Ask the Experts

Philippa Rudd from Cozens-Hardy solicitors. Photo: Steve Adams

Philippa Rudd from Cozens-Hardy solicitors. Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

Why do house sales get delayed?

Why do house sales get delayed? Local estate agents give their opinion in the light of the centralising of the Land Registry in a bid to reduce delays caused by the time it takes to complete searches.

Nick Taylor, Hadley Taylor

Searches can hold up the purchase process but most delays are due to buyers and sellers not addressing crucial mile stones in the purchase process in a timely fashion.


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Sellers are well advised to have all their paperwork ready when they put their property on the market and not to leave this task to when they find a buyer. If the property is not already on the Land Registry, they should instruct their solicitor to ensure that it is prior to a buyer being introduced as this will speed up the process. Sellers should also have any warranties, guarantees, planning permissions, building regulations approvals and gas appliance and electrical certification ready in a pack long before they have a buyer.

As soon as a buyer has had their offer accepted they should instruct their solicitor and their surveyor and make their mortgage application if they require a mortgage. They should instruct their solicitor to carry out searches and pay him to do this work. If the buyer's solicitor advises any delay in doing any of these tasks be aware that the solicitor is deliberately retarding the process as these tasks should be done in unison and not in sequence.

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Buyers and sellers are advised to respond in a timely fashion to requests for ID, information regarding the property and monies on account.

Never use a conveyancing service located in a call centre. These seem to some to be a cheap option but their service levels will drive you mad and you'll only use them once and never again. Always use a local solicitor who has been recommended by someone you trust.

The purchase process need take no more than 4 weeks to get to exchange of contracts but be aware that solicitors and lenders grind to a halt over Christmas and New Year.

Kristina Thirkettle, Gilson Bailey:

One of the most common comments we hear from customers selling or purchasing a home is why does the conveyancing process take so long?

As agents who actively manage the sales process from start to finish, we know that there's a lot that can be done to help prevent unnecessary delays and choice of solicitor and good communication between the agent and that solicitor can be crucial. These days there's a lot of choice, with internet conveyancers offering cut price fees but it's difficult to beat a good local solicitor and the old adage 'you get what you pay for' is so very often the case. Early choice of solicitor is a good idea as it's possible to complete some of the forms up front so as soon as a buyer is found, the process can get underway without delay.

The devil is in the detail as well, such as paying for your search fees by debit card (rather than a cheque which will need to clear first), sellers of apartments and flats paying for their leasehold information packs up front wherever possible and for everyone involved, getting back to their solicitor promptly with replies to any enquiries raised will all help speed up the process.

A good, experienced estate agent will know how important these seemingly minor points are and will have good relations with the local solicitors, built up in some cases over many years. If the professionals involved work together, moving doesn't have to be stressful and here at Gilson Bailey our client's testimonials are proof of that.

Yvonne Astley, Hillcrest:

It can be annoying, you find your dream house, or you eventually find your buyer, then by the time the sales gets to a completion, you have either forgotten what you have agreed, or the price has gone up! Yes, it can be a long and convoluted experience.

The legal part, such as land registry and searches are way over my head when it comes to what are they actually doing? But unfortunately for us, all the associated staff have to take their lunch hour, tea-breaks and finish work at 5pm and possibly their 'computer says no! The wrong agent will advise you to use the wrong solicitors, and using the wrong solicitor is fundamental to why the process gets delayed.

I only want to weep when I know the other estate agent has recommended an online solicitor, somewhere in the north of England, who occupies a call centre type office and is acting for too many transactions without enough qualified staff. When this happens, I mentally schedule the completion for enough time for me to sponsor a baby elephant in Africa from conception to birth!

A good agent will explain step by step the process to both sides. My advice is give your business to the local estate agents and local solicitors, rather than lining the pockets of multinational faceless corporations. Working locally, the money stays in our community creating jobs and growth. You can see your own 'power team' and between us, we can help speed up the process.

Philippa Rudd, head of conveyancing at Cozens-Hardy solicitors: 'How long will this take, is a question we are often asked at the beginning of a sale or purchase for a new client. We have exchanged on purchases within less than 24 hours of being instructed. If the buyer has the finance and a survey in place and if the seller supplies the contract and title pack with the Property information Form and Fixtures and Contents Form with search results then we can check the documentation very quickly.Otherwise if there is a long 'chain' then the whole chain moves at the pace of the slowest person in the chain. Searches are processed fairly quickly at present in Norfolk and the councils will usually expedite a search for us if urgent.

Mortgage applications are still the big delaying factor as many lenders take weeks to issue the offer and a buyer cannot exchange until the written offer is available. We at Cozens -Hardy have a good relationship with the local estate agents and we try to keep the agents informed of every key step such as the date the contract is issued or received and progress with any enquiries. We tend to rely on the agents to negotiate the completion date as they can speak to all parties in the chain which we can't do. We are lucky in Norwich in that we know and trust the other solicitors and agents and we try to work together to achieve a swift exchange for our clients.'

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