The national average timeline for a property transaction is approximately 12 weeks, but why does the process take so long?
The main reason is because of the value of what is being traded and the complexity of the legal difficulties surrounding property in this country. If you’re spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on property, you want to make sure there are no problems enjoying it.
When instructing a conveyancer to act on your behalf, that conveyancer has a duty of care towards you and must make sure that you are properly advised when proceeding with a transaction. The advice given by a property lawyer includes many different fields.
The conveyancer has to obtain information regarding not only the legal ownership of the property but also items such as: what will be left at the property; was the kitchen extension legal; will anything affect your enjoyment of the property; are there any legal abnormalities that could affect the use of the land; is the property about to be situated next to a new motorway, etc, etc. Collecting this information understandably takes time, especially when third parties have to be contacted to retrieve the answers.
I hear all the time that conveyancers will blame other solicitors for matters taking too long, but believe me there is nothing more frustrating when you’re a proactive lawyer and the vendor’s solicitor still works a half day on a Wednesday and a Friday. The main delay that is increasingly found culminates from the local authorities, when replying to our enquiries. This week I have been made aware of a local search that has taken more than 50 days to be responded to. Hence the reason why most lawyers do not give a money back guarantee on the time it takes to complete.
Thankfully the industry as a whole is becoming more efficient and even proactive in their approach to transactions. The best property lawyers email instead of post and telephone instead of doing nothing. The introduction of technology means even high street lawyers are using case management systems to help improve their speed.
When I was in university we were always told that the average timescales for transactions were reaching 16-20 weeks, so there has definitely been an improvement over recent years. However, I do find the problem with averages is that you can have one case that has been a right nightmare and it can throw out your timelines completely.
A good lawyer would be content with an average timeline from start to exchange of around ten weeks. With most of their files completing within 6-8 weeks and the odd leasehold probate matter bumping the average up to ten weeks.
My fellow blogger, Lloyd Davies quite often reminds us all, that he once completed a transaction within 24 hours. So each transaction, and each lawyer, has to be treated individually and the time it takes depends on a bit of luck and a proactive lawyer.
On another online forum, I’ve seen a contribution from an individual that states: “The best way to speed your purchase up, is to constantly chase your lawyer and ring them everyday for progress”. I can hear you all agree that this is not the intelligent way to push matters through. All it does in practice is take up more of your lawyer’s time in talking to you, when they could have been either working on your file or chasing outstanding information.
The best tips I can offer to make sure your transaction goes through as quickly as possible include:
- Apply for your mortgage immediately – most conveyancers will be instructed to act on behalf of your lender as well. Consequently, the earlier they received your mortgage offer the quicker they can start completing the work for your mortgage provider
- Speak to all parties regarding your ‘need’ to stick to a time frame – This includes: your financial advisor; the estate agents; your sellers/buyers and your lawyer. A good tip is to get your conveyancer, at the start of the matter, to include in correspondence your timelines and ask them to communicate it to the rest of the chain (this way no one can say they didn’t know)
- Make sure the agent you pick is proactive – Agents have a unique function in transactions, they can speak to both the seller and the buyer. Whereas solicitors can only speak to each other and their own client
- Finish your negotiating before you instruct conveyancers. Negotiations during the legal process will only delay matters as new mortgage offers and other documentation will need to be obtained
- Choose your conveyancer wisely – decide what you want from the service, are you happy with someone who can respond to you be email immediately but whom is difficult to see face to face? Or do you need to sit down with someone and take a few hours to go through all the documentation?
- Return your documentation immediately – Contract’s etc tend to get forgotten about by clients but in order to keep a proactive momentum it is best to return all documents immediately
- If you feel that your transaction is not progressing as quickly as you would like, instead of bombarding your conveyancer with phone calls/emails, agree certain times for either them to ring you or for you to ring them for updates. This way, your conveyancer has time to get on with the work and yet still has the pressure to provide you with results