On average Conveyancing takes around 12 weeks, but this can be much shorter, with some transactions completing in as little as 4 weeks. On the other hand, it could also take much longer, being delayed by matters outside of your control. The smaller the chain, the less likelihood there will be of delays, so keeping the chain to a minimum could help your chances of a quick transaction.
However, it's important to bear in mind that even without a chain there are still a number of factors that can cause delays. Therefore it's impossible to ever say for certain how long Conveyancing will take with no chain.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Delay in Conveyancing?
Buying or selling a property is a complicated legal process, and as such there are a number of potential delays in Conveyancing. In brief, these could include:
- An issue with the property title (such as missing deeds on an unregistered property)
- Additional information required about a leasehold property
- Issues with the buyer's mortgage (caused, for example, by a change in circumstances, an unexpected valuation or incorrect information being provided to the lender)
- A cash buyer who has to wait for funds to be released from an investment
- Buying or selling a shared ownership property (there are additional rules and regulations around selling or buying a shared ownership property)
- Your seller buying a new build property that is not yet ready
- A probate sale where the Personal Representative has not yet obtained a Grant of Probate / Grant of Letters of Administration
- Property searches (some local authorities will respond quicker to searches than others)
- Building survey revealing a problem with the property
How Can a Chain Delay Property Transactions?
When people refer to a chain in Conveyancing, they are referring to a chain of transactions, where there are multiple people buying and selling properties and each person's purchase relies on their sale.
For example, Tom is a first time buyer and he is buying a flat from Sophie. Sophie is using the money from the sale of her flat to buy a 2 bed house from Mark. Mark is using the money from the sale of this house to buy another house from Judy. Judy is moving in with her family, so isn't buying a new home.
In this example, there are 4 people in the chain. There is no chain below Tom as he does not need to sell a property in order to complete on his purchase, so Tom is at the bottom of the chain. Sophie is using the proceeds of her sale to Tom in order to complete on her purchase – she is the first link. Mark is the second link – he is using the proceeds of his sale to Sophie in order to complete on his purchase from Judy. Judy is not buying anywhere so the chain ends with her.
Because there are so many transactions that are all reliant on one another, there is a much greater risk that one of the common delays mentioned above will hold things up. If Tom has a problem with his mortgage offer and has to pull out of the purchase, for example, then this will have a knock on effect on the rest of the chain. Sophie will not be able to complete on her purchase from Mark until she has found a new buyer, which could take months. In turn, Mark won't be able to complete on his purchase from Judy.
On the other side of the coin, Judy's plans could change and she could decide that she no longer wants to sell her home, so she pulls out of the sale. It's unlikely that Mark will want to commit to the sale of his house until he has found somewhere new to live. This then puts Sophie in the same position and she will be faced with the decision of whether to wait for Mark to find a new house or to pull out of the purchase and find a new house herself. Ultimately, Tom could be faced with long delays even though he is a first time buyer, because there is a long chain above him.
Minimising Delays with No Chain
So, as this example demonstrates, keeping the length of the chain to a minimum will minimise the risk of unexpected delays, but it won't eliminate these risks all together. Even if you are a first time buyer and your seller isn't buying another property, or even if you are selling a property without buying a new one, there are still a huge number of potential delays.
For example, the searches could uncover something that needs further investigation, or the building survey could flag up something unexpected. Alternatively, your seller or buyer could simply have a relaxed approach to completing and returning their paperwork.
You're also reliant on your Conveyancer, the other person's Conveyancer and the estate agents all communicating with each other and pushing the transaction forward.
Whatever situation you find yourself in and whether you are buying or selling, it is always sensible to agree a target completion date with the other parties that you can all work towards. You must remember though that a target date is not set in stone until exchange of contracts has taken place.