woman using laptop and sleeping dog illustrating the time it takes for conveyancing

It's totally understandable if you're in the early stages of buying a property and you've asked your solicitors how long does the conveyancing process take. After all, you've found your dream home and want to move in as soon as possible.

Anyone who regularly watches TV might get the impression that buying a property is something that can be done in a few hours. In one episode of your favourite property show, someone buys a house at auction, and the next night they are moving in! In real life, this is unlikely.

However, in our experience, property lawyers are happy to achieve a speedy completion for their clients. Not only is client satisfaction a key concern, but the fact that they tend to work on a no-completion, no-fee basis means they don't get paid until completion takes place.

If a property is bought at auction and it needs to complete within a very specific period of time, say 30 days, this can usually be arranged. But, in most cases, the average conveyancing time for the purchase of a home will take anywhere between 8 and 12 weeks. It can take less time than this - or a little longer, depending on complexity of the property.

At the start of any transaction, conveyancing solicitors cannot normally give a precise reply to the question 'how long will my conveyancing take?' or even 'how long does it take to buy a house'. This is not because they do not want to, but because initially there are so many unknowns that they need time to investigate.

But there are many outside factors that can delay completion and conveyancing solicitors can often do nothing about them. When you're questioning “how long do solicitors take when buying a house?”, it's worth knowing what these outside factors are. Here are a few of them.

There's a delay in getting a mortgage offer

Buyers frequently underestimate the time it can take to get a mortgage offer. Many make the mistake of thinking that if a lender has pre-approved them for a mortgage, this is the same thing as having an offer, in reality the rep-approved mortgage is a mortgage in principle. But it is not. 

A full mortgage application can only be made once buyers have found a property to buy. Only when the lender has obtained its own valuation of the property and carried out risk analysis checks will a formal offer be made. Until then, buyers cannot be certain of getting finance for their purchase.

The seller delays giving access for a survey

As part of the application process, the lender will require a valuation survey, and many buyers also need a full building survey. To do this, the surveyor will have to access the property, which has to be arranged with the seller. 

Delays can occur if the seller is difficult to contact or uncooperative. It is essential the surveyor has the correct contact details for the seller and/or the agents to make an appointment. 

This is an issue that's out of your solicitor's hands, as the seller's reaction to having a surveyor visit their property is an unknown. This may be why your solicitor is reluctant to give you any timings when you ask them ‘how long does the survey part of the conveyancing process take?'.

The survey reveals defects that need attention

Should the seller be easily contactable and happy to oblige with the survey, there may be hold-ups related to the survey itself. If a survey reveals defects, for example it uncovers woodworm in the property, a further specialist survey may have to be taken or an estimate acquired for the cost of repairs. 

Sometimes a lender will insist that defects are corrected before the mortgage money can be released. Your conveyancing solicitor will then begin more negotiations with the seller, and delays are likely if a price reduction can't be agreed, or the seller is not willing to pay for work to be carried out before completion.

There's a hold-up in obtaining search results

Solicitors are normally expected to carry out a number of searches and enquiries as part of a conveyancing transaction. The most important of these is the search with the local council. An official search form has to be sent to the council, which can usually be done electronically. But while all councils have been encouraged to digitise their records so they can respond quickly to search requests, not all have yet done so. 

So, while some can return results within a day or so, others still take weeks. Homeward Legal works with Searches UK to make the conveyancing process as smooth as possible. To find out more, get a quote.  

The seller is looking for another property

What if the seller is looking to buy a property too? How long does conveyancing take when this happens? 

Many people who want to move don't start looking for somewhere to buy until they have found a buyer for their own property. The delay occurs here during the period where they are trying to find a suitable property and sort out a mortgage. This can then lead to there being a chain. Which brings us to the next potential hold-up in the conveyancing process.

There is a long chain of sales and purchases

If a seller is buying another property and needs the money from the sale of their home to complete the purchase, there will be a chain of transactions. In such cases, every transaction will have to complete on the same day to ensure the funds can be transferred through the various solicitors involved. 

Sometimes there are many transactions in the chain, all of which have to be coordinated. In these cases, a delay anywhere in the chain is likely to cause a delay to all the other linked sales and purchases. So, the longer the chain, the more likely it is that there will be a delay somewhere.

How long does it take to buy a house with no chain?

What if your house move is looking quite straightforward? How long should conveyancing take with no chain involved? 

Usually, the smaller the chain, the less likely there will be a delay as there aren't too many buyers and sellers involved. Without a chain, you could complete in as little as four weeks, although 12 is the average, even when it's just a straightforward sale. This is because the conveyancing process can encounter some of the obstacles that have already been mentioned - and there are more to be aware of.  

There are problems with the seller's title

The person selling a property does not necessarily have to own it, so long as they can transfer the ownership of title. But sometimes the buyer's conveyancing solicitor will discover there is a problem that needs to be sorted out before the purchase can be completed. 

For instance, the property is being sold by the executor of someone who has died, but a grant of probate has not been obtained. Another example is when the title has not been registered at HM Land Registry and the seller's title deeds have been lost.

In most cases, problems of this type can be sorted out eventually. However, it may take time. Here, your conveyancing solicitor will update you when the issue is resolved. 

There's a delay in getting seller's replies to enquiries

It is usual for the conveyancing solicitors acting for a buyer to send pre-contract enquiries to the seller's property lawyer. While a seller may have already completed an information form such as the Law Society's TA6 form, additional enquiries may be necessary. Sellers do sometimes take time to reply to such enquiries, or they have to obtain additional information or copies of documents.

Like the hold-ups that come from sellers delaying the survey, this is another reason why solicitors for the buyer can't easily answer the question how long do solicitors take when their client is buying a house?  

It's taking time to get information or documents from outside organisations

A lot of the conveyancing process for buyers is getting the right documents in place. The buyer's conveyancing solicitor will often need documents such as copies of planning consent, an NHBC warranty, or some information about the property. 

If the seller does not have this, it will have to be taken from elsewhere. This is particularly the case with leasehold properties, where information about the management of the building will have to be acquired from the freeholder or managing agents. 

In many cases, a fee is payable, so the seller's solicitors will have to find out how much the fee is, get payment from their client, and then send payment to the organisation concerned before the document or information can be obtained - all of which can cause delays. In addition, some of these organisations can be very slow to reply, and little can be done to speed them up!

Solicitors do their best to ensure there are no unnecessary delays. How long conveyancing takes is one of the most common questions that they're asked, and they have to be honest with their clients, especially as there are so many factors that can cause hold-ups. Here are some ways that you can avoid delays. 

Ask about searches

An important question buyers ask is how long the property searches needed for conveyancing take. Here, it's helpful for your solicitor to have a good local knowledge of the area you're buying in. 

For instance, if it is known that a particular local council will take a long time to return search results, your solicitor will hopefully know this and may be able to recommend an alternative, such as a personal search or indemnity insurance. At Homeward Legal, we will always match you with the right type of conveyancing solicitor based on your conveyancing needs.

Get things in order

It also helps if sellers instruct a solicitor before a buyer has been found for their property. If you're both a buyer and seller, you'll need to make sure you've done this. Then your solicitor can ensure all necessary documents are obtained and any title problems sorted out beforehand. This will help allow the sale to take place as quickly as possible once a buyer has been found for your house.

Nobody can guard against unpredictable causes of delay. But when delays do occur from an outside source, your solicitor should be able to advise on the best and quickest way to sort things out.

Of course, it helps to have a good solicitor on board. Here at Homeward Legal, we aim to bring you a first-class conveyancing service at the best possible price. All the solicitors firms we work with are accredited members of the Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme and will ensure you move as closely to your deadline date as possible. So contact us now for your quote and we can get you moving without delay.

Homeward Legal works with conveyancing solicitors and conveyancers in England and Wales, and you can get a quote in a matter of minutes.

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