How long does conveyancing take?

| 6 min read

Conveyancing for a home in the UK takes on average between 8 and 12 weeks to complete.

The process results in the legal transfer of a property from seller to buyer.

There are a number of steps in the conveyancing process that can delay how long it takes from having an offer to buy accepted to gaining the keys. By understanding the reasons for possible delay, you may be able to speed up the process.

What takes time?

The legal transfer of the property takes very little time.

Instead, much of the process of conveyancing is to ensure that potential risks of ownership of the property have been uncovered and that the buyer and the mortgage lender are happy to take on such risks.

The risks are identified by asking for, reviewing and reporting on information provided by various sources including the seller, the local authority, national public databases and the Land Registry.

Each of these sources of information can delay in responding. As examples:

Questions to the seller may have to be asked through his or her solicitor who may not ask his or her client promptly. Answers then may not be sufficient for the buyer’s conveyancer, or they may raise more questions.

The local authority may be under-resourced given demand and therefore may not carry out searches quickly.

Common bottlenecks and how to speed up the conveyancing process

The following are common reasons for delay.

Arranging a mortgage

Despite being able to apply for a mortgage online and then to provide supporting documents electronically, it can still take lenders time to approve a mortgage.

Not only does a mortgage lender consider the creditworthiness of the buyer, but also the property being purchased as security on the loan.

The speed of the conveyancing process is increased if the buyer has obtained an offer of a mortgage in principle (MiP) from a lender.

A mortgage in principle is an offer by a lender to loan up to a certain amount provided the property is adequate security. It is obtained by the buyer submitting the documentation that the lender needs for a decision about the borrower before an offer is made.

So to speed up this step in buying or selling, the seller should look to find a buyer who has a MiP already in place, and a buyer should apply for a mortgage in advance of searching for a property to buy.

The conveyancer isn’t approved by the lender

The conveyancer acts for the mortgage lender as well as the buyer.

Not all conveyancers are approved to act for all lenders. So if the buyer chooses a conveyancer who does not sit on the panel of approved conveyancers for the buyer’s choice of lender, the buyer is forced to find another conveyancer who does, or to find another lender for whom the conveyancer can work.

This can take time.

The solution for avoiding delay is for the buyer to check before approaching the mortgage lender that his or her choice of conveyancer is on the lender’s panel.

Chains

Chains are a significant cause of delay.

A chain is created when a buyer can complete on a new property only subject to completing on the sale of his or her current property.

Delays in the sale of properties further back in the chain have a knock-on effect of delaying your transaction.

If possible, look for properties, sellers and buyers that are not subject to a chain.

Searches

Searches are usually carried out by the local authority, which has little incentive to be thorough or fast.

A local authority may be under-resourced and overwhelmed, especially if many properties in your area are being sold at the same time.

In addition to the standard searches, there may be a need to carry out less usual searches, for example if the property is located on a flood plain or in an area where mining has taken place. The need for these additional searches may not be apparent initially, so may not be requested until after others have been returned.

The buyer’s conveyancer in theory could chase the local authority, but your conveyancer may prefer not to.

 If you are the buyer, you can ask your conveyancer to update you regularly on the status of the various searches. That may prompt him or her to chase more often.

You could also use a private agent to carry out the searches.

Property surveys

The lender usually insists on a thorough survey by an experienced surveyor.

It may take time for the surveyor to arrange to visit, and then the surveyor may be slow to write his or her report.

As with searches, if a possible risk is identified, further work may be needed – either to assess it in more detail, or to correct it.

A problem may mean that a buyer wants to renegotiate the offer price in order to compensate for future work needed.

Sometimes the mortgage lender will insist that repairs are made before lending.

There isn’t much a buyer can do to speed up conveyancing at this stage.

If time is important to the seller, he or she could have a survey carried out in advance of putting the property on the market, specifically to identify possible problems, and then make necessary repairs so that the survey carried out by the buyer’s lender does not highlight those problems. However, this could be expensive for the seller.

The seller could also speed up this part of the process by completing documents and answering questions as quickly as possible, and perhaps by anticipating some of the information that the buyer’s conveyancer might request in advance.

Document reviews

Once all the information has been obtained by the buyer’s conveyancer, he or she still has to review it and report on it.

Reviews of the documents can take time, especially if follow up questions need to be asked.

In summary

The process can take longer than necessary if any party involved is not proactive in keeping things moving along.

If you want to sell or buy quickly, do what you can before its needed, and keep pushing others to provide or request the information needed.

Please note that the information provided on this page:

  • Does not provide a complete or authoritative statement of the law;
  • Does not constitute legal advice by Net Lawman;
  • Does not create a contractual relationship;
  • Does not form part of any other advice, whether paid or free.
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