By far the most common questions we are asked at the start of a conveyancing transaction is How long will it take? Frustratingly it is a very difficult question for any conveyancer to answer and inevitably the timescale given is unlikely to be quick enough for most clients.
Chances are the response you will get from your conveyancer will be anywhere between 6-14 weeks with a number of caveats about chains, title difficulties and speed of mortgage offers. In all honestly your conveyaner has no idea how long the transaction will take much like any estate agent cannot give you a definitive timescale for selling you home.
The longer the chain is, the more potential there is for delay. Like any process the more elements that are added to it the greater an increase in the chance of difficulties or failure. Often your transaction will be ready to exchange only to find out that the bottom of the chain are not, or that there is an outstanding mortgage offer at the top of the chain. Good communication between lawyers and the estate agents in the chain will help you keep informed of the progress of the chain. Commonly these days buyers and sellers are now staying in touch via social media groups or WhatsApp to ensure that each party knows where the other is at. Be warned this can be a hindrance however where information is not correctly passed on particularly regarding legal terminology.
Your lawyer will receive a contract package from the sellers lawyer which will form the title that they will check on your behalf. The seller’s lawyer will send all of the preliminary information about the property, including evidence of the seller’s ownership and any rights and responsibilities that go with the property. Your lawyer will then review this information before raising their legal enquiries with the sellers lawyer. If you are lucky and the title is clean and marketable, and the seller has carried out minimal works to the property then there may only be a few enquiries to raise. If you are not so lucky there may be defects in the sellers title, or the seller may have carried out significant works to the property that do not have the necessary paperwork. Both will require additional investigation by your lawyer and will result in them having to raise additional enquiries with the sellers lawyer. Particularly with title issues this can add weeks, and on rare occasions months whilst these title defects are rectified.
If a property is leasehold or shared ownership, then far more documentation is needed. For example, with a leasehold property the buyer’s lawyer will need to see management company accounts, buildings insurance details and evidence that the seller’s management company payments are up to date. Leasehold management companies are often run by tenants who have busy lives and can be slow to produce the documentation.
Other delays can be caused by queries about the title to the property or rights over it, missing documentation, the need for a grant of probate if the property being sold belonged to a deceased person or quotes from builders if the survey reveals problems with the property.
Whilst an accurate timescale is very difficult to predict a good conveyancer will be able to manage your expectations by communicating effectively and often with you. They will proactively chase your chain and will liaise with your estate agents to ensure that any delays in the chain are communicated to you.
To discuss your conveyancing needs with an expert property lawyer, ring us on 01908 018390 or email us at email@example.com.