Generally speaking, conveyancing is going to take between 8 and 16 weeks – depending on the complexities of your home sale and how reliant it is on other transactions.
Indeed, the length of the conveyancing process is one of those open-ended questions that industry professionals never really like to answer.
The main reason conveyancers cite is that there are factors that can slow down the sale, often beyond their control.
There is a lot of truth in this. It’s in the conveyancing firms’ best interests to process things quickly – especially as most operate on a no sale, no fee basis.
They have a fiduciary duty to make sure everything is executed in the correct manner.
Seemingly trivial issues to someone with no legal experience can often take a while to deal with not to mention compliance-related obligations that must be satisfied.
Much will also depend on whether you’re selling/buying a freehold or leasehold property (the latter will take longer).
However, there are instances where conveyancers need to be chased. Often unintentionally, many conveyancers end up with heavy caseloads meaning cases end up de-prioritised.
You should therefore be careful about who you pick, particularly if you’re embarking on a time-pressured sale.
For example in auction scenarios or in the sell house fast industry where we operate, speedy conveyancing is essential.
Here at Property Solvers, for example, we work with quick conveyancers and can offer completions within as little as 7 days (although typically we get things done within the month).
The timescales below will give you a rough idea of how long the process will take.
As mentioned above, it’s hard to be precise – especially if the sale comes as part of a chain or there are other complexities (see below).
There are a number of things you can focus on which can help things moving along quicker…
Finding a decent conveyancer to work with can seem like a bit of a minefield.
We always suggest shopping around, checking reviews as well as speaking to friends, family and neighbours.
Conveyancing firms should be registered at the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).
We’d also recommend instructing the conveyancer in good time so that you don’t have to worry about the admin-related process once the sale is agreed.
Once a conveyancer gets a solid reputation, they often get inundated with instructions.
This sometimes means they’re juggling many house sales transactions at the same time and your case can end up pushed to the bottom of the pile.
To get around this potential issue, it’s worth asking how busy the conveyancer is. Most will be honest with you.
You can then decide whether it’s worth looking elsewhere.
Before instructing the conveyancer, you’ll be asked about the sale details. This may include whether:
Once the conveyancer knows more about your selling situation, you’ll be able to get an idea of how long things will take (and also confirm the fee).
Although the timeframe will not be 100% accurate, honest conveyancers should be able to let you know approximately.
Online conveyancers usually also have their own tracking systems with specific milestones they will work towards.
Remember the estate agent’s job doesn’t end after the sale is agreed.
It’s their job to stay on top of things and accompany the entire conveyancing process from start to finish.
They will be able to contact both conveyancers and chase things up, should you need any help.
For example, here at the Property Solvers 28-day estate agency, we have an online tracking system that alerts as to where our sales under management are at.
We can then contact the conveyancers on behalf of our clients.
As estate agents, we never recommend our seller clients agree to move forward without the buyer showing:
Note this is not a guarantee that the mortgage lender will advance the funding.
However, it’s a good sign that things should move forward assuming there are no issues with the survey, conveyancing searches, enquiries and other risk analysis checks.
As a buyer, you can chase the mortgage lender to make sure things are moving in the right direction.
Also, make sure that all the correct information regarding the sale is sent to the lender to avoid any confusion.
As a buyer, it’s important to make sure the conveyancer can act for your mortgage lender.
This means that they will be on the lender’s approved panel of conveyancers.
There can be delays if the conveyancer isn’t on the panel and has to work with another firm.
However, we have noticed that conveyancers that are not on lender panels are building processes to ensure the setbacks are minimised.
Often, this means collaborating with an approved firm (and they cover the extra costs themselves).
The estate agent should have sent the Memorandum of Sale the moment the offer is accepted.
Both sides should make sure identification documents are provided early in the conveyancing process.
Buyers will be sent a welcome pack from the conveyancer. Amongst other details, details of the deposit and mortgage offer will need to be sent. If some of the money is coming from a loan or family gift, specific evidence and documentation will be required as well.
When selling, your conveyancer will request any documentation to be passed on to the buyer’s side once verified.
This may include gas / electrical certification, previous planning permissions, building regulation documents, FENSA certificates for any new windows / doors you’ve installed and other warranties.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to have all these documents prepared beforehand.
If you’re selling, try to get all the legal forms – such as the TA6 (Property Information Form) and TA10 (Fixtures & Contents Form) – completed in good time. Make sure they are completed to the best of your ability to avoid information recalls and other delays.
All this means the draft contract can get drawn up quickly without any unnecessary issues arising.
If the property is unregistered (at HM Land Registry), a series of legal procedures will need to be undertaken before the sale can go ahead.
Other issues that can appear are on Title Register investigations include restrictive covenants, negative easements, third-party consents and ransom strips.
Other times, probate has not been granted for an inherited property being sold (which delays the process).
As long as the conveyancer is alerted to any such issues earlier in the process, there shouldn’t be any problems.
Ideally, the seller should have eliminated these issues prior to starting conveyancing.
Leasehold properties, generally speaking, are going to take longer as the conveyancer needs to check the lease for issues including:
For this reason, management packs and other related documents regarding the lease will also have to be obtained.
Where possible, try and speak to the freeholder (landlord) yourself and make sure they have everything prepared beforehand.
Unfortunately, the landlord is under no obligation to deal with responses within any specific timeframe. Most, however, are fairly cooperative in our experience.
Shared-ownership property sales are always more complicated as the conveyancer inevitably has to effectively deal with another involved party.
Ask your conveyancer early in the process to request all the necessary requirements.
This may include outstanding secured debt figures, any covenants regarding disposal, underlying rental (lease) contracts and associated share agreements.
One of the reasons we see things fall apart is from buyers getting cold feet because they feel they’ve offered too much.
We always encourage seller’s to follow HM Land Registry led sold prices and not speculative estate agency estimations.
We occasionally see the buyer or seller taking a slow approach to things.
Both sides should be responding to emails, taking/returning calls and making sure they’re being proactive.
Sometimes the reasons are justified but if you or the conveyancer start to see unnatural delays with the other side, it’s worth chasing things up.
In short, communication is key.
On this note, make sure you notify your conveyancer if you’re taking a holiday or going to be away.
Buyers should also make sure any concerns are addressed early on (rather than at the last minute).
If there are any aspects you’re not happy with, don’t be afraid to contact the conveyancing firm’s management.
In our own work as a ‘we buy any house’ company, we occasionally see that the secured debts against the property are higher than initially declared.
For instance, in addition to the mortgage, the seller may have taken out another loan against the property. Or a credit card or personal loan debt has been converted into a secured loan.
If the overall debt is too high, this often means that the seller will have to find money from somewhere to plug the gap.
Again, as long as the conveyancer discovers the issue quickly enough, and the seller genuinely has the funds in place, there shouldn’t be any issues.
Whilst the conveyancers start their work, the buyer should organise a survey / valuation using a professional from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
If a mortgage is being used, the lender will use a survey from its own panel. Buyers may wish to instruct their own ‘homebuyers’ survey – which can be done at the same time.
Either way, both sides can make sure this is done as quickly as possible as other aspects of the sale cannot proceed without this being in place.
Remember, you can ask the estate agent to chase things up.
Surveys sometimes come back with problems ranging from small repairs to more serious questions like subsidence, damp, bowed walls, Japanese knotweed or major roof repairs.
Other times, it may appear that there have been irregular works carried out on the property (without planning consent).
If the estate agency has done its job properly, any issues revealed in the survey should be factored into the price being paid for the property.
However, the buyer may wish to negotiate the price (to factor in the remediation costs). The seller can, of course, reject or offer to do the works before completion as a condition of sale.
Mortgage surveys sometimes also come back with a down valuation, an issue overcome in the first place by pricing realistically (see above).
Sometimes there are unnecessary frictions between conveyancers which lead to annoying delays.
Your estate agent should be staying on top of the sale and update you regularly. Don’t be afraid to chase both the conveyancer or the agent whenever you need to.
As a buyer, ensure your conveyancer starts the searches shortly after instruction, particularly if you’re in a more rural area.
The Local Authority search is likely to take the longest as either the conveyancer or the search provider needs to get in touch with the council and then produce a report. In reality, some are better than others.
Your conveyancer may recommend taking out an indemnity insurance policy to protect you against negative search results.
However, these will not protect you against more serious issues like flood risk or building works that could adversely affect the property.
If such problems emerge, it can take time (and money) for them to be dealt with. It’s for this reason that we always recommend waiting for all the searches to be in place.
There are times when the seller only starts looking for a new property once they have a buyer in place.
Although somewhat understandable (especially with more expensive home sales), this will certainly prolong the sales process – especially if they will be buying with a new mortgage.
Ultimately you want the seller to already be close to completing on the purchase of their new property or perhaps moving into temporary / rented accommodation.
Related to the last point, before moving forward, make sure you have a clear picture of other sales involved.
Not only would you have to ensure that all the completions happen simultaneously, but there would be a huge amount of organisation for everything to get ‘all the ducks in a row’.
For instance, if all the parties are using mortgages, there’s extra work for the conveyancers to make sure everything is organised on time.
Essentially, a single problem within the chain has a domino effect on all the other sales.
This is why it’s usually best to work with a cash buyer or, at least, one that isn’t in a chain. If you’re selling to a first-time buyer, for instance, at least you’ll know that there are no dependent sales.
Things get even more complicated if the seller is buying a new build property that isn’t ready to move into.
Once all the searches are through, the buyer’s conveyancer will send a series of questions to the seller’s conveyancer.
Sometimes extra information or documentation is required (with leasehold sales this is often the case).
If you’re selling, make sure your conveyancer is proactive when dealing with the enquiries.
The conveyancers will not proceed with the final stages of the sale without being 100% comfortable with everything.
If a delayed time period has been agreed between exchange and completion, there’s nothing stopping either party to at least ask for things to get done faster.
Below we’ve summarised some of the common questions asked on the internet about the speed of conveyancing…
Broadly speaking, you’ll be looking at around 8-10 weeks from when the sale is agreed. This could be a few weeks less if the property is being purchased with cash.
Although things are not risk-free, we often encourage sellers to proceed with buyer’s that are in this position.
Moving forward with a no-chain sale means you’re eliminating the risks of the other house sales falling through.
Especially in the digital age we live in, like many buyers and sellers, we’re still surprised at the length of time conveyancing takes.
There’s an argument that things could be done a lot quicker and conveyancers deliberately slow down the process to charge higher fees.
Yet, at the same time, it’s important for conveyancers not to cut corners. House sales and transfers of equity involve a huge sum of money. There is a range of processes that require detailed analysis.
Solicitors also need to cover their own positions. For example, correcting any errors made can cost a huge sum of money at the courts.
Although conveyancers are covered by indemnity insurance policies, doing things in the wrong way could mean they could lose their right to practice.
Note, if you’re thinking about a DIY conveyancing approach, the time it will take will almost certainly be longer.
Annoyingly, this is another one of those ‘how long is a piece of string’ questions your conveyancer will come back to you with.
The longest by far is the Local Authority search which varies from council-to-council. Generally, your conveyancer will need to wait at least 3 weeks for this to come through.
The good news is that most of the others will come back in a few days.