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Why does it take so long to buy my house?

Once you have found a house or flat to buy and agreed the price, you’ll probably be eager to make plans to move in. You’ve instructed someone to do the conveyancing, arranged for a survey to be carried out and applied for a mortgage so what’s the hold up?

The time period from when the seller’s conveyancer sends out the draft Contract and supporting paperwork to the exchange of contracts is normally four to six weeks. It can take less time if everyone co-operates and the title is straightforward, but it can also take much longer. To help you to take possession of your property quickly, here is an insight into the common areas which can cause delays.

Before the conveyancer can advise you to proceed with the purchase, certain steps need to be followed and information checked to make sure that legally everything is in order. As part of this process, a conveyancer will carry out various searches against the property. Whilst most of the search results will be available within 1 – 2 working days, the Local Authority Search can often take longer, sometimes significantly longer. It is worth discussing the Local Search with your conveyancer to find out how long this part of the process is likely to take.

Often the seller has to buy another home and the seller of that home likewise, and similarly you may have your own home to sell. This is known as a ‘Chain Transaction’, i.e. one where each move is dependent upon another. A chain will move more slowly than a normal transaction because it moves at the speed of the slowest link and, the longer the chain, the greater the scope for delay. To avoid being part of a long chain, some people sell their property and move into rented accommodation

If you are arranging a mortgage to finance the purchase, your conveyancer needs to receive mortgage instructions from your lender and, once received, will check them carefully to ensure any special conditions imposed by your lender have or will be complied with by completion. Some lenders will require that we check the buildings insurance you arrange meets with their requirements, such as being in joint names with you and your lender, adequate sum insured, ensuring all usual risks are covered and obtaining the insurer’s confirmation that the insurer will notify your lender if the policy is not renewed or is cancelled. It is worth checking these requirements with your insurer so that this part of the process does not delay exchange of contracts.

There may also be title defects to resolve or a lack of full legal rights for the proper enjoyment of the property.

When there is a “new build” property somewhere in the chain it will have an impact on the completion date as a buyer of a new build property is expected to complete “on notice” (notice being given by the Developer once the property is ready for occupation) rather than being offered a fixed completion date.

If you are purchasing a flat, additional information is required from the Landlord and/or Managing Agents concerning matters relating to service charge, buildings insurance and planned major works which a buyer needs to be made aware of. Some Landlords/Managing Agents can take a number of weeks to provide satisfactory replies. The seller of the flat may be able to speed up this part of the process.

In the end, the smooth running of the conveyancing process depends upon you finding a solicitor who can quickly identify any potential issues and work with all parties to overcome any barriers, good sense, open communication between all parties, the co-operation of everyone involved and a common desire to exchange contracts quickly.

Karen Harding, Solicitor, Debenhams Ottaway, 01727 738256, kh@dolegal.co.uk