Why are house moves in the region taking so long to complete?

After delays caused by lockdown and a surge in house sales, transactions are now being held up by a lack of surveyors

After delays caused by lockdown and a surge in house sales, transactions are now being held up by a lack of surveyors - Credit: Brown&Co

You fall in love as soon as you walk through the front door. It's just you from floor to ceiling. 

But don't build your hopes up when it comes to being in by Christmas. For after delays and backlogs caused by lockdown, followed by a surge in demand as buyers raced to complete before the end of the Stamp Duty holiday, another headache is now holding up house moves.

Surveyors are becoming a dwindling breed in a region where many older properties require more than a cursory mortgage valuation.

Steve Willerton, surveyor and associate partner with Norwich-based agents Brown and Co, said: "At the present time most surveyors throughout Norfolk and Suffolk are extremely busy and in the 42 years that I have been surveying I can honestly say I have never been busier.

Steve Willerton

Surveyor Steve Willerton at work - Credit: Brown and Co

"Most solicitors are recommending to their client to have an independent survey and I believe that in recent times more and more people are heeding this advice especially on older or more complicated properties.

"Unfortunately the number of chartered surveyors who undertake in depth surveys, and especially the Level Three Building Survey are dwindling and I know of many who have retired in recent years.

"Most of the practicing surveyors today are over 55 and there does not seem to many “youngsters” coming through on the residential surveying side of the profession. In short we are a dying breed and as the number of us reduce, the demand on the rest gets greater."

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Mr Willerton said surveys can currently take two to three weeks to be carried out, with up to five more days arrange for the report to be produced.

The for sale sign in the front garden one of the houses featured in a model village on sale at Keys

Surveys may throw up further issues which need investigating - Credit: Karen Bethell

This may recommend further investigations into issues such as damp or throw up legal matters for solicitors to look into.

"It is also a common practice for a purchaser to delay instructing their surveyor until they receive confirmation that they have a mortgage offer in place and so overall the process of getting a mortgage valuation and an independent survey could take up to six or even eight weeks," said Mr Willerton.

"You cannot criticise the client for waiting to instruct the surveyor as they do not want to spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds on a building survey, only to discover that the lender will not give them a mortgage."

Paula Higgins, chief executive of online property advice portal the HomeOwners Alliance, said there were ways buyers and sellers could cut down on some of the delays. She said those with a property to sell could avoid becoming part of a chain.

"The best thing is to be a cash buyer, to break the chain if you can," she said. "Maybe sell and rent before you buy.

Paula Higgins, chief executive of online property advice portal the HomeOwners Alliance

Paula Higgins, chief executive of online property advice portal the HomeOwners Alliance - Credit: HomeOwners Alliance

"Choose your conveyancer well, be on top of it. Get your solicitor appointed beforehand so you get all your ID verification done. 

"Get your searches ordered right away, get your surveyor right away."

She added sellers should be honest and upfront about any issues with buyers before they make an offer to avoid delays further down the process.

Property sales in Norfolk and elsewhere have been booming during the pandemic. Demand for properties in rural areas has soared.

Prices rose by 11pc in the year to September, according to Land Registry data. In parts of north Norfolk, average asking prices went up from  between £208,000 and £240,000 to £250,000 - £280,000 according to online property giant Rightmove.

Buyers and sellers using online conveyancers also have delays caused by a cyber attack on one of the industry's main players to factor in before they book their removal van, with up to 5pc of transactions affected.

Tips to speed things up

The HomeOwners Alliance offers advice on how to iron out the bumps and speed up the process.

It includes getting your finances in order, including a mortgage offer in principle before you make an offer.

Arrange a surveyor as soon as possible.

Instruct your solicitor early so they can make the necessary ID and their checks.

Deal with queries quickly, along with paperwork such as the property inventory. Don't take days to fill the forms in.

Organise buildings insurance ready for exchange of contracts.

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