Q Why do property transactions still take so long to complete?
A Actually, the good news is that this year transaction times have started to come down again from the level they reached during the years immediately following the property crash. However, as always, national average figures hide a fair amount of regional variation.
Nevertheless, it may still seem odd that in these days of the internet, transactions are still taking something in the region of eight to nine weeks to complete – particularly since, once a sale has been put in hand, you would have thought it would be in everyone’s interests to progress things as quickly as possible, while all parties are focused on the outcome. Basically, the longer things take, the greater the danger of something going wrong, or someone just changing their mind. And speaking as an estate agent, there is nothing more frustrating than watching while a sale that you have worked hard to put together just drags on and on – or worst of all, collapses altogether. And that, I suppose, is the nub of the issue because as a general rule, most of the delays afflicting property transactions happen once a sale has actually been agreed.
As usual, it’s a combination of things – although they tend to have their roots in the aftermath of the property crash. So, for example, there are actually fewer practising conveyancers around these days. Moreover, those conveyancers that remain are often so concerned about the risk of litigation that issues which a few years ago would have been more or less waved through are now being gone through with the very finest of tooth combs.
The relative shortage of surveyors means it can now take significantly longer for a lender to arrange a valuation. Add to that the extreme cautiousness towards lending brought about in the wake of the Mortgage Market Review, and the net result is that it can now take several weeks to get a mortgage offer. Some local authority searches are taking longer because of cutbacks with fewer staff struggling with more searches now the market is recovering. These potential delays can be short-circuited by instructing your solicitor to apply well in advance. This may mean paying up front, but a few hundred pounds invested early could save thousands in wasted fees if the transaction would otherwise fail or be delayed – not to mention the stress and potential heartache.