them to find out what is happening in the chain

Fixed Price Conveyancing

If you’re looking to move house, QLAW would love to take care of your conveyancing!  We offer fixed-price conveyancing, and you can get an instant online quote right now – for FREE!  Our fee calculator includes a breakdown of all costs including the conveyancing fee itself, as well as any disbursements – eg Stamp Duty; Search fees; and Land Registry fees.

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