colourful string

Transaction Timelines: How Long is a Piece of String?

As conveyancing solicitors, there are certain questions that we get asked over and over again. One of those questions is: how long will it take to sell my house?

Though we don’t necessarily enjoy parroting the same old answer to the same old question over and over, we can absolutely understand the desire to ask it. Selling property (or buying it for that matter) can be a stressful process and it’s natural to want to feel like you have some kind of control over it. 

There’s also the matter of actually wanting to move house, get on with your life and make plans, all of which can be difficult to do when you’re constantly hovering over your crockery cupboard wondering whether to start packing it. 

So… how long does it take?

Here we go again. The best answer we have to offer here is a pretty annoying one: how long is a piece of string? If the situation allows and the wind is all blowing in the right direction, the whole thing might be done and dusted inside six weeks. If there are various different winds all blowing in different directions, you’re likely looking at six months or longer. 

In short, though we would dearly love to give you an exact timeline on the day you sign the contract to instruct us, it would be entirely impossible for us to do so. Though our legal skills are top notch, our fortune-telling skills are not. 

Is it starting to take longer?

If you’ve had a sinking feeling that property transaction times have started to creep up… then we’re sorry to confirm that you are correct.

Recent research has shown that the average time from putting a property on the market to the sale completing is ten and a half months, which is two weeks longer than in 2020

The length of the whole palaver can also take more time depending on the part of the country you live in. The North East, London and the South West have the most tedious waiting times, while the West Midlands has the least. 

But… why?!

You may be asking yourself how, for the love of Rightmove, a property transaction could possibly take over three hundred days. Though we commiserate, we can’t quite suppress the nerdy urge to explain exactly what has to happen for a sale to successfully reach completion. 

First of all, you need to find someone who is actually willing and able to buy the property. This can take anything from no time at all to an exceedingly long time, depending on location, condition, curb appeal and general quirkiness (in other words: if the whole house is a great big red flag, it probably won’t sell in the first few viewings).

Once a buyer is in place, it still might not be possible for the transaction to get started in earnest. If there’s a chain, it can take weeks or months for everyone involved to line up both their sale and their onward purchase.

And EVEN WHEN everyone and their dog is ready to proceed, there’s still the matter of finalising mortgage offers, getting surveys done, ordering searches, checking title deeds and agreeing contracts… along with all the crossing ‘t’s and dotting ‘i’s those processes involve.

Unfortunately, as a result of all the general pandemic-related chaos we’ve experienced in the past few years, a lot of these things have started taking longer. Some of this is due to extra safety regulations along the lines of who can view houses and when and how surveys can be carried out. Much of it is because of high number of people choosing to move house all at once thanks to changing priorities and stamp duty holidays. 

The knock-on effect is that our already-rather-long piece of string has become even longer. 

Is there anything that can be done to speed things up?

We know, we know, waiting for news on a property transaction is dull and frustrating. When you’ve made the decision to move house, you probably just want to get on with it.

Sadly, as much as you might want to force things along, the truth is it just isn’t always possible. If you have an efficient conveyancer on the case, they’ll be doing everything they can to keep things moving along in a timely fashion. Phoning them every other day to demand they get on with it is unlikely to work in your favour. Ditto trying to blackmail surveyors or staging a protest outside your estate agent’s office. 

All that you can do to help things along in these situations is to try and be as prompt as possible. That means arranging any necessary surveys, filling in and returning forms, and providing any requested documentation as quickly and effectively as you can. 

Of course, the whole thing also hinges on who you’ve chosen to fight your transaction battles on your behalf. We mentioned efficient conveyancers earlier, and, if you ask us, that really is the way to go. And not that we’re blowing our own trumpet or anything, but we’ll just mention here that our fantastic conveyancers always endeavour to keep string length to a minimum.

If you’d like to chat to us about conveyancing, efficiency and transaction times, please do get in touch. (But don’t say we didn’t warn you about our lack of fortune telling skills).

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