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With the race on to move home before the end of the Chancellor’s Stamp Duty holiday, an increasingly common question for many is how long the conveyancing process will take.
While simple purchase transactions with no chain may complete in just 4 to 6 weeks, the average timescale nationally from start to finish is 9 to 10 weeks. Of course, the more parties who join the chain, the greater the prospect of one or more of them experiencing problems which slows everyone else down. The Stamp Duty holiday may not end until 31st March 2021, but to be as certain as you can be of completing before the Stamp Duty regime returns to normal, you should focus on beginning the process before Christmas.
What can delay conveyancing?
It is very easy for somebody unfamiliar with the conveyancing process to simply blame delay on their solicitor. But you should not lose sight of the fact that your solicitor is there to protect you. Property law is complex and when you are moving home there is a lot of information to obtain from a variety of sources. This must be considered carefully and advised upon. Further questions and/or action may then be necessary before you can proceed with confidence. You really do not want any nasty surprises following completion. By then, it will almost certainly be too late to put things right.
Common causes of delay include:
If you’re buying with a mortgage, in order to proceed you will need an official mortgage offer. It may seem obvious, but your full mortgage application can only be made once you have found a property to buy. Thereafter, your lender will need a formal property valuation/survey before they can confirm their offer.
Surveys are strongly recommended, but can result in delay for a number of reasons. It may simply come down to the availability of the surveyor, or the time they take to finalise their report. Recently, the difficulties that surveyors faced in physically attending properties as a result of Covid restrictions lead to delays. However, if the survey reveals problems with the property, particularly significant ones affecting its value such as subsidence, structural issues or woodworm, further investigation and/or remedial work may be required. The knock on effect may be delay or, worse still, the buyer withdrawing from the sale.
Your solicitor will need to carry out searches; the number and variety of which will depend upon the nature of the property you are purchasing and its location. Sometimes it can take several weeks to receive search results, particularly at peak times of the year, or if, as at present, the market is busy for another reason. Different local authorities also take varying lengths of time to produce Local Search results, depending on staff numbers and availability. Common searches are:
- Local authority search – checks for issues such as planning applications, whether the property is listed or in a conservation area and proposed road works.
- Chancel repair search – checks for certain ancient liabilities attaching to the property to contribute to repairs to the local church.
- Water authority search – checks for information on water and drainage connections and other related issues affecting the property.
- Environmental search – checks for any environmental issues affecting the property, for example, if neighbouring land was formerly landfill or has been used in the past for a hazardous purpose.
Some searches are very location specific, such as tin mine searches in Cornwall.
The results of any particular search may lead to further questions, the need for further action or specific insurance, or may even lead to a buyer pulling out if the results are unwelcome and/or not easily resolved.
Another party is still looking for a property
It may be that your seller, or another seller in the chain, has agreed the sale of their property, but has yet to find a property to buy. This can result in delay for the entire chain.
Is there anything you can do to reduce delay?
In a recent article, we considered how sellers can help reduce the length of the conveyancing process, sometimes by several weeks, simply by instructing a solicitor as soon as they market their property. Estate Agents always recommend to sellers that they instruct a solicitor early, but in reality, many wait until they have accepted an offer before they even begin to request conveyancing quotes.
The benefit of instructing early is that your solicitor can let you have the necessary forms that need to be completed at that early stage, so that you have the time to provide responses and to iron out any queries before a Buyer is found. That will allow your solicitor to submit a full and complete sale pack to the Buyer’s solicitor as soon as possible.