How quickly can I complete my house sale or purchase?

09 Aug 2013

We aim to say about 5 weeks. But it can be shorter or longer than that.

The conveyancing solicitor does play a part in the speed (or delay) of a property transaction, but there are a whole host of other factors, and certainly at the start of any sale or purchase, asking a conveyancing solicitor this question will be almost impossible for them to answer for the following obvious reasons:

  • Seller and buyer agree a price but overlook discussing dates, so the deal just ambles on without a target in sight.
  • The seller instructs their conveyancing solicitor far later than they should, often only once they accept an offer. Their conveyancer is then on the back foot trying to source all the required legal papers and the chain lose 1-2 weeks during that time.
  • The buyer instructs their conveyancing solicitor later than they should have, again once they have an offer accepted, and so their conveyancer is on the back foot taking identification and – quite a lot of firms do this – waiting to receive money on account before they do anything at all.
  • There may be a chain of parties involved. Not just your seller, but a seller to them if they are buying too, and so on. Each party will have their own agenda, and could fall into the above delays themselves.
  • The quality of the conveyancer has a direct impact on the speed of the transaction. Are they an actual solicitor or chartered legal executive, able to make educated and instant decisions without seeking permission from a colleague? Are they volume based, and so busy that your legal work might attract just a six minute window of attention, maybe every three days? Perhaps a cheap conveyancer who will reduce the attention they spend to make the deal still profitable for them? Or are they a small conveyancing team where insufficient holiday/illness cover or being too busy delays things?
  • Does the conveyancing solicitor use a middleman for their conveyancing searches, which can add to the delay, rather than going direct to the source? In the case of Local Authority searches, there are some Councils who take a day to return the search, but some can take 10 weeks!? Using a middleman search company to source the conveyancer’s searches can mean the conveyancer cannot chase the Local Authority for the result, as it is not the conveyancer’s search to chase, and then they are reliant on the efficiency of the search company to take an interest in chasing.
  • The quality of the legal papers may delay things. The Law Society under its CQS (Conveyancing Quality Scheme) accreditation requires it’s members to make sure that when a conveyancer is selling property, that they check through the replies a seller gives in questionnaires and supplies a buyer with mentioned documents, planning consents and documents mentioned in the registered title. Unfortunately, this is overlooked in more cases than not it would seem, with the result that time is lost while the buyer is then forced to remind the selling lawyer to supply them, often 2-3 weeks down the line.
  • Every sale and purchase has a minimum amount of stages, which need to be gone through, and this just takes time. Of course, if buyer and seller and their conveyancers work together, a sale/purchase could be completed within hours, but that is rare, and only if properly organised as an express term of the sale.

Over the last few months, the property market has picked up quite dramatically, and yet this also means that choosing the right conveyancing solicitor is critical. You do not want their ‘quality’ to delay your house sale/ purchase. But so many do. How you should choose your conveyancer is critical.