Conveyancing - First time buyer

How long does the conveyancing process take?

4 min read

How long the conveyancing process takes varies from case to case. There's no definitive answer however, in our guide we provide estimated timings, and tips to help you speed up the process.

  • Arti Dhamu, Move Specialist at My Home Move Conveyancing
    Arti Dhamu

    Move Specialist

    Published January 23rd 2024

woman looking looking at her house purchase progress online to see how long left until completion

Whether you’re buying or selling, the conveyancing process begins once an offer has been accepted on a property and finishes on completion day. The duration of this varies from case to case and depends on your circumstances as well as various factors outlined in this article.

However, you can avoid any hold ups, speed up the process and make it less stressful with the support of an experienced conveyancer who can guide, inform and involve you at every stage. First you should familiarise yourself with the different stages and average timescales.

In this article we explain:

How quickly can conveyancing be done?

So, how long does conveyancing take with no chain? As a rough guide:

  • Freehold transactions typically take 12-20 weeks.

  • Leasehold transactions require 16-24 weeks – as they involve more paperwork and checks which could lead to delays.

However, the process can be more time consuming if you’re involved in a long and complex chain – meaning that you might need up to six months until completion. If there’s an issue with one transaction, such as mortgage application delays, it can slow down everyone.

Why do conveyancing solicitors take so long?

A conveyancer needs to ensure that each step of the transaction – from mortgage offer to completion – is completed accurately, so there won’t be any delays or issues later on. The process also involves making multiple checks, dealing with buyers who may be unresponsive, and delays with searches.

Here are a few common reasons why conveyancing can be time consuming:

  • Slow response to enquiries. Buyers or sellers might hold up the process – not providing essential information or disagreeing over price, completion or moving dates.

  • Complex transaction such as long property chains. If any transaction in a long chain is delayed, it affects and slows down the whole process.

  • Delays in conveyancing searches. There are more than 340 local authorities across the UK and each manages property searches differently. Some might be slow to provide information, so turnaround time can be anything from 48 hours to several weeks.

  • Problems revealed in the homebuyer’s survey, flagging a range of issues from electrical issues and damp to problems with the central heating system. The results from the homebuyer’s survey can lead to further questions, agreements or renegotiations.

  • Mortgage application issues can result in offer delays.

  • Buying a new build property that isn’t ready on time, due to a hold-up during construction (e.g. extreme weather conditions or shortage of materials). Find out more on how conveyancing for new builds works.

How can I speed up the process?

Your conveyancer can help you find out more about what’s holding up your transaction. They can inform you and involve you in the process, to help avoid unpleasant surprises. To save valuable time and make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible you can also:

  • Do your research. Conveyancers deal with all the legal aspects of the process such as completing the paperwork and liaising with the other party’s solicitors. It’s important to choose an expert who you can trust. This means they’ll be available, responsive, and clearly explain what to expect in every stage of the transaction. Find an overview of timings and stages of the conveyancing process here.

  • Act fast. Once you’ve made your offer, instruct your solicitor as soon as possible and submit your mortgage application to avoid any delays. Find out what you’ll need to complete your mortgage application.

  • Arrange your survey and inform your conveyancer once you have the report.

  • Sort out all your documentation early. Send your conveyancer the necessary documents such as your proof of identification and funds immediately to help them move on to the next steps of the process.

  • Make yourself available and communicate clearly. Keep your conveyancer and estate agent close and talk to them regularly to stay up-to-date on your case’s progress. Ask for regular updates and make sure you reply to correspondence.

  • Track your case online. The good news is that in the digital word you can quickly and easily track your case. Online portals like eWay, provide real-time updates and allow for you to manage and review documents with ease, anywhere, anytime.

  • Get informed. Familiarise yourself with the conveyancing process and find out what to expect in each stage. Your conveyancer should be able to answer your questions around hidden expenses and reassure you about completion dates, next steps and outstanding actions.

Stages and timings of the conveyancing process

To better understand why the process can be time-consuming you’ll need to understand the steps involved.

Pre-contract

You’re in the pre-contract stage as soon as you submit your offer.

From this point onwards, provided everything runs smoothly, you’re likely to complete in 12-24 weeks, as per the national average.

Time: Approximately two weeks

Mortgage offer

To cut down the time it takes for you to be accepted by a lender, make sure you get a mortgage Agreement in Principle (AIP) before you start seriously house hunting. With your AIP in place, it takes less time to receive a concrete mortgage offer from a lender, typically a few weeks.

Even if you have an offer AIP, you won’t get your full mortgage offer immediately: your lender needs to carry out their own valuation of the property and will require further paperwork from you before putting the offer together.

Time: Approximately between two-six weeks

How long does conveyancing take after the mortgage offer?

Once your mortgage has been approved, the conveyancing process can take as little as 2 weeks. However, this time will also depend on the results from searches, surveys and enquiries sent by your solicitor, as you cannot exchange contracts without all of these being complete. 

Draft contract

As well as getting the mortgage offer in place, your conveyancer will deal with the draft contract. To do so they’ll need information from a range of parties including the land registry, the seller and their conveyancer. You can expect it to take a week or so for the contracts to be issued to your conveyancer lawyer, and a further couple of weeks for the sellers’ conveyancer to answer all the questions your conveyancer will raise.

Searches and surveys

You also need to arrange your searches and surveys in the pre-contract stage. Whichever level of survey you’re getting on the house itself, you need to check the property’s condition as well as the local and property searches your conveyancer will carry out.

How long do conveyancing searches take?

As issues can arise from your searches and surveys, this stage can take anywhere between two and 10 weeks. Potential setbacks can arise if the seller is unable to grant immediate access for a survey, or if the local authority has a long lead time on the provision of local search results.

Once all enquiries have been resolved and the search results and mortgage offer have been checked, you’re ready to exchange contracts. If you’re buying, then you’ll transfer your deposit at this point.

Exchanging contracts and completion

Your conveyancer will exchange contracts with the other party’s solicitor, which legally binds you to completing the transaction. This also allows you to set a completion date – which could be anything from a few days to several weeks away.

During this stage, your conveyancer will finalise the completion documents and carry out further searches on things like the Land Registry and bankruptcy. If everything’s in order, each side’s conveyancer can prepare financial statements relating to the transfer of funds between buyer and seller.

Time: Usually two weeks

Completion day

On completion day the conveyancers will organise the transfer of all funds between parties. The seller will usually need to have vacated the property by lunchtime, with the buyer able to pick up the keys to their new home by 2pm.

Post-completion

After you’ve completed, your conveyancer will continue to work for you even though you’ve already moved in or out. From sending signed completion documents to registering your purchase and mortgage with the Land Registry, tying up all the loose ends can take even longer than the pre-completion stages.

If everything goes relatively smoothly, you could end up with a timeframe of around 16 weeks from offer to completion. Whether you’re buying or selling, being prompt with things like returning your paperwork, organising surveys and replying to correspondence will help to speed up the process.

You may still encounter unforeseen delays, for example complications with the sale of a leasehold property, if another link in your chain experiences problems, or if a seller takes a long time to respond to pre-contract enquiries. As long as you’re prepared and punctual with what you can control you can help minimise delays.

family enjoying breakfast in their new kitchen after selling old home and buying a new one

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