Typically, it can take some conveyancing solicitors a week to ten days. And that is completely lost time.
Why so slow?
Conveyancing solicitors used to deal with houses sold using unregistered property deeds, and as a result, they would have to locate the client’s property deeds, which could often be stored in a bank or with the mortgage company and that would take the seven to ten days. In the meantime, the conveyancing solicitor would send the buyers’ solicitor a letter to at least say they are acting, that the deeds are being located and contracts will then be sent out.
Nowadays, unregistered land is now the exception, as most properties are now registered at the Land Registry. Conveyancing solicitors now simply need to log-on to the Land Registry website and they can instantly download a copy of the property’s deeds.
However, many conveyancing solicitors have not caught up, and many still send out their initial letter, and the 7-10 days still pass despite the land being registered. Rather than waiting for deeds, some conveyancing solicitors now choose to wait for their clients signed Terms of Business to arrive, ID, the general questionnaire forms that a seller completes personally as part of the contract papers, or maybe money on account of fees/Land Registry copy deeds fee (though these are usually only £12 maximum).
As a result, some conveyancing solicitors can indeed send out contract papers the day they are told of who the buyer’s lawyers are. This is by them simply visiting the Land Registry website, printing the deeds, preparing the contract with those details, obtaining copy planning consents and FENSA evidence from the respective websites; a pack allowing the legal conveyancing to start can be with the buyer’s lawyer the very next day. With some Councils taking a long time to return the ‘Local Authority’ search results, the sooner they are requested with a property plan, the less chance there is for a delay later on. Same day despatch of contract papers achieves this. That then just leaves the selling conveyancer to send on in a second letter to the buyers, their clients completed forms.
How quickly will the buyer’s conveyancer then reply to receipt of the contract papers is a whole other question.