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Conveyancing timeline: How long does it take?

You can't buy or sell a home without going through conveyancing. It’s the legal process that transfers the ownership of a property from one person to another. But how long does conveyancing take?

How long does conveyancing take?

Conveyancing typically takes 12-16 weeks. However, this duration can vary based on factors like if the survey reveals problems or there’s a delay in getting property searches back.

Stages of the conveyancing process

In summary, how long each step in the conveyancing process takes is as follows:

The conveyancing process begins once your offer to buy a property is accepted. You need to appoint a conveyancing solicitor as soon as possible – ideally at the same time you instruct your estate agent – so they can start working on your behalf.

What your conveyancing solicitor will do then is obtain and review legal documents in order to provide you with legal advice on your purchase.  They will speak to the seller’s solicitor for the draft contract and start local searches. Local authority searches should take 10 days, but many local authorities miss this deadline. Recent turnaround times reported by Property Searches Direct in January 2024 revealed the worst offenders were taking more than 25 working days to return local authority searches.

At the same time as the searches are being ordered, you’ll want to conduct a survey of the property to get an independent report of the condition of the home you want to buy. Find a surveyor now to get a date in the diary for your survey. How long it takes to get a survey can vary according to a number of factors. You can usually get your survey report within a day or two but it can take as long as 1 month depending on how busy your local surveyors are.

Hopefully before you made an offer on the property you had a Mortgage Agreement in Principle in place. Once your offer has been accepted, your mortgage lender will start the process of turning that into a definitive mortgage offer. It takes about a month from mortgage application to mortgage offer.

While your lender is busy working on your mortgage application your conveyancing solicitor should be working on your draft contract. This means bringing together all the necessary information from the Land Registry, the seller and the seller’s conveyancer.

Searches and surveys returned at this time can also raise issues that need to be resolved. This means the draft contract phase of the conveyancing process can take anywhere from a very straightforward 2 weeks to 10 weeks.

Once your mortgage offer is in place, your pre-contract enquiries have been answered, and the survey and searches have been sorted out, you are ready to exchange contracts. At this point a completion date should be set.

Average time from exchange to completion

The average time from exchange to completion is one week but it can be whatever date works for both parties and the chain. For example, a seller may ask for a long time between exchange and completion to give them time to tie in with their onward purchase.

On completion day, you will exchange keys and own your new home. On the day, both conveyancing solicitors will organise for all the funds to be transferred. The seller usually needs to vacate the property by midday with the buyer getting the keys mid-afternoon once all money has been received by the seller’s solicitor.

Our recent research revealed 115,000 home moves are delayed each year because funds don’t arrive on time and sellers take longer to vacate properties. Over 20,000 moves had to be cancelled altogether because of funds not arriving in time.

How long from searches to exchange

The average time from getting property searches back to exchange is around three weeks. If the local authority searches raise any issues this process can take longer.

How long after the survey to completion?

Completion typically happens around six weeks after your survey, assuming no problems have been highlighted by the survey and there are no delays in the conveyancing process. However, if get a bad house survey, for example if it shows the property is showing signs on subsidence the process will take longer as you’ll need to decide what to do about your purchase. Read more in our guide A bad house survey report: What to do next. Though less common, other things can go wrong between exchange and completion to cause delays.

What delays conveyancing?

As well as the survey revealing problems, there are a lot of different factors that can delay conveyancing. The most common one is that either the buyer or seller, or their legal representatives, take their time responding to enquiries.

Other common reasons for delays to the conveyancing process are:

How long does conveyancing take with no chain?

The conveyancing process can take as little as four weeks if there’s no chain, although the average time it takes is 12 weeks, even with a straightforward sale.

By comparison, if you are in a housing chain – your buyer is simultaneously selling their own home, or your seller is in the buying process – that can have a significant impact on how long conveyancing takes.

A problem with one transaction in the chain can delay everyone. For example, if one transaction is delayed due to a problem with a mortgage it could lead to everyone’s conveyancing process being delayed.

How long does conveyancing take a cash buyer?

If you are a cash buyer, buying a house without a mortgage, then you should be able to complete quicker as one potential area for delay in the conveyancing process is removed – the mortgage application.

This can speed the process up, but you may still want to have a survey done, you will want to instruct your conveyancer to conduct local searches and allow your solicitor time to get all the information needed for the contract.

How long does it take to buy a new build home?

Buying a new build home is often slightly more complicated.

How long does it take to buy a leasehold home?

It also often costs more and takes longer to buy a leasehold home. This is because there is often more legal work involved with a leasehold property and a lot more potential ongoing costs that you will want to consider and be aware of. Find out more in our guide to the Leasehold Conveyancing Process.

How to avoid delays in conveyancing

How long conveyancing takes in practice is often about avoiding unnecessary delays.

Make sure you instruct your conveyancing solicitor as soon as possible when you start your house move. An unresponsive legal representative can really throw a spanner in the works.

If you are selling a property, the estate agent can also make a big difference to how long the sale process takes. Most of their fee is earned after an offer is accepted by making sure the offer becomes a sale. Ask if an estate agent has someone dedicated to sales progression. Their job is to speak to both the buyer, the vendor and their legal representatives regularly to make sure everything is on track.

Finally, don’t let the side down yourself. Make sure all parties have up-to-date contact details for you and respond to all enquiries as quickly as possible. Check in with you solicitor and estate agent regularly (at least once a week) to see how the process is going and to make sure they aren’t waiting for anything from you.

Our survey also found movers in a property chain are more likely to be affected by delays. One in four (25%) homeowners buying in a chain report delays or cancellations on moving day.

Article from Home Owners Alliance by Angela Kerr


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