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How long does buying a property really take and how can you speed things up?

Published: 10/09/2022 By Andy Weller

Buying a house is a complicated process. A legal professional must ensure no issues with the property you buy. And, as with many things that involve legal professionals, it seems as if it takes forever! Is it possible to speed things up?
Buying a house is a complicated process.
 
 
A legal professional must ensure no issues with the property you buy. And, as with many things that involve legal professionals, it seems as if it takes forever!
 
 
Surely, once you have the mortgage all agreed upon, you can just move in, right? What else is there?
 
Well, actually, quite a lot.
 
Buying a house is a complicated process that has several stages. 
 
Initially, there are draft contracts. The sellers' solicitor will prepare these and send them to the buyer's solicitor. Once received, the buyers' solicitor will make amendments and raise questions about the property to ensure that this contract is correct and safe for you to sign.
 
Then there are the searches. Paid for by the buyers, these checks are to check that there are no issues around the land you're hoping to buy. 
 
Based on these searches, the buyers' solicitor will raise further questions. The responses are compiled into a report on the title that will form the purchase transaction paperwork. 
 
It sounds relatively simple, but each property, search, and title plan are unique, and there is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between the solicitors. How many queries and how simple they are to answer will determine how long this process can take. 
 
It can be delayed further if the sellers don't know the answers and therefore have to go and find out. 
 
And these questions/answers could be about anything. Perhaps there is a problem with the drainage plan. There needs to be an investigation into the drains, or maybe a boundary line on the plan is not precisely where it should be. Hence, an amendment needs to be sent to the land registry. 
 
It is very tricky to predict what will come up when you are selling a property unless you pay for the searches to be done in advance. But unfortunately, the buyer's lender will not usually accept searches carried out by the seller. They expire after 3 months, so this would only work if you managed to market, sell and complete a sale on the property within 3 months. 
 
So, you're at the mercy of the searches and any questions or queries they pick up. And the time that these questions will take to answer effectively.
 
Once you've agreed on the contracts and all possible questions have been answered, it's time to sign the paperwork and agree on a date for moving. 
 
Of course, the buyer will need to have arranged finances, and the sellers will need to arrange somewhere to move to simultaneously with the solicitor's work. If the sellers are buying somewhere onwards, they will also have to go through the whole process as buyers.
 
Arranging a completion date can pose a problem, particularly if a chain is involved. Everyone in the chain must be co-ordinated and ready to move on the same day. 
 
Usually, the legal process of buying or selling a property would take an average of 10 - 12 weeks. However, the pandemic brought chaos to many industries. Staff shortages and an increase in the number of property sales being agreed upon could make the co-ordination of completion days tricky.
 
According to Rightmove.co.uk, the time from accepted offer to completion is now taking an average of 150 days. "there are currently more than half a million homes sold subject to contract, with buyers eagerly awaiting completion. That's 44% more than in 2019."
 
What can you do to speed things up?
-Be prepared -
have as much of your paperwork, ID, information, evidence etc., ready as soon as you make or accept an offer.
 
-Be reasonable - flexibility will make the process less stressful for you. If you need to change dates or compromise on something, try to be reasonable and flexible. There needs to be a little give-and-take from everyone involved.
 
-Be proactive - when your solicitor asks questions, respond quickly. If you're buying another property, don't hang around. If you're moving into a rented property, don't wait until the last minute. If you're considering booking a holiday, make sure you won't be holding up the sale. Completing the sale of the property is the priority.
 
-Communication - stay in touch. Follow up with your buyer, seller, agents, financial advisor and solicitor weekly. Regular updates passed throughout the chain to all parties will ensure that everyone knows everyone else's status.
 
If you're considering buying a property, get in touch and sign up for our Heads Up property alerts to find out about new instructions before they are uploaded to the property websites.