How to Speed Up Conveyancing
If you’re buying a house and you want to move quickly, you’ll be wondering how to speed up conveyancing. The good news is there are some simple steps you can take.
Why do solicitors take so long?
Conveyancing, the legal process of buying your home, usually takes between 12-16 weeks, but this can vary enormously and delays can creep in. Conveyancing delays often happen where both parties are not as responsive as they should be. Delays also occur in more complex cases, such as if the purchase is part of a divorce case or probate, or a leasehold property. Here’s how to speed up the conveyancing process.
How to speed up conveyancing: 10 tips
The frustrating part about delays in the conveyancing process is that they can often be unexpected and out of your control. Here’s how to speed up conveyancing:
1. Instruct your conveyancer before you make an offer on a house
Conveyancing solicitors can’t begin work until they have conducted anti-money laundering checks. So by instructing your conveyancer first and giving them the necessary ID you’ll be one step ahead. Compare conveyancing quotes now.
2. Arrange your mortgage as soon as possible
Before you start property-hunting, do your research into what type of mortgage you want and how much a lender will lend to you. They can also secure you a Mortgage Agreement in Principle. Then, once you’ve had your offer accepted on a house, you can complete your full mortgage application without delay. If you’re getting financial help to buy the property from a family member, tell your conveyancer straight away. Your solicitor will need to write a ‘gifted deposit’ document for the lender. And this can cause delays if it’s left until the last minute. Find the best mortgage for your needs with fee free mortgage brokers L&C.
3. Look for online conveyancing and mortgage services
Choosing a conveyancing solicitor that uses an online ‘Digital Move’ conveyancing system, should speed things up. To find out more on the pros and cons read should I do my conveyancing online? With Digital Move you can verify ID online, sign documents digitally and get real-time updates. When you compare conveyancing quotes on our panel, conveyancers using Digital Move are labelled.
Using an online mortgage service will also speed things up too because you’ll be able to start the process as soon as possible – night or day – and won’t need to wait for an appointment with a mortgage broker.
4. Instruct your conveyancer to order local searches ASAP
The government’s target is that searches should take a maximum of 10 working days. But in reality it can take much longer and can be a frustrating cause of delays. Check our guide to see how long searches take in your area. If they are taking a long time, check if you can get them done more quickly by using a search company to do a ‘personal local authority search’ on your behalf.
5. Arrange your survey
Speed is of the essence in all aspects of your purchase so arrange your survey promptly. Make sure you flag up any issues you want the surveyor to look at in particular to avoid wasting time later. Speak to the surveyor and conveyancer once you have the survey report. Depending on what the survey reveals, you may want to renegotiate or even reconsider the purchase. The quicker you can do this the better. For more advice, read our guide What to do after a bad house survey report.
6. Get your paperwork in order
When you’re selling a property, you’ll need to complete a property information form. This will include details such as any disputes or complaints as well as documents such as certificates from renovations e.g. FENSA certificates for window replacements or certificates for damp proofing work. So make sure you provide these promptly.
7. Make use of the estate agent
Estate agents don’t get their commission until the sale has completed so they have an interest in ensuring the sale goes through quickly and smoothly. Ask if the 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. Though buyers should remember that estate agent works for the seller so will have their best interests at heart.
8. Research building insurance in time for exchange of contracts
You must also arrange building insurance for your new property to take effect on the day you exchange contracts, so shop around now. It is usually a condition of the mortgage agreement. Get quotes for buildings and contents insurance today
9. Ask for regular updates
It’s a good idea to ask for regular updates from your conveyancer and estate agent so you’re fully informed about your sale’s progress. It has the added benefit of making sure your case hasn’t dropped to the bottom of the pile. Pencil in discussions in the diary so they know to have made progress by that date.
10. Don’t delay
Answering queries quickly and nudging people along is your new full-time job now. As ridiculous as that sounds, if you see it as such and don’t solely trust it to others to progress your transaction, then you’ll help to speed up the conveyancing process.
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What are common conveyancing problems?
There are lots of other factors that can cause delays with the conveyancing process. The most common issue is with the buyer or seller, or their conveyancing solicitors, taking their time when responding to enquiries.
Other common reasons for delays are:
- Building survey revealing problems
- Problems with the property title
- Missing information from the seller
- Issues with the buyer’s mortgage application
- A probate sale
- Property searches-related as the local authority is too slow to respond
- Being in a chain
- Buying a new build property that isn’t ready (see below)
- Buying a leasehold (see below)
How to speed up conveyancing: new builds
The legal process of buying a new build home is often more complex. So it’s essential to find a good conveyancing solicitor with experience of dealing with new build properties.
To speed up the conveyancing process, get into the documentation early. And we don’t mean the glossy sales brochure. Speak to your conveyancing solicitor early about the contract, what it means and read our guides buying off-plan and top tips for buying a new build.
When buying a new build, it’s important to note:
- When you agree to buy a new build property you won’t be able to pull out and get your deposit back if it looks like it won’t be finished until after the “long stop” date. This is the final date by which the property can be finished. This will be written in the small print. And if it isn’t, it’s crucial to ensure you get a long stop agreed before you exchange contracts.
- But the “long stop” can be up to six months later than the legal completion date in the contracts.
- And the legal completion date could be several months later than the completion date estimated when contracts are exchanged.
- Crucially, most mortgage offers are only valid for between three and six months.
So if you want to buy a new build, you’ll need to consider how you would manage if you encounter delays. Some people who have had to move into temporary accommodation because their new build house has been delayed have had to pay thousands of pounds for accommodation.
For more information, read our guide new build conveyancing explained
How to speed up leasehold conveyancing
If you’re buying a leasehold property, this will involve extra legal work for your conveyancing solicitor. On top of the normal legal work involved in the purchase of a property, they’ll need to complete extra work such as checking the length of the lease as well as asking the seller’s solicitor to liaise with the landlord or management company on any questions about the lease and property management before exchange of contracts. When you complete your purchase of the property, your conveyancer will provide an ownership update to the landlord or management company. This can all make the process longer and it can make it more expensive.
For example, your conveyancer will need to see the Leasehold Property Enquiries (LPE1) completed by the company or person that administers the terms of the lease and manages the maintenance of the shared parts of the property. This leasehold management pack includes details such as ground rent and service charge accounts and, whether the service charges are due to go up, whether there is a large expenditure coming up and whether the ground rent increases over time.
The seller is responsible for payment for the LPE1, which can cost from £300 to as much as £800; delays can happen if payment isn’t made quickly. The average time taken for the LPE1 to be completed by the lease administrator is 54 days. Your conveyancer will then review the pack and may have additional questions or enquiries to raise.
The buyer will also have to pay between £25 and £500 to the lease administrator to update their records with your contact details.
If you’re looking at how to speed up conveyancing, make sure your conveyancing solicitor requests the LPE1 as soon as possible and, if you are selling a leasehold, that you pay for it promptly too.
How long between exchange and completion?
The length of time between exchange and completion usually varies from the same day to up to four weeks. But it can be much longer – the exact length will be agreed between the buyer and seller.
However as we’ve already discussed, if you’re buying a new build, you may find your completion date is pushed back by the developer if the property is not ready.
There are some instances where the buyer and seller both agree to delay completion. These reasons may include:
- Both the buyer and seller will be away or have personal issues to deal with before completion.
- If the property is particularly large and moving in a few weeks wouldn’t be feasible.
- The property is still being built or refurbished. It’s common for new build developers to exchange on a property ‘off-plan’ with the buyer and set a provisional completion date. But this can then be changed.
What to do if the seller’s solicitor is slow
When you’re buying a house, you are relying on other people to work efficiently and speedily. But while you can ask your own solicitor to speed up, what if it’s the other side that is slowing things down?
There are a few steps you can take:
- You can speak to the estate agent and ask them to chase the solicitor.
- You can speak to the sellers if you have direct contact with them. They can chase their own solicitors.
- Ask the seller to change solicitors.
Only pursue these options if you have evidence the seller’s solicitor is at fault. However, it’s probably a better use of energy to focus on solutions to the hold-up, rather than who is at fault.
Should I switch conveyancing solicitor if I’m not happy with progress?
If you feel your conveyancing solicitor is too slow or you have lost confidence in them, then the first thing to do is phone them and air your concerns. If matters don’t improve and you’re getting worried that their lack of speed or incompetence could jeopardise your sale, call the practice manager and complain. One course of action is to ask for a different conveyancer within the firm to take over your case.
However if you would rather change conveyancing firms, there are some factors to consider before doing so:
- If you’re sure you want to change conveyancing firms, do it sooner rather than later. Your case will be less complex and it will make the transition easier.
- Bear in mind your old conveyancing solicitor may not release documentation if they haven’t been paid in full for their work and they have a ‘lien’ over the documents. So check the payment terms of your agreement.
- Changing firms after you exchange isn’t advised as the completion date will be set and if delays caused by changing solicitors mean you don’t meet the completion date you could incur financial penalties.
What if delays in my purchase result in it falling through?
The home buying process is stressful enough without the financial worry of the transaction falling through. So it’s worth considering taking out Home Buyer Protection Insurance. This helps cover legal, survey and mortgage lending costs should your purchase fall through. To find out more, read our guide Home Buyer Protection Insurance – Is it something I should consider?