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Buying a home can be a stressful, time-consuming process, one that is often fraught with delays and other difficulties. There are things that you can do, however, to ensure that when buying or selling a home, things go as smoothly as possible.

In order to help you further understand the process and the problems that can be encountered throughout, we’ve put together this list of the top eighteen reasons for delays in the conveyancing process, along with advice on how to avoid them where possible.

Delays in the Conveyancing Process

The conveyancing process can be held up by many things, and it’s important to note that often these are out of the control of your conveyancer or estate agent. Typically, delays in the conveyancing process are caused further down the property chain, usually when waiting for information from other parties involved in the transaction.

1. Not instructing solicitor as soon as house is put on the market/an offer placed  

As soon as you place an offer on a property (or put a property on the market) your estate agent needs to know your property solicitor’s details. It’s therefore important to select a conveyancing firm early on in your search for a property to avoid delays.

2. Obtaining management pack for leasehold properties

With leasehold properties, the solicitor will also have to obtain the 'memorandum and articles of association' of the management company and the accounts of the management company over the past three years. If you are purchasing a leasehold property, inform your solicitor of this at the outset.

3. Lack of planning permission

When acting for a lender, conveyancers have a duty to ensure that all necessary planning permissions and building regulations approvals have been obtained in respect of constructing/making changes to a property. Even when no lender is involved there is a duty to the purchaser to ensure that any previous changes to a property were carried out correctly and meet applicable standards and regulations.

4. Receiving responses and legal documents from other conveyancers in the chain

Each of the potential delays listed here can occur further down the conveyancing chain. Delays caused by any parties in a chain of buyers and sellers, including those involving poor communication, will have a knock-on effect and can slow down the process significantly.

5. Other parties in the chain having different time scales

Again, a lot of potential delays in the conveyancing process will come down to other parties in the chain. For example, some Local Authorities will complete necessary searches within a few days, whereas others could take weeks.

6. Not signing or returning required legal documents on time

When purchasing a property, regardless of whether a lender is involved, there are numerous documents that need to be signed by both buyers and sellers, some of which need to be witnessed. Arranging to have this done can sometimes cause delays. To ensure that you don’t hold up the conveyancing process for yourselves or other parties in your chain, be sure to make yourself available to sign contracts, and always return documents as quickly as possible.

7. Gifted deposits

If your house deposit is a gift then you must declare this to your mortgage provider, and most will require a signature from the source confirming that the money does not need to be repaid. It is also likely that they will then follow the paper trail behind the amount to rule out money laundering, and this can cause delays. If you have received a gifted deposit, inform both your lender and solicitor of this at the beginning of the conveyancing process.

8. Longer mortgage affordability Interviews

In April 2014, new rules came into force to ensure that borrowers are not offered loans they cannot afford. In order to assess a borrower’s ability to pay their mortgage (and continue to do so should interest rates rise), tougher mortgage affordability tests have been put into place. These interviews can take up to three hours and passing them can be difficult, but to give yourself the best chance of doing so you should prepare by budgeting well for several months in advance to build a clear, consistent record of positive money management.

9. Time taken to complete mortgage valuation and surveys

Whilst mortgage valuations aren’t in depth surveys and don’t take long to complete (around 15-20 mins) it can take time for your mortgage provider to arrange to have one carried out. In addition, any further in-depth surveys that you may wish to have can also cause delays. Remember, once valuations and surveys have been carried out, the time it takes for the surveyor to write up their findings should also be considered. To avoid delays, if you do wish to have a surveyor carry out a structural survey, you should start looking into this as soon as you’ve had an offer accepted.

10. Incorrect information on mortgage application forms

Mistakes on a mortgage application can affect their processing and sometimes completely disqualify them. Common errors include:

  • National Insurance Number
  • Financial Background 
  • Misstating Income 
  • References 

To avoid having your application returned to you, take care when filling in your form and double check that all the information you have supplied is correct.

11. Transferring funds to solicitors

Your solicitor will be responsible for collecting and transferring money during the sale of a property. Most banks will not allow the transfer of sums over £10,000 without the use of CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System), but this service comes with a charge. Some people therefore decide to transfer money over a series of days to avoid this charge, or will write a cheque, but either of these methods will slow the process.

12. Mortgage offer expiring

Mortgage offers usually last between 3 and 6 months, and if they expire before all necessary legalities are complete, then a new mortgage will need to be applied for. Remember, sometimes delays are out of the hands of your solicitors, but at Howells Solicitors, we do everything we can to ensure that the conveyancing process is completed as quickly as possible, and we regularly achieve the fastest completion times

13. Parties being on holiday

At certain time of year (during summer, or over the Easter or Christmas holidays, for example) it’s likely that one or more parties in a conveyancing chain will be on holiday and conveyancing solicitors may also be closed over certain holidays. If you’re looking for your buying/selling process to be speedy, it’s important to consider this when you decide when to move.

14. Loss of title deeds

Title deeds are the paper documents that show the chain of ownership for a property. As Land Registry’s records are now digital, they don’t store original paper title deeds. However, if your property is not on their digital register, you will need to apply for first registration, and this can take time and involves proving your identity.

15. Local authority searches

Solicitors must make local authority searches to obtain details of who owns or is responsible for the roads or sewers surrounding the property and whether there are any road-widening proposals in place. In addition to this, separate inquiries may have to be made to the relevant water company. Again it’s important to note that while some local authorities return the searches within two days, others can take up to eight weeks.

16. Obtaining FENSA certificates

When buying a property, your purchaser's solicitors will ask for evidence that any replacement glazing installed since April 2002 complies with the Building Regulations. In order to do this, they will need to obtain a certificate proving that the work was done by an installer who is registered with FENSA or a similar body.

17. Obtaining Gas/Electric certificates

Many buyers will wish to see gas/electricity safety certificates when purchasing a property. Whilst it is not a legal requirement to provide these certificates, should they be required by the purchaser delays can arrise, particularly if any issues are pointed out.

18. Someone in the chain pulling out

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, It’s vital for us to reiterate that when buying a property, all of the possible delays above will apply to each person in your property’s chain. Should any of the parties involved pull out of the process, the entire chain can collapse.

For more information on any of the above delays, please see our blog post ‘The Conveyancing Process: Does It Have to Be So Slow?

Howells Solicitors

At Howells Solicitors, we consider ourselves to be the regions’ number one conveyancing firm. We have won several awards for our services and consistently receive excellent feedback from our clients.

To find out more about our conveyancing services, call us now on 02920 404020 or fill in our online enquiry form and we will be in contact to provide you with a competitive quotation of our fees.


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