The average London property purchase takes around 8 weeks from instructing a conveyancer to exchange of contracts and a further 2 to 4 weeks to completion. With the current shortage of stock and high levels of demand along with increased lending and greater help available to buyers, our Capital’s market is more competitive than ever. As a result it is vital to exchange as quickly as possible to minimise risk and there are many ways to speed things along. Here are 7 steps to bear in mind when buying your home:
1. Choose your conveyancer carefully:
This is probably the most important element during the buying process. It is a myth that ‘conveyancing is conveyancing no matter who does it’. Conveyancer delays are the most common reason that purchases fall apart, and coping with a conveyancer who requires constant chasing is time consuming and stressful, so choose carefully.
Ask whether your lawyer will still charge you if things go wrong. At Londonwide Conveyancing, we operate on a ‘no exchange no fee’ basis which we find demonstrates our lawyers will work hard to get you to exchange. Ask your solicitor if they would be prepared to do the same and if they won’t, you should question why that is. Similarly, find out whether the legal fees are fixed or billed on an hourly basis. Fees that are based on a certain number of hours may creep up if the conveyancer is slow. It is worth remembering that you do get what you pay for and if the legal fee seems low, you have to ask what you might be sacrificing in return.
Thirdly, ask your conveyancer about their workload and how many other clients they have. A busy conveyancer is slower at responding and 1 or 2 day delays here and there soon add up. Having to chase for a quote is often a sign that the conveyancer has a very busy workload and might not be able to offer the service you’re expecting.
Finally, get your agent’s recommendation. While some buyers are sceptical of this approach, it can often be a good indication as conveyancers will want to maintain a good relationship with branches and agents are less likely to recommend someone who is troublesome and slow.
2. Get organised:
Choose your mortgage and instruct your conveyancer before making an offer, so once the offer is accepted the legal work, searches and documentation can start immediately.
Buyers often think that having an Agreement in Principle (AIP) from a lender is sufficient, but if you’re really serious then actually deciding which lender to go with and which mortgage product you’ll be selecting puts you ahead of the game.
3. Stay organised:
If your solicitor needs further information, provide it immediately and make sure that no-one is waiting on you. Have your deposit money ready and factor in notice periods on savings accounts.
Most people forget that your conveyancer can only act on your instructions, so communication is key to keeping things moving. Both your agent and solicitor should be informed of any changes in your circumstances so that they are able to manage the other parties’ expectations, and if you go on holiday during the process, ensure that you remain contactable. Equally important is to make sure that you understand the scope and limitations of what your conveyancer can do, will do and what they are required to do by law and of course, if there is something that you don’t understand, be sure to ask.
5. Keep it simple:
To speed things up don’t try to tie in any additional legal works in with the conveyancing. Things like a lease extension or buying the freehold are rarely simple matters, and can add several months to the timescale. If a lease extension is required as part of the conveyancing then your plans should accommodate the extra time needed.
6. Be realistic:
Ensure that you don’t underestimate the amount of legal work required and the time it takes, especially for leasehold transactions which often take longer. Uncontrollable factors like Local Authorities, managing agents, freeholders and other people in a chain can cause delays so bear in mind that things will only ever run as fast as the slowest element.
7. Stay calm:
The process can be frustrating, so when new information is discovered that requires time to sort out or if there are hiccups along the way, stay calm and focus on solutions. If you have chosen the right solicitor, communicate well and are organised, then the process should not be too stressful.