It is a common grumble that conveyancing matters take longer than expected, says Lisa Rigby, who is a very experienced Licensed Conveyancer.
In the digital age where reams of information are available online it can feel sometimes that the process of buying a house is slow and paper intensive but there may be more involved than you realise. We know that that buyers are keen to move to their new properties as soon as possible but did you know that the average transaction does still take around 12 weeks from offer to completion.
So why so long?
Well there are a number of factors which could contribute to delays. Here are some common causes:
Conveyancers are required by law to verify the identify of their clients and the source of all funds to combat fraud, identity theft and money laundering, so please make sure you have your ID documents and proof of deposit readily available as this must be dealt with at the very start of the transaction. Although ID checks can be carried out electronically, we may still ask you to come to the office to provide photo ID.
If you are selling a property and have carried work to it such as adding an extension, we recommend you gather up planning and building regulation paperwork together at an early stage. Check that you have your Final Certificates. A surprising number of sellers do not request the building inspector to attend for the final inspection and so do not receive their Completion Certificates. A lot of time can be lost organising duplicate certificates and guarantees.
Lost Title Deeds
Although most properties are now registered with the Land Registry some unregistered land remains particularly where the property has remained in the same family for many years. If you do have original deeds, then please keep these safe.
Missing rights are common cause of delay. When viewing a property make a point of checking for private access roads and shared driveways, private or shared services such as drainage and other unusual features. Rural properties may be connected to private drainage systems or sewerage treatment plants which can be individual or serving the entire village.
Service Information Packs
These are required for leasehold properties or any property with an estate service charge. These packs can take anything between two weeks and eight weeks on average to be returned by management companies and the costs can vary enormously. If your property is subject to a service charge, then let your conveyancer know early and be prepared to pay the fee upfront.
Missing Landlords and Defective Leases
If your property is leasehold or subject to a ground rent, make sure you have your latest ground rent receipt or contact details for the freeholder available. This may not the same person to whom you pay your service charge. If your lease requires any amendments to bring it up to date, then the freeholder will need to be involved.
Uncontactable Sellers or Buyers
If the seller or buyer is out of the country, on holiday or travelling for business then delays may follow while paperwork is sent for signature. A Power of Attorney or electronic signature may not always be possible or appropriate. Some people may wish to defer the completion date due to work commitments or holidays or to avoid exam times or may be restricted as to when they can take time off such as key workers and teachers.
Many buyers, particularly first time buyers are disappointed to find that they cannot borrow as much as they had hoped by way of mortgage and after spending several weeks trying different lenders are forced to withdraw from the purchase much to the annoyance of their seller. It is a good idea to speak to your bank or financial adviser before making an offer for a property. If you are funding your purchase from savings, check how long it takes to release the funds – remember a Life Time ISA can take up to three weeks to be released. If you are receiving a gifted deposit, you will need to provide information on the source of those funds not only to your conveyancer but also to your mortgage lender, so remember to submit your paperwork early.
Although most local authorities are able to return an Official Local Search in one to two weeks, some do require much longer as not all records are digital or readily available. Further searches may also be required for properties in particular areas such as former coal mining or tin mining areas or relative to the particular property such as a Highways Search to establish the full extent of the public roadway where there are access issues.
As you can see Conveyancers are required to gather information from a large number of third parties and to comply with legislation. We are also required to comply with your mortgage lender’s requirements. Often they will have a larger financial stake in the transaction than you do and it may be necessary for us to report certain matters relating to the transaction or the property to the lender or their valuer for further consideration.
Whilst any delay may be a source of frustration, particularly where you may have a target moving date in mind, there may be factors outside of your conveyancer’s control. Whilst we will always do our best to push the transaction along quickly to meet your preferred timescales it is important that the documentation is correct to avoid future problems so you may need to be flexible on your target dates and review these regularly as the transaction proceeds.
We are on hand to help you move
Our Residential Property team are continuing to work hard to make sure risks are minimalised, contracts are kept to and your transaction is as seamless as possible during this difficult time.
We have taken steps to continue to strive to provide a highly personalised service to you and are able to use various video platforms such as Zoom, Skype and FaceTime, so we can get in touch with you and other parties involved in the sale, regardless of location.
Alternatively click here to go to our contact page.
This article is current at the date of publication set out above and is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.