This is a difficult question to answer as during the property buying process you often are reliant on many other people. This can include your Solicitor, the Solicitor for the vendor, the vendor themselves, the mortgage company, all external search companies. The sheer number of people involved is quite shocking and you can see why sometimes there is a delay, particularly if you have a chain of people buying and selling.
So how long does conveyancing take? Usually about eight to twelve weeks but it could be significantly longer or shorter depending on the circumstances of your purchase.
For example, if you were buying an empty property with no mortgage, you could potentially complete the purchase inside a week, but this scenario is unusual. If you are completing the conveyancing process without a chain, the timelines will be significantly reduced. The steps below show how in depth the process is and where there is a chain, this process is happening multiple times in succession, with so many possibilities to fall down.
There is no doubt that the house buying process can be time consuming, particularly when there is a chain involved as there usually is these days, but what makes the process so long winded?
When you make an offer on a property and it is accepted you should start by finding a conveyancer. The choice is huge and the price range is just as big. This is the first decision that may cause you a delay as it makes sense to get several conveyancing quotes and you need to ensure that you are comparing like for like quotes.
The biggest complaints made by consumers to the Legal Ombudsman about conveyancing is the fact that they often paid much more than the price they were quoted, so you need to ensure that you get a fixed fee conveyancing quote with no hidden charges or fees that are not included in the quote.
Once we have provided a written fixed fee Conveyancing quote for the agreed work, that price will not change.
Once you have asked your conveyancer to work on your property purchase, they will write to the Solicitor employed by the vendor and advise them they are acting on your behalf and request a copy of the contract, the title deeds of the property and any other necessary documents including relevant information from the vendor about fixtures and fittings being left or items available for purchase. Your conveyancer will be handling numerous sales and purchases which could mean that the initial paperwork may not be sent immediately.
Another potential bottleneck is the vendor taking additional time to complete the necessary forms. They may need to be chased up by their Solicitor through your Solicitor, which of course is a long winded process. Once this information is back in, your conveyancer will check it, send it to you to check and ask any questions arising from it.
Check whether the property you are purchasing is leasehold or freehold and where it is a leasehold, you should specifically ask your Solicitor to check the length of the remaining lease, with any lease that is less than 80 year being a problem for you. You should not rely on your Solicitor to do this without asking them.
In addition to the work on the contract, your conveyancer will also be completing searches for you. These include Land Registry checks, planning checks, flooding and environmental searches and depending on where you are in country, mining searches. Depending on backlogs and how quickly these searches are conducted, this can add on time to the conveyancing process.
You may need to arrange a mortgage. A lot of people will get a mortgage agreed in principal on an amount and this will probably help to speed up the process once you find a property to buy, but as will any process involving financial institutions, they can take time so be prepared to factor this step into the timeline. In order to secure your mortgage you will need to get survey completed on the property so the lender knows it is viable for a mortgage. This could take more time than expected and depending on what the surveyor finds and whether more questions need to be asked or documentation produced.
Finally, you will need to arrange buildings insurance for the property and whilst this shouldn't take more effort than a phone call, it is just another added step to the conveyancing process.
Once all questions raised have been answered and everyone is happy to proceed, you will sign the contracts and then exchange. Once this is done your purchase is legally binding and you can expect to complete within four to twelve weeks.
You could consider completing the conveyancing process during the quiet times in the year. Traditionally December and January are slow times for conveyancing and if you can bear the stress over the Christmas and New Year period this could be a good time to move. Additionally, September is usually a slow month, with the impact of summer holidays taking its toll.
The conveyancing process can be slow but by talking to your vendor and your Conveyancing Solicitor about speeding up the process you can move things along.