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Why Does Conveyancing Take so Long?

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

On average conveyancing takes between 6-12 weeks but this will depend upon so many factors.

We set out below some common causes of delay and what, if anything, you can do to help move things along.

Your transaction forms part of a chain of transactions: generally speaking the longer the chain the longer the transaction will take to complete. If you imagine 10 parties in a series of transactions all having to undertake searches, investigate title obtain their mortgage advance etc this will inevitably take longer than if there are 2.

What can you do to help:

Investigate early on (i.e. when making an offer or accepting an offer on a property) the length of the chain involved, at the very least this will prepare you for the fact that things may take a little longer than you first thought, and ask your estate agent to keep you up to date with what is happening with the chain.

Contrary to popular belief, your conveyancer is not able to enquire what is happening further down the chain, they only deal with the immediate parties to the transaction, namely your buyer’s and/or seller’s conveyancer. The estate agent has the ability to chase further down the chain and obtain information from all parties.

Obtaining Mortgage Finance:

Receipt of a formal mortgage offer can take some time.

The application process can be detailed and lengthy and of course the lender will need to undertake a valuation of the property. The offer will then have to be sent to the lender’s underwriters for a final decision to be made. It is important to bear in mind that even if everything else is in place other than your offer, just because this is received does not mean you can immediately proceed to exchange of contracts and completion. There may be matters that your conveyancer will need to report to your mortgage lender, such as the receipt of a gifted deposit. It should be noted that generally most lenders will require 5 working days notice to release mortgage funds from the point all is in order.

What can you do to help?

Speak to your chosen lender or broker as early as possible, preferably prior to finding a property to purchase. Ensure you have a decision in principle and be aware of the amount you are able to borrow. If you are selling a property ask the estate agent to investigate whether the buyer has an agreement in principle to obtaining a mortgage. You should also make sure any matters such as gifted deposit or loans from family members are reported to your lender at the outset to avoid delays later.

Source of purchase funds:

Your conveyancer is obliged under money laundering regulations to verify the source of funds utilised for a purchase. These may be coming from a related sale, from savings or from family members by way of a gift or loan. You will be required to produce bank statements evidencing the funds in your name and provide an explanation as to the origin of these funds. Further checks and procedures need to be followed if funds are coming from a third party (see below).

What can you do to help?

Ensure you have copies of bank statements in preparation together with copy statements identifying the source of these funds, for example if funds have been transferred from one account to another. Answer the source of funds question in the initial forms as fully as possible and provide copy documentation at the outset. This will avoid the need to chase this up later and delay matters.

Gifted deposits and loans from family members:

In addition to the source of funds checks referred to above identification checks on those gifting/loaning the funds need to be undertaken and a letter confirming the gift/loan is also required from the family member concerned. Such arrangements will need to be reported to your mortgage lender to ensure they are happy with the arrangement.

What can you do to help?

Make sure first and foremost you make the family members aware of these requirements and the need to produce identification documentation and bank statements. Ensure they deal with any correspondence from your conveyancer swiftly.

Leasehold and shared ownership transactions:

These transactions are slightly more complicated than a freehold transaction – leasehold title documentation is lengthy and needs to be reviewed and reported upon in detail. The landlord/managing agent is also required to produce a pack of documentation for review by the buyer’s conveyancer. This can take some time both to obtain and review.

What can I do?

Be realistic about the fact this transaction is slightly more complicated and as such is likely to take a little longer. If you are selling, obtain your landlord pack from the landlord/managing agent as soon as possible. Deal with any requests from your conveyancer for funds to enable them to obtain the pack.

Delayed Search Results:

The time searches take to be completed can vary from less than a week to a couple of months. This can be extremely frustrating.

What can you do?

Unfortunately delays at the Local Authority are outside of your control and that of your conveyancer, however if you are purchasing ensure you deal with the initial paperwork sent to you by your conveyancer as quickly as possible and pay any money on account of costs. This will enable your conveyancer to get the searches underway as early as possible.

Help to Buy Schemes:

If you are purchasing under any of the Help to Buy Schemes or utilising a Help to Buy ISA just bear in mind your conveyancer will need to take additional steps to prior to completion.

What can you do?

Again, ensure requests for documentation are dealt with promptly.

Delay in responding to enquiries raised:

Enquiries of the seller’s conveyancer will be made during the course of a transaction, sometimes complicated issues may arise which mean replies to such enquiries take some time to be received.

What can you do?

If you are a seller and enquires are received by you from your conveyancer try to deal with these promptly and speak to your conveyancer on any matters of which you are unsure. If you are the buyer, and the seller is delaying, speak to your estate agent and ask them to chase the seller on your behalf – again work with your conveyancer regarding whether there is anything you can be doing to help move matters along.

Delays in returning paperwork to your conveyancer:

Inevitably this can cause delay if information is outstanding from you.

What can you do?

Ensure anything sent to you by your conveyancer is completed carefully and returned promptly. Some initial forms can be fairly detailed but ensure you read everything thoroughly and raise any queries with your conveyancer as quickly as possible. Ensure you read any instructions sent to you on how to sign documents carefully to avoid the need for these to be returned to you.
Remember when you are purchasing a property this is probably the most expensive purchase you will make. Whilst delays are frustrating when you are keen to move into your dream home it is vitally important that everything is in order before you are committed to proceeding with your purchase.

For further help or advice please contact our Conveyancing team.

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Jenny Woodruff


Jenny Woodruff


Jenny is a Partner and head of the Residential Conveyancing Team. She has extensive knowledge of the conveyancing process, including: dealing with freehold and leasehold sales & purchases; new build purchases; remortgages; transfers of equity; shared ownership; help to buy transactions & general property advice.