Why exchanging contracts can take your conveyancer all day

23 Mar 2018

Why exchanging contracts can take your conveyancer all day, if not two days.

As anyone who has moved home before will know, exchange of contracts can seem to take an age, yet isn’t it a simple phone call between lawyers? When your conveyancer telephones you to ask permission to ‘exchange contracts’ and lock you into the deal, you would be excused for thinking that he will call you back in 5 minutes to say “all done”.

But so frequently, it can take much longer. Not because of laziness, but simply down to the availability of every lawyer in that chain of exchanges. Not too difficult when you are simply selling to a buyer, and it goes no further. That is a simple phone call…..once the conveyancers get hold of each other.

But imagine that you are selling (lawyer 1). Your buyer (lawyer 2) is also selling (lawyer 3) and their buyer (lawyer 4) is also selling (lawyer 5) and so on. It will all need to be linked so everyone exchanges at the same time. This means that every lawyer has to be available to take phone calls.

The longer the chain, the more likely someone will inadvertently frustrate an attempt to exchange.

How so?

  1. One of the conveyancers may be a volume style outfit, so getting hold of anyone to take responsibility may take all day
  2. A conveyancer may work part time, and not have left the file with a colleague
  3. A conveyancer may be on holiday – without having given prior warning – and there is no cover!?
  4. The chain start the phone calls between lawyers, and one of the conveyancers has gone home early – without prior warning
  5. A conveyancer may be in a stream of meetings
  6. A conveyancer may have many exchanges, and yours is in the pile

But there are even more unusual frustrations:

  • An estate agent may phone because they have heard the exchange was happening, or even call to ask “has it happened yet” – tying up the phone line between lawyers
  • A conveyancers client may become impatient, and call for an update – again tying up the line. When a client calls, you have to freeze everything, just in case they have changed their mind, and that means missing a chance to exchange
  • One of the conveyancers suddenly realises they have not had their clients sign the contract or they have not yet received their client’s deposit – having assumed they had

So whilst in general terms, an exchange can be a matter of minutes, often it can span a whole day while conveyancers make themselves available.