A warning has been issued to hopeful home-movers: act now to stand a slim chance of being in by Christmas.
More than 500,000 homes have had offers accepted by sellers but are stuck in a legal logjam, according to Rightmove, with an average of 150 days until buyers can move in.
‘Although December may feel far away, the data shows the conveyancing logjam means it is taking an average of 50 days longer to complete a purchase after agreeing a sale than it did in 2019,’ says Rightmove director Tim Bannister. ‘It’s important to act now.’
Warning: More than 500,000 homes have had offers accepted by sellers but are stuck in a legal logjam
The delays are the result of several issues. First, some conveyancers quit after experiencing a work overload caused by Rishi Sunak’s stamp duty holiday, which ended last year and triggered a surge in house buying.
Second, there’s a backlog at local councils, which supply information on planning and related issues.
And third, some professionals critical to the process — for example planning officers, surveyors and solicitors — now work only part-time or from home, leading to hold-ups.
A further hiccup is that lenders are tightening conditions on borrowers — even those who are part-way through a purchase. So, how can you speed up the process?
Instruct a solicitor early
They can at least carry out the compulsory ID checks ahead of time. Online conveyancers may be cheaper, but you may not be able to speak with the same person each time you have queries.
Get ahead with your mortgage
Secure a mortgage in principle promptly. Then, when your offer has been accepted, complete the full application as quickly as possible.
And let your solicitor know if you are having cash help from friends or family, as that needs specific legal treatment.
Cheaper isn’t always better: Choosing the right estate agent, and ideally one who is a member of a trade body, can help your property sale go smoothly
Choose your agent wisely
Most buyers must sell their home first to afford the next. Check that your estate agent has a sales progression team tasked with pushing paperwork and liaising with others in the chain.
Some low-cost online agencies — with fees paid by sellers upfront — do not have these teams. Agents should be in trade bodies, so check if yours is on the Propertymark website.
Hunt for a chain-free home
If you purchase an empty home or a new build, the transaction can be faster and is less vulnerable to falling through.
Speed up survey & searches
Local searches by councils are vital, and reveal whether future plans for an area may hurt the value of your new home.
But they can be slow, so check current timings at searchflow.co.uk. Be aware that surveys, to reassure buyers and mortgage lenders on a property’s condition, can also take weeks. Check for local firms at rics.org.
If you’re selling your home at the same time, you must fill in several documents, including a Property Information Form, which asks for details of guarantees, planning and building consent, and any neighbour disputes.
The seller of your new home will also complete one, and this will go to your conveyancer so they can spot any potential problems.
It’s wise to prepare this and other paperwork ahead of time, including a copy of the lease if your home is leasehold, freehold documentation, any guarantees, certificates for replacement windows and a Gas Safety certificate for a new boiler.
Chase, chase… chase again!
You may feel the agents and conveyancers to whom you’re paying thousands of pounds should keep you in the loop on progress, but in reality it’s down to you.
Book in for a smooth move
Hire a moving company as soon as you have a completion date.