Moving house is an exciting time. You could be moving to be closer to family, or finally moving into your dream home. Having your offer accepted is just the first step in the process, though.
8th July, 2022
Moving house is an exciting time. You could be moving to be closer to family, or finally moving into your dream home. Having your offer accepted is just the first step in the process, though. Once your offer is accepted you need to go through the process of actually buying the property. Naturally, everyone wants this to go as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is to speed up conveyancing.
Conveyancing can be a real headache and can sometimes stretch over 4 months or more. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about conveyancing and how you can speed it up.
Need the answer to a specific question such as how long between exchange and completion? This article is a long one, so use the menu below to skip to the part you’re interested in. Otherwise, read on to become a conveyancing expert.
Before we launch into an explanation of how to speed up the conveyancing process when buying or selling a house, it’s a good idea to cover what a conveyancer does!
What’s the difference between a conveyancer and a solicitor?
What is a conveyancer? Conveyancers are usually solicitors, but, contrary to popular belief, they aren’t always. So what’s the difference between a conveyancer and a solicitor? A licensed conveyancer specialises only in the buying and selling of properties. Normally they won’t have a wider knowledge of the law. Conveyancers who aren’t solicitors are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). On the other hand, a conveyancing solicitor will typically be qualified in other parts of law and property law, such as remortgaging, equity release, and so on.
What does the conveyancing process look like?
In the context of buying or selling a house, conveyancers and conveyancing solicitors do the same thing. But what do conveyancers do? In short, they look after the legal aspects of buying or selling a property and they handle the transference of home ownership. They perform a critical role in the transaction, their process usually looks something like this:
1. Opening the file
When the conveyancer or solicitor opens the file they will explain any fees and deposits that you need to pay and walk you through the process. They’ll also ask you to fill out some basic details and provide ID and proof of address so that they can conduct Anti Money Laundering (AML) checks.
2. Issue draft contracts
Once the conveyancer has opened the file and performed the necessary checks, they will contact the other party’s solicitor to get draft contracts and any other critical documents (such as title deeds). If you’re the seller of the property, your conveyancer will ask for a copy of the memorandum of sale. This details everyone involved in the property chain. You’ll also be asked to fill out a fittings and contents form (TA10).
3. Freehold or Leasehold
When reviewing the contracts your conveyancer will establish whether the property is a freehold or leasehold. You can check out our complete guide for more information on the difference between freehold and leasehold. But, in short, a freehold title means that you have the ultimate ownership of a property and the land on which it is built. A leasehold title means that you own the property subject to the provisions contained within the lease. This is for a fixed number of years and does not necessarily mean that you own the building that the apartment or flat is in, nor the land on which it is built.
4. Property searches
If you’re buying the property, the conveyancer will order property searches on your behalf. You will have to pay for these as an additional disbursement. Property searches aren’t necessary – but they’re highly recommended. Property searches are an excellent source of information about a property and include things like planning permission for future developments in the area, details of access and drainage rights, and any issues with the quality of land on which the property has been built.
5. Forms and documents
Whilst waiting for the results of the property searches, you will have to complete some forms if you are selling the property. For more information on exactly what you’ll need to complete, see our list of documents needed to sell your house. The two most important forms are the Property Information Form (TA6) and the Fittings and Contents Form (TA10). We’ve given you a brief explanation of each below.
Property Information Form (TA6). This form provides a comprehensive set of information about your property to the buyer. It includes things like property boundaries, disputes, notices and proposals, insurance, charges, guarantees and warranties, amongst other things. The TA6 is a very detailed document and you must be as thorough as possible. Any incorrect or missing information could leave you exposed to a claim for compensation.
Fittings and Contents Form (TA10). Also known as the Fixtures and Fittings Form. This document isn’t essential to sell your house, but it’s recommended to avoid disputes and confusion. The TA10 outlines all fixtures and fittings that are included in or excluded from the sale.
Once both solicitors/conveyancers have the searches and necessary documents, they’ll go about raising enquiries and checks. These are typically points of clarification on the documents. They could be things like flood risk reports, defective leases, or unclear deeds. If these enquiries surface issues or problems then it can delay the conveyancing process until a solution emerges. It’s easy to get frustrated at these delays, but it’s important to iron out any dispute before the exchange of contracts. Once the conveyancers have arrived at a solution they’ll send you the documents to sign and return.
Before exchange, the buyer’s solicitor will request that they make a deposit (usually 5-10% of the purchase price) for the property purchase. This is usually taken by bank transfer and can be made either in one lump sum payment or in several smaller payments.
8. Exchange and Completion
Once the deposit has been taken from the buyer, the next step is to agree on a date to exchange contracts. Once contracts have been exchanged, the transaction becomes legally binding. Completion can take place on the same day as the exchange, but there are usually a couple of weeks between the two dates. This gives the two parties time to take care of any last-minute admin and allows the buyer to draw down mortgage funds to complete the purchase.
On the day of completion, the full amount is transferred to the seller’s conveyancer. The seller’s conveyancer then pays any outstanding amounts (e.g. outstanding mortgage) and pays the seller the remaining balance. The buyer gets the keys and can move in!
9. After Completion
Once completion has taken place the buyer is the owner of the property. There are still a few outstanding tasks for the conveyancer. They will need to pay the stamp duty on behalf of the buyer, and also send the documents to the Land Registry to register the transfer of ownership.
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It all depends on the complexity of the transaction. In theory, it can be done in as little as a month, but in practice conveyancing usually takes between 12 and 16 weeks. This is because various bits crop up and cause delays. In the next section, we’ll take a look at some of the most common factors that cause delays.
Why is conveyancing so slow?
Sometimes it can feel like conveyancing takes forever. But why is conveyancing taking so long? Understanding what causes delays in the process can ease the frustration, and let you know what you can do to speed up solicitors when you’re buying a house. We’ve given you an overview of some of the most common delays here.
1. Third-party delays
The most common form of delay is unfortunately often out of your control. Delays from third parties (i.e. not your conveyancer or the seller/buyer) can delay the conveyancing process. One example of this is leasehold information from management companies. If the property you’re purchasing is a leasehold, your conveyancer will request an LPE1 from the freeholder or management company. This often takes a while to come back but is worth waiting for as it contains important information about the property’s lease. You can click here to download a sample LPE1 form.
2. Overwhelmed solicitors
If you suspect that your solicitor is progressing your file more slowly than they should, they may be overwhelmed with work. Since the introduction of measures in 2020 to bolster the housing market against the impact of the pandemic, the market has boomed. This has generated a lot of work for conveyancers and created delays in the conveyancing process. However, the market seems to be easing off recently. If you’re unhappy with your conveyancer’s performance, it’s worth having an open conversation with them and seeing what can be done to improve it, but more on that later.
3. Local authority searches
As part of the conveyancing process, your conveyancer will order a Local Authority Search. This gives you important information about the property, such as whether the building has charges against it, whether it is listed, and whether it’s affected by planned or proposed development schemes nearby. The government turnaround time target for Local Authority searches is 10 days, in reality, it’s much higher. According to data from Property Searches Direct, the average turnaround time on 5th July 2022 was 22 days. Several councils exceed 100 days. This causes a massive delay in the conveyancing process.
4. Waiting for surveys to be returned
Usually, a house survey must be conducted before the sale completes. Surveyors can take time, and the surveys can be long. This is worsened if the property is especially large or unusual.
5. Incorrect mortgage applications
Incorrect mortgage applications cause delays in the conveyancing process. If the information provided by the buyer is incorrect then a new application must be submitted and processed by the lender.
6. Gifted deposits
Buyers often use gifts (usually from a family member) to form part of their deposit. For anti-money laundering purposes the conveyancer is legally obliged to ask the buyer where the deposit monies are coming from. They then need to provide this information to the lender. If it’s not immediately declared by the buyer from the outset then it can cause significant delays as the conveyancer will need this information to proceed with the transaction.
7. Unsatisfactory responses to enquiries
One of the biggest delays during the conveyancing process is the enquiry stage. Once your conveyancer has received the property searches and forms, they will raise enquiries. If the seller’s responses are unsatisfactory or inadequate, it will delay the process until a solution is found.
8. Lengthy property chains
Finally, complex property chains can cause delays in the transaction. If the property seller has no onward chain, it’s much more straightforward. However, if there are a lot of buyers and sellers in the chain then completion ultimately depends on the next transaction. This adds complexity to the conveyancing process and often results in delays.
How to speed up conveyancing? Top tips
Now that we’ve covered the basics of conveyancing and what can cause delays, let’s discuss some tips to speed up conveyancing. People often assume that this is as simple as just putting pressure on your solicitor. However, the reality is that by being as prepared and proactive as possible, you can help to speed up the process.
In this section, we’ve split the tips between home buyers and sellers, as speeding up the conveyancing process for each is slightly different. There are a few general tips that apply to both though – so here’s what you can do to speed up your solicitor when buying or selling a house:
1. Communicate openly and frequently
Communication is key to speeding up the conveyancing process. Its importance can’t be understated. You should ask for regular updates from your solicitor about the status of your file. If you’re concerned about coming across as a nuisance, schedule the updates as a recurring event. It can be as simple as a 5-minute call once a week to update you on progress. This will help to keep you at the top of your solicitor’s mind and ensure that your file gets prioritised.
If you’re unsatisfied with the progress of your purchase or sale, you must voice your concerns as openly and quickly as possible. Conveyancers are notoriously overworked. So it’s unlikely that they’re intentionally neglecting your file, they’re probably just swamped. An initial nudge will put pressure on your solicitor to speed up the process. If this isn’t effective, find the practice complaint policy on their website. File a complaint and ask that your case is transferred to a more proactive solicitor.
2. Copy relevant parties in emails
Delays and confusion often arise because something has been missed. You can avoid this by making sure that both you and your conveyancer copy all relevant parties when emailing and clarifying information relating to the purchase/sale. This may feel like over-communication, but it’s better to keep everyone informed to prevent mistakes before they become a real problem!
3. Use email wherever possible
You can speed up conveyancing by using email wherever possible. If you can print, sign, and then scan copies of important documents back to your solicitor, you will shave many days off the time taken to complete the transaction. Default to an email unless your solicitor must have a hard copy of the document.
4. Choose the right solicitor
The key thing to look for when choosing a solicitor is proactivity. Choosing the right solicitor is arguably the most important factor in ensuring that your conveyancing runs smoothly. Whilst there’s always some unknown, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure that you get the best solicitor possible.
First, check their credentials. They should be part of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme and be Lexcel accredited. Second, check online reviews on independent sites such as Google and Trustpilot. Reviews tend to be from people who have had an especially good or bad experience, so keep this in mind. Instead, look for consistent themes that could be of concern. Third, pay attention to how they behave during your enquiry process when you’re obtaining a quote. If they are slow to respond and disorganised at this stage, it’s likely a warning sign of future things. Finally, try to get recommendations from family and friends. This is your most trustworthy resource and if you can get a really good recommendation then you’re putting yourself in a strong position.
5. Instruct solicitors as soon as possible
This advice applies to both buyers and sellers. If you have a solicitor in place before you either offer or accept an offer on a house then the whole process will run much more smoothly. Conveyancers have to run Anti Money Laundering (AML) checks on their clients before they can act for them. This can take a few days (up to a week) so getting it out of the way up front helps to speed up the conveyancing process.
Speed up solicitor for home buyers
We’ve already given you some general tips on how you can speed up conveyancing. Here we’ll cover some hints on how to speed up your solicitor when buying a home.
1. Get your finances sorted
Having your finances in order can prevent delays further down the line and reduces the burden on your conveyancer. It’s a good idea to get a mortgage “Agreement in Principle” from your chosen lender. This will let you know how much they are prepared to lend you and therefore you can budget accordingly.
2. Get a conveyancer that can work with your lender
Lenders will typically work with a panel of approved solicitors/conveyancers. As soon as your offer is accepted, make sure that your conveyancer is approved by your lender. Finding this out up-front and planning accordingly will avoid significant delays down the line and speed up the conveyancing process.
3. Keep your agent involved
If the estate agent is any good, they’ll chase the various parties in the chain and help to progress the sale through to completion. The agent doesn’t get paid until the sale completes, so their interests are aligned with yours. Communicate with them frequently to speed up the process of buying a house.
4. Book your survey early
Surveyors usually have a bit of a backlog. It’s worth booking a survey date as soon as you can to make sure you have plenty of time for the surveyor to attend the property, review it and then write up their report.
5. Search indemnification
If searches are taking a long time, you can speed up the conveyancing process by taking out search indemnity insurance. Search indemnity insurance allows the buyer to complete on a property without searches and without exposing themselves. The policy will normally cover the buyer against any loss that would’ve been revealed in a property search.
6. Consider personal searches
Official searches are typically conducted by the local authority. The information from those searches will be passed directly to your conveyancer. On the other hand, personal searches are conducted by property experts who work for companies that specialise in the field. Personal searches are normally quicker than official searches and they’re standardised, so they’ll sum up information for your solicitor clearly and concisely. Ordering personal searches will speed up the conveyancing process because they come more quickly and they summarise the information.
Speed up solicitor for home sellers
What about if you’re selling a house? Here are a few things you can do to speed up your solicitor if you’re selling your home.
1. Start the legal process
Make sure all your paperwork and information is collated, filed and ready for when you instruct a solicitor after accepting an offer. This will prevent delays and help to speed up the process of selling your home.
2. Complete paperwork as quickly as possible
Once you’ve instructed a solicitor they’ll send you some forms to fill out. These will provide information about the property and its contents. Make sure that you don’t delay when returning these documents, the buyer’s conveyancer won’t raise enquiries until they have them back. Be speedy, but don’t rush! Any incorrect information could open you up to a claim for compensation.
3. Apply for your LPE1 early on
The LPE1 form can take a very long time to come, depending on the management company. To progress through the conveyancing process and sell your house fast, apply for the LPE1 as soon as you know you’re going to need one.
4. Pick a proceed-able buyer
If you want to make sure that the legal process of buying or selling a house is sped up, picking the right buyer is one of the most impactful things that you can do. Chain-free or cash buyers tend to be less complex to deal with because they have fewer dependencies. Choosing a buyer like this could prevent your sale from falling through. This unfortunate outcome happens in approximately 1 in 3 property transactions.
5. Give quick responses to enquiries
Slow or inadequate responses to buyer enquiries are one of the biggest causes of delay in the conveyancing process. If you’re selling the property, make sure that you as thorough, accurate and fast in your responses to avoid any other delays.
How long from exchange to completion?
It depends on the buyer and seller and varies per transaction. However, it’s normally around 2 weeks between exchange and completion. This period gives time for buyers and sellers to organise removals and pack their belongings. It also allows time for both parties to sort out administrative matters like arranging mail redirection, bills, utilities and so on. Finally, this time can be used to draw down any mortgage funds required to complete the sale.
In this article we’ve walked you through what conveyancing is, what can cause delays, and general tips for how to speed up the conveyancing process. We covered specific hints for both buyers and sellers and we explained how long it is between exchange and completion.
We know that the conveyancing process can be trying at times. There are always unexpected roadblocks and it invariably takes longer than expected. If you’d rather avoid the headache of a long, drawn out sale – consider selling your house to SmoothSale. We buy any house in as little as 7 days and the best part is, it’s fee-free! Why not give us a call on 0800 368 8952 or enter your details and we’ll be in touch.