The burning question everyone wants to know the answer to is “WHAT takes SO long when buying a house?”.
Buying or selling a property is a very slow process, with stacks of information to acquire and endless checks to complete. Often, the process is dragged out even more when issues arise and things go wrong.
In fact, according to Which, around 3 in 1 people have experienced a property purchase falling through. 13% said the reason was that the seller had pulled out because the conveyancing process was taking too long.
Much of this responsibility falls on solicitors. So, if your solicitor is taking too long with your house purchase or sale, what can you do to give them a nudge?
In this detailed guide, we’ll take you through exactly how long the conveyancing process takes, why conveyancing takes so long, and how to speed up conveyancing.
We’ll outline everything that can go wrong when buying or selling a house – from pulling out of a house purchase to solicitors not responding. We’ll also discuss what to do if your conveyancer is slow and how to speed up a house sale.
So, let’s not waste anymore time! Go ahead and find out why conveyancing takes so long and how to speed it up…
On average, the conveyancing process takes around 12-16 weeks. It can be possible to complete conveyancing in as little as 1 month, but there are often a number of things that delay the process.
|Conveyancing Process Stage||Average Time|
Pre contract tasks e.g. local searches, appointing a conveyancer, home surveys, draft contract
Get a mortgage
Create a draft contract: review survey report, answer any outstanding queries, local searches
Exchange to completion
Time from an offer being accepted to completion
While this is how long conveyancing takes on average, how slow the conveyancing process is largely depends on the specific circumstances you’re in.
If you’re purchasing a property without a mortgage, then it is likely that your conveyancing process will go quicker than the average. This is because one potential cause of conveyancing delays is removed – the mortgage application.
This will likely speed up conveyancing, but it is still important that you take the time to get all the other essential conveyancing tasks done, such as surveys, searches and getting all the relevant information for the contract.
Buying a new build home can be slightly more complicated, often leading to a slightly longer conveyancing process.
If you or someone else in the housing chain is buying a new build property, it could lead to conveyancing delays if the house isn’t ready in time. There is nothing anyone can do if the builders haven’t yet finished building the property.
It’s also bad news for anyone buying a leasehold home when it comes to conveyancing.
Purchasing a leasehold home often costs more and takes significantly longer. This is simply because there is more paperwork involved and a lot more ongoing costs which could easily lead to conveyancing delays.
So, you want to know “Why does conveyancing take so long?”.
There’s a whole range of different factors that can delay the conveyancing process. The most common thing that tends to hold up conveyancing is the buyer, seller or solicitor being slow to respond to enquiries.
Other common reasons conveyancing is so slow are:
Make sure you look out for these common sticking points when it comes to conveyancing to try to speed up a house sale or purchase.
The most straightforward (yet most frustrating) reason for the conveyancing process being held up is being part of a chain.
The longer the chain, the more complex the whole buying a house process becomes. If there is a problem with one transaction in the chain, it can delay everyone. For example, if one transaction is delayed due to mortgage issues, it could cause everyone’s conveyancing process to slow down.
The problem with buying a house is that it’s a huge decision that is dependent on a whole host of different factors. Therefore, if one of these factors changes, the whole process is at risk of being delayed or failing completely.
A large issue with the conveyancing process in the UK is the length of time that passes between making an offer on a house and completing the sale. At any point during this time, buyers can choose to pull out of the house sale. Meanwhile, sellers could accept a higher offer from someone else up until exchange of contracts.
If one person in the chain pulls out of the house sale, it will lead to horrendously long conveyancing delays. This is especially the case if the bottom of the chain pulls out, disrupting the conveyancing timeline for everyone else.
Unfortunately, it’s just a fact of life that people’s situations change, and you need to be willing to adapt. At the end of the day, it all comes down to how much you want the property or the sale and how much you’re happy to compromise.
Some of the easy things that can lead to conveyancing delays are the responsibility of your conveyancing solicitor. So, if your solicitor is taking too long with the house purchase, it could have a knock on effect for the entire conveyancing process.
Your solicitor will be sending out for searches, dealing with paperwork, liasing with the buyer/seller’s solicitor and your mortgage lender, as well as a range of other important tasks.
With so many conveyancing tasks to complete, solicitors can often be very slow. They will likely have plenty of other house sales to deal with at the same time, so it’s important to keep them on track.
So, what can you do if your conveyancer is slow?
The best way to speed up solicitors for house buying is to pick a licensed conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor that has plenty of experience. Choose one that properly understands the sale can give you a clear recommended completion date.
Also, regularly calling your solicitor to see how the process is moving along and keeping on top of everything will ensure everyone is kept accountable.
Some home-movers also try to complete and exchange on the same day to speed up the conveyancing process. However, this isn’t always recommended as a lot can go wrong.
Another cog in the complex process of conveyancing is your estate agent. To avoid any conveyancing delays, it is essential that your estate agent works with your solicitor to get things done in good time.
However, this doesn’t mean you should choose a solicitor recommended by your estate agent – there’s no guarantee they will be quicker.
The best way to manage your estate agent and speed up conveyancing is to ensure you have a dedicated contact at the agency that can keep you updated. Although, as a buyer, the estate agent is working for the seller, they are legally obliged to tell you if there are any issues with the property.
Surveys shouldn’t take too long to complete. As long as you can arrange for a Chartered Surveyor to visit the property as soon as possible, reports tend to come back quickly.
However, the conveyancing delays come when a problem is revealed from the survey. Perhaps there’s history of Japanese Knotweed, signs of damp or subsidence. If this is the case, you will require more information to determine whether you want to continue with the house purchase.
It is possible to use the survey report to negotiate a discount with the seller, allowing for you to pay for any amendments that are needed. An in-depth building survey will provide you with approximate costs for the necessary work.
If you’ve reached the removals stage of the house buying process, you’re just a few steps away from moving into your new home. However, there is still plenty that can delay the conveyancing process at this stage.
With all these factors affecting the conveyancing process, it is quite likely that your completion date might keep changing. If this is the case, it is crucial that you keep your removals team up-to-date.
Your removals company should try to be as flexible as possible but it is safest to tie down a moving date well in advance if possible.
Not being clear about what you need and underestimating the amount of stuff you need moving is also a big time waster. You should ensure everything is packed and ready to go, or you could end up paying for extra time.
How long conveyancing actually takes, in practice, is largely about avoiding a long list of unnecessary conveyancing delays.
Thankfully for you, however, there are a number of things you can do to speed up conveyancing:
So, your conveyancing solicitor’s taking too long to complete the conveyancing process? What can you do about it?
Solicitors owe a duty of care to their clients to provide competent legal advice, and when that duty is breached, the client can sue them.
When it comes to a house purchase, conveyancers can be sued if they don’t achieve a completion date that they’ve committed to, particularly if the delay is a result of their own error.
Therefore, solicitors usually start the week by working on the cases they need to complete by Friday.
If your solicitor is being too slow and you’ve lost all confidence in their ability to complete the conveyancing process successfully, you may need to change solicitor mid-way through the property transaction.
If you do decide to change your conveyancing solicitor, you should waste no time in doing so. In general, it is much easier to transfer work earlier in the conveyancing process than later.
However, before choosing to change your solicitor, it’s important to consider a number of factors, including:
So, why does conveyancing take so long?
Buying or selling a home can be one of the most rewarding, but most stressful, events of your life. A large part of purchasing a house is the conveyancing process, and this can often be complex and time-consuming.
Perhaps you’ll be super lucky and your conveyancing timeline won’t be delayed at all. However, it’s more than likely that you’ll run into all kinds of issues resulting in a number of conveyancing delays.
Whether it’s relating to mortgages, a property chain, solicitors, estate agents or surveys, it’s good to understand what can go wrong during the conveyancing process and be prepared for it.
Find out how long conveyancing in Scotland takes too.