How long does conveyancing take when buying property in the UK?

Last updated: May 2024 | 7 min read

The question of the conveyancing process's duration is usually at the top of the buyer's mind when starting their house-buying journey. In this article, we talk about the process, its stages, how long these stages take, and how to avoid potential delays.

How long does conveyancing take?

"How long does conveyancing take?" is a frequent question among homebuyers.

On average, the conveyancing process in the UK spans between 8-12 weeks, starting from the offer acceptance.

Yet, a range of factors, such as property chains or complications with paperwork, can extend this timeframe.

Conveyancing process at a glance

For a smoother house move, it's helpful to familiarise oneself with the stages of the conveyancing process- the legal transfer of property.

This legal process kicks off when an offer is accepted and ends once the keys are handed over.

Split into several phases, each stage requires meticulous attention to detail to ensure successful property transactions.

Stages and timelines of the conveyancing process

What's involved in the pre-contract stage?

The pre-contract stage sets the foundation for the conveyancing process.

During this period, the buyer's conveyancer will request a draft contract and other documents from the seller's solicitor.

This phase involves addressing pre-contract enquiries, examining property details, and identifying any initial concerns.

Your conveyancer deals with various tasks here, such as reviewing the draft contract and confirming its contents.

Buyers might also see an early indication of any potential issues or requirements that might emerge later on.

Mortgage offer: getting the green light from the lender

A mortgage offer signifies that your mortgage application has been approved by the mortgage lender.

This green light is contingent on the lender's evaluation of both the buyer's financial standing and the property's value.

Mortgage brokers can aid in expediting this step and ensuring the application is thoroughly prepared.

Why and how to prevent delays with mortgage offers

At times, acquiring a mortgage offer can face hitches.

Common hiccups include missing documentation, errors in the mortgage application, or the property being undervalued.

To sidestep such setbacks, buyers should ensure their paperwork is comprehensive and up-to-date.

Engaging with a reputable mortgage broker can also enhance your chances of swift approval.

Draft contract: breaking down the details 

Post the pre-contract stage, your attention will turn to the draft contract.

This document, provided by the seller's conveyancer, outlines property specifics, terms of sale, and any potential restrictions.

It is the responsibility of your conveyancer to dissect this contract, clarify any ambiguities, and negotiate terms if necessary.

Conveyancing searches and their significance

Conveyancing searches grant insight into the property's surrounding area, helping to unearth potential pitfalls.

Local authority searches, include various things such as planning permissions or flood risks. These searches reveal aspects that might affect the property's current or future value.

How long do conveyancing searches take?

The duration of conveyancing searches varies.

Local authority searches can last up to six weeks, while other searches might wrap up within days.

Timelines hinge on the specific council's efficiency and the type of search requested.

Types of searches: local authority searches, water searches, and more

Different searches cater to distinct property concerns.

Local authority searches, for example, inspect planning permissions and local plans.

Water and drainage searches look at sewage connections and water sources.

There are myriad searches to consider, and the selection often depends on the property's location and the insights deemed necessary for the purchase.

Exchange of contracts

Exchanging contracts solidifies the property purchase, making it legally binding.

Both parties commit to the sale, and the buyer usually pays a deposit.

Post this stage, backing out incurs significant financial penalties.

Completion

Completion day marks the end of the conveyancing journey.

Here, the buyer's conveyancer transfers the remaining funds to the seller's solicitor.

Once acknowledged, the keys are passed on to the buyer, making the property officially theirs.

From exchange to completion

The gap between exchange and completion varies, from happening on the same day to stretching over several weeks.

This interval is influenced by factors such as mutual buyer-seller agreements, mortgage requirements, or other transactions in the buying process.

After completion

Once you've moved into your new property, some residual legal work remains.

Conveyancers deal with tasks like paying Stamp Duty Land Tax or registering the buyer with the Land Registry.

While these steps occur in the background, they're essential to fully finalise the property transaction.

Factors that can delay the conveyancing process

Every property transaction is unique, meaning the time frames can differ.

As a property buyer, knowing potential delays helps set realistic expectations.

Being part of a property chain: complications and considerations

Property chains can increase the time it takes to finalise a sale.

Each link in the chain, from the first time buyer to the seasoned seller, must coordinate their transactions.

A snag with just one transaction reverberates down the chain.

Maintaining transparent communication can help all parties stay on track.

Leasehold properties versus freehold properties

A property's tenure - whether leasehold or freehold - affects the conveyancing timeline.

Leasehold properties often involve additional legal work because of their complex nature.

Delays might arise if dealing with a non-responsive management company or obtaining necessary leasehold information.

Checking tenure early can save time later.

New build properties: unique challenges

New build properties, often in demand, present their own set of challenges.

Delays can occur if the property isn't built yet, causing uncertainty around the completion date.

Moreover, developers might work with multiple buyers simultaneously, complicating coordination.

Being proactive and staying updated with the developer can alleviate potential hiccups.

Unexpected findings in survey results

A property survey can uncover issues previously unbeknownst to both the buyer and seller.

From structural concerns to boundary disputes, these revelations can elongate the conveyancing timeline as negotiations for repairs or price adjustments ensue.

Always review the survey thoroughly and address concerns promptly.

How to ensure the conveyancing process runs smoothly

Though the property buying journey can be long, certain steps can ensure a smoother experience.

Select an experienced conveyancer: why it matters

Appointing an adept conveyancing solicitor proves invaluable.

These professionals possess the expertise to manage complex legal intricacies.

Though one might feel competent to handle it, a conveyancer can minimise delays and protect the buyer's interests.

Tips for choosing a reliable conveyancing solicitor

  1. Research online reviews and testimonials for first-hand feedback.
  2. Prioritise those familiar with the local property market.
  3. Consider solicitors accredited by the Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme.

Open communication with estate agents and conveyancers

Frequent and transparent communication with estate agents and conveyancers prevents misunderstandings and fosters trust.

Make sure to ask questions, seek clarifications, and stay updated.

A shared understanding of the process benefits everyone involved.

Preparation: Get your financial aspects and legal documents in order

Financial readiness accelerates the process.

Before the conveyancing process begins, gather essential documents:

  1. Proof of identity and address.
  2. Mortgage offer or proof of funds for cash buyers.
  3. Relevant information about any existing property you're selling.

In sum, taking proactive steps, staying informed, and maintaining open communication channels ensure the conveyancing journey is as smooth as possible.

Special scenarios in the conveyancing process

Different scenarios can shape the conveyancing journey, affecting the time it takes.

Conveyancing for a cash buyer: is it faster?

Cash transactions sidestep the need for mortgage lenders.

This typically speeds up the process.

A mortgage lender isn't there to add another layer of checks and approvals.

However, it's essential to have all cash funds readily available and transparently sourced.

Ensuring your solicitor is aware from the outset that you're a cash buyer can help align the pace accordingly.

But remember, property searches and legal work involved will still follow their regular timelines.

Buying a new build: different dynamics

When purchasing a new build property, timelines can deviate from the norm.

For instance, the property may not be finished yet, meaning there's no exact completion date.

Developers often operate on different time frames and processes than individual sellers.

In some cases, if a property is not yet built, waiting can extend the conveyancing process to up to six months.

On the brighter side, no upward chain exists, which can simplify proceedings.

Always keep an open line with your seller's conveyancer to stay updated on progress.

Purchasing a leasehold property

Acquiring a leasehold property means buying the right to live in a building for a set number of years.

Due to the complexities of leasehold agreements, the conveyancing process takes more time for attention to detail.

Delays might arise when obtaining information from the freeholder or management company.

To counteract potential snags, conveyancing solicitors often recommend buyers obtain a Leasehold Property Enquiry (also known as an LPE1 form) early in the process.

Making the conveyancing process stress-free

When purchasing property, conveyancing serves as an anchor, ensuring every "i" is dotted and "t" is crossed.

Here's how to ease your journey through this legal maze.

Make a timely decision on your conveyancer

Though you might be tempted to handle the legal work involved, consider the benefits of a professional.

A seasoned conveyancing solicitor can potentially save time, reduce risks, and often save costs in the long run.

Quick decisions here can set the pace for the whole process.

The Law Society offers a platform to find accredited conveyancers.

Maintain open channels of communication

Timely responses to your conveyancing solicitor's enquiries, the estate agent, or even the seller can expedite the process.

Any delay can potentially push the completion day further away.

Regular check-ins and prompt action on tasks assigned to you can make a world of difference.

Be prepared with your documentation

Having documents like proof of funds, ID verifications, and any other required paperwork on hand from the outset can be a significant time-saver.

Anticipate what's needed, keep them organised, and ensure they're accessible when your solicitor requests them.

Stay informed about the process

Understanding the basics, such as the difference between exchange and completion or how local searches influence the transaction, can keep anxiety at bay.

Your knowledge empowers you, making you a proactive participant in your property's purchase.

Remember, each conveyancing journey is as unique as the home you're buying.

With preparation, expert assistance, and a touch of patience, you'll soon be stepping over the threshold of your new home.

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