How long does the conveyancing process take?

On average, conveyancing takes 8 to 12 weeks in the UK. Often there are significant delays. Why does it take so long, and can you speed it up?

Family home movers

What does a conveyancer do?

A conveyancing solicitor is responsible for the legal process required to transfer ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer. This process is known as ‘conveyancing’.

On average, conveyancing on a residential property this takes eight to twelve weeks, but many variables can impact this timescale, one way or another.

See also: Step-by-step guide to transferring property ownership

Conveyancing for buyers – main areas of delay

When acting for a buyer, a solicitor will carry out due diligence into the property and report back to the buyer.

This process will include:

  • reviewing all information supplied by the seller
  • raising detailed enquiries about the property
  • carrying out searches
  • dealing with and representing the mortgage lender
  • writing a report on title about the property
  • handling all financial aspects of the transaction
  • the registration of the new owner property at the land registry

Arranging finance

Obtaining a mortgage offer has become increasingly long-winded over recent years.

Despite technological advances, the process is ever more bureaucratic and many hoops must be jumped through before an offer is received.

Getting your finances arranged should be your first and highest priority when buying

Solicitor/lender panel issues

If you are obtaining a mortgage, your solicitor will also act for your lender. Not all solicitors can act for all lenders. This can be a significant cause of delays.

Make sure your solicitor can act for your lender before you instruct. If they cannot go elsewhere.

Read more: Why you must check your solicitor's lender panel, membership.

The chain

Where there are three or more linked buyers and sellers, you have a chain. If there is a chain, the process can only move as fast as the slowest cog in the machine, e.g. an uncommunicative solicitor.

Buyers and sellers often feel impotent as there is little they can do. It is possible to address some of the problems in the chain, however.

Searches

Searches will be carried out through the local authority. It can take weeks, sometimes even months, to get the results.

Solicitors tend to use private search agents who usually get faster results. However, some local authorities can still create bottlenecks.

If the searches uncover any significant issues (risk of flooding, for example), further searches may be required. This may feel frustrating, but property searches are vital in ensuring you are not buying a house with any major long term problems.

The reviewing of documents

It is also your solicitor’s responsibility to look over all documents relating to the property in detail and offer legal advice on proceeding with the purchase. The documents reviewed will include the property information forms, the mortgage offer, and the contract pack obtained from the seller’s solicitor.

If any of these documents highlight issues that need to be resolved before you proceed, you could face delays.

Property surveys

It is your surveyor’s job to carry out checks on the condition of the property, and as with the property searches, finding problems could cause delays in the process

If issues are highlighted in the survey, it could mean renegotiating the price with the seller, or stipulating that they make repairs before you proceed with the purchase. If you are obtaining a mortgage, your mortgage lender may insist on repairs before releasing the money.

Get your survey instructed as soon as the offer is accepted.

Further possible causes for delay

  • Your solicitor being reactive and failing to drive the transaction
  • The vendor’s solicitor being slow to respond
  • The vendor being hard to get hold of or slow to respond
  • The need to obtain documents from other organisations

Conveyancing for sellers – main areas of delay

As with buying, the sale conveyancing process can only move as fast as all of the other solicitors and related parties in the transaction and elsewhere in the chain.

Choosing a proactive solicitor, completing and returning documents asap and being as responsive as possible will help.

If you need to source information to support the sale, such as managing agent information, it is a good idea to apply for this as soon as you go on the market.

See: Tips for Choosing the Best Conveyancer or Solicitor

There are things you can do to speed things up

Most buyers and sellers think they are mere passengers in the post-offer conveyancing process.

This is not the case. There is much you can do to take control and help accelerate the conveyancing process.

Read more:

How you can speed up the conveyancing process.

Helen Goddard, Legal researcher

About the author

Helen is an award-winning legal researcher and author. She is an experienced court litigation report proofreader and has written extensively on legal matters.

Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert

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