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How long does conveyancing take?

You can't buy or sell a home without going through conveyancing. It’s the legal process that transfers the ownership of a property from one person to another. But how long does conveyancing take? And what's the impact of coronavirus?

how long does conveyancing take

How long does conveyancing take?

The conveyancing process starts when you make an offer on a property – or accept an offer on your home – and lasts until completion day when keys for the property are exchanged.

The conveyancing process normally takes around 12 weeks. However, the pandemic has meant delays. 

In October 2020, groups including The Society of Licensed Conveyancers and The Conveyancing Association – issued a statement saying that transactions are going to take longer than usual to progress. They said they were overwhelmed by a tidal wave of house moving transactions as a result of pent-up demand following lockdown, demand following the stamp duty holiday announcement and the impact of Covid 19 on individual lawyers.

Under these conditions, using a Digital Move enabled conveyancing solicitor can help to speed up the process. You can start the process instantly from instruction, get real-time updates, verify ID online and sign documents digitally. Online case management systems give you greater visibility and can help parts of the conveyancing process to take place earlier, thereby speeding up the process.

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Stages of the conveyancing process

In summary the main steps are:

  1. Pre-contract work – approx. 2 weeks

The conveyancing process begins once your offer for a property is accepted. You need to appoint a conveyancing solicitor as soon as possible so they can start working on your behalf. Find and compare quotes from our panel of quality assured conveyancing solicitors

Your conveyancing solicitor will then obtain and review legal documents in order to provide you with legal advice on your purchase.  They will speak to the seller’s solicitor for the draft contract and start local searches. Local searches should take 10 days, but many local authorities miss this deadline. In 2019, Derby was said to be taking nearly nine weeks, Sevenoaks in Kent five weeks and Camden Council was telling homebuyers to wait at least 70 working days to get searches back.

At the same time, you’ll want to conduct a survey of the property to get an independent report of the condition of the home you want to buy. Find a surveyor now to get a date in the diary for your survey. You can usually get your survey report within a day or two but it can take as long as 1 month depending on how busy your local surveyors are. Instantly find and compare quotes from local qualified surveyors using our find a surveyor tool

  1. Mortgage offer – approx. 4 weeks

Hopefully before you made an offer on the property you had a Mortgage Agreement in Principle in place. Once your offer has been accepted your mortgage lender will start the process of turning that into a definitive mortgage offer. It takes about a month from mortgage application to mortgage offer. Speak to a fee-free mortgage broker, see how much you can borrow and start your application – online or over the phone now

  1. Draft contract – approx. 2-10 weeks

While your lender is busy working on your mortgage application your conveyancing solicitor should be working on your draft contract. This means bringing together all the necessary information from the land registry, the seller and the seller’s conveyancer.

Searches and surveys returned at this time can also raise issues that need to be resolved. This means the draft contract phase of the conveyancing process can take anywhere from a very straightforward 2 weeks to 10 weeks.

  1. Exchange of contracts to completion – approx. 1-2 weeks

Once your mortgage offer is in place, your pre-contract enquiries have been answered, and the survey and searches have been sorted out, you are ready to exchange contracts. At this point a completion date should be set. It’s usually one week between exchange and completion but it can be whatever date works for both parties and the chain.

For example, a seller may ask for a long time between exchange and completion to give them time to tie in with their onward purchase.

On the day of completion, you will exchange keys and own your new home. On the day, both conveyancing solicitors will organise for all the funds to be transferred. The seller usually needs to vacate the property by midday with the buyer getting the keys mid-afternoon once all money has been received by the seller’s solicitor.

Our recent research revealed 115,000 home moves are delayed each year because funds don’t arrive on time and sellers take longer to vacate properties. Over 20,000 moves had to be cancelled altogether because of funds not arriving in time.

How Long Does Conveyancing Take?

Category Approx time
Pre contract work: appoint conveyancer, instruct local searches, get survey, get draft contract 2 weeks
Time to arrange mortgage 4 weeks
Draft contract: reviewing survey report, local searches, answering outstanding questions 2-10 weeks
Time between exchange and completion 1 week
Total time from an offer being accepted to completion 12-16 weeks

What delays conveyancing?

There are a lot of different factors that can delay conveyancing. The most common one is that either the buyer or seller, or their legal representatives, take their time responding to enquiries.

Other common reasons are:

  • Problems with the property title
  • Building survey revealing problems
  • Missing information from the seller
  • Issues with the buyer’s mortgage application
  • Seller buying a new build property that isn’t ready
  • A probate sale
  • Property searches delayed as local authority is slow to respond

How does a chain affect conveyancing times?

If you are in a housing chain – your buyer is simultaneously selling their own home, or your seller is in the buying process – that can have a significant impact on how long conveyancing takes.

A problem with one transaction in the chain can delay everyone. For example, if one transaction is delayed due to a problem with a mortgage it could lead to everyone’s conveyancing process being delayed.

Our survey also found movers in a property chain are more likely to be affected by delays. One in four (25%) homeowners buying in a chain report delays or cancellations on moving day. Check out our tips on how to break the housing chain.

How long does conveyancing take a cash buyer?

If you are buying a house without a mortgage, then you should be able to complete quicker as one potential area for delay in the conveyancing process is removed – the mortgage application.

This can speed the process up, but you may still want to have a survey done, you will want to instruct your conveyancer to conduct local searches and allow your solicitor time to get all the information needed for the contract.

How long does it take to buy a new build home?

Buying a new build home is often slightly more complicated. Find out why and learn about the legal steps involved with our guide New Build Conveyancing Explained.

How long does it take to buy a leasehold home?

It also often costs more and takes longer to buy a leasehold home. This is because there is often more legal work involved with a leasehold property and a lot more potential ongoing costs that you will want to consider and be aware of. Find out more in our guide to the Leasehold Conveyancing Process.

How to avoid delays in conveyancing

How long conveyancing takes in practise is often about avoiding unnecessary delays.

Make sure you instruct your conveyancing solicitor as soon as possible when you start your house move. An unresponsive legal representative can really throw a spanner in the works.

If you are selling a property, the estate agent can also make a big difference to how long the sale process takes. Most of their fee is earned after an offer is accepted by making sure the offer becomes a sale. Ask if an estate agent has someone dedicated to sales progression. Their job is to speak to both the buyer, the vendor and their legal representatives regularly to make sure everything is on track. Find the best local estate agent based on how quickly they sell, how often they achieve asking price, their success rate and more

Finally, don’t let the side down yourself. Make sure all parties have up-to-date contact details for you and respond to all enquiries as quickly as possible.

Check in with you solicitor and estate agent regularly (at least once a week) to see how the process is going and to make sure they aren’t waiting for anything from you.

Looking to instruct a conveyancing solicitor? Compare conveyancing quotes and look out for Digital-move enabled firms for a speedier process

Leave a comment (2)* Required

  1. A.FisherA.Fisher

    If you are leaving a partner and transferring equity to enable you to purchase your property, at what point in the timeline above would you apply for the TOE?

    How can you report or deal with an unprofessional solicitor who has agreed a completion date without checking that deposit funds being released as transfer of equity were ready?

  2. Paul BellchambersPaul Bellchambers

    Hi. I could not find anything relating to how to deal with an incompetent or unprofessional solicitor. I have some advice for house buyer and sellers on dealing with this situation. Thanks Paul

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