Removals companies want to know why they are given little notice of completion and why the money takes so long to arrive and for keys to be released?

20 Sep 2011

It is easy to overlook how many people and businesses are in fact caught up in the house moving process – the buyer, seller, their conveyancers, surveyors, mortgage advisers, and of course removals. Indeed, conveyancers are often informed by their clients that ‘the removal company is waiting outside’.

So why are removal companies given such short notice?

The answer in large part is the fault of the conveyancing system itself. The customer should tell their removals that they want to pencil in a booking, and to do this as early as possible, but the one thing that has to be left unknown, is the actual date of the move. This date is invariably not known with certainty until the very day of exchange of contracts.

The conveyancing system in England and Wales is split into two parts. An exchange of contracts – from which point the parties are locked in and cannot back out without severe financial penalty – and a future move date known as ‘completion’. Unfortunately, the exchange of contracts is not the point where a buyer first tells the agent ‘I offer £X for the house’ and the Seller accepts it. The law prescribes that it comes once written contracts are drawn up and both seller and buyer agree to date the document making it binding.

Unfortunately, no one will agree to a binding contract that they are locked into until the buyer has had a chance to survey the property, raise finance (usually by mortgage) and have their conveyancer agree to the contract papers, deeds, searches and other documents relating to the property. This in turn typically takes many weeks after the seller’s acceptance of the buyer’s offer.

Again, it is unfortunate that a pack (like an auction pack, and with far more content than a Home Information Pack ever gave) is not available with all this up front information, so that the buyer could make an offer which was binding if accepted.

A removal company is invariably told the date required for the move only on the day of exchange, but the problem then is, that the buyer and seller were probably fed up with having waited so long to exchange, that they set a very small gap until the completion day – typically one or two business weeks – usually just enough time for the conveyancer to request mortgage funds and do their last minute searches. The removal company’s feeling that one or two weeks is short notice is understood when you realise that removals make many moves a week, and most people like Fridays

Why does the money takes so long to arrive/transfer on the day of completion?

This is a frustration for many property deals. The fault lies with various parties. The quality of the conveyancer for one. A good conveyancer for a buyer will make sure that on the day before completion, they already hold the mortgage money and any balance their client needed to pay. So, on the morning of completion, they can send the seller all the money even before 9am. But there are still so many conveyancers who overlook asking for the mortgage a day early, and overlook the balance their own client needs to send. This can mean they end up sending all the money very late on the day of completion – keeping everyone waiting outside houses.

That said, it is true that a conveyancer may not be able to be fully in funds the day before, because in turn they may be relying on receiving money on their client’s related sale, and the Buyer’s conveyancer may be the one who did not get in funds a day early or failed to send the money at or close to 9am.

Indeed, if the chain of buyers and sellers is a long one, then it just takes time for money to travel along it (i.e yo send, receive, send, receive and so on).

Once the money does arrive, then it is also surprising how slow conveyancers are to react and to authorise the release of their clients keys through the estate agents. Their own systems may be inefficient to alert them to the incoming money, or the conveyancer may be at lunch and there is no one to release the keys let alone call the sending solicitor to confirm that the deal is done. Or the conveyancer just forgets to make the calls. Both can often happen.

Then again, conveyancers are also to blame for failing to tell their clients when they should vacate the property on the day of completion. By noon at the latest is typical, as buyers need to move in. Of course, clients may have been told and are still going slow, or have unexpected delay.

But it is so common to hear a selling conveyancer say on the day of completion “I cannot release the keys as I have not received any money”. When that conveyancer chases the buyer’s solicitor for the money they are invariably told “we have not received the money to send to you”. And so on down. You then have to wonder if the Buyer at the bottom of the chain has a conveyancer who failed to get in funds the day before.

Solutions-
1. When acting for a buyer at the start of a chain of buyers and sellers, make sure your conveyancer holds mortgage and client monies the day before completion.
2. Make sure that conveyancer then sends the money as early as possible on the morning of completion.
3. Make sure as a receiving seller’s conveyancer that their banking systems alert them the moment the money arrives, and that they release keys and call the conveyancer who sent you the money as promptly as possible
4. Make sure that in turn the conveyancer sends on the money to the next seller promptly – having it pre-arranged with their accounts team to do this automatically on receipt of the funds they are expecting
5. And most of all, make sure as a selling conveyancer, that conveyancer advises ltheir client to pack up and leave their property as soon as possible on the morning of completion.

Removals are running a business, and we should not forget or inconvenience them because of avoidable inefficient practice.