Dealing with delays in the conveyancing process

by Iain Mason

Published on 18th July 2022

Buying or selling a home is a major undertaking in anyone’s book, and you’ll want to ensure the process is as smooth as possible. But conveyancing is complicated, and issues can arise that cause delays or even halt the process altogether.

To help you steer a smooth path through the move, here are some of the most common problems, and how you might be able to overcome them.

One frequent cause of delay is a misunderstanding of the conveyancing process. Many people think they should engage a lawyer only once an offer has been accepted on a property. However, this can slow the process. It’s far better to find a lawyer early on in house-hunting, so they can get things moving.

Gazumping – where you have an offer accepted, only to discover another buyer has jumped in afterwards and made a higher offer, which has also been accepted – is an issue. Many believe gazumping should be made illegal.

To try to avoid this happening to you, ask the seller’s estate agent to take the property offer the market, and (ideally) remove it from their listings. If you are gazumped, you could consider matching the higher offer.

Stay in contact with the estate agents throughout the process. You should find out whether there is a chain. Is the seller moving somewhere as well? Have they made an offer? The property chain you are in has a big influence on the length of the conveyancing process. You may be ready to go, but buyers and sellers elsewhere in the chain may be a way off that stage. It takes just one buyer to pull out, and the whole process is slowed or can even collapse.

Buyer and seller not seeing eye-to-eye can also slow the process. Lawyers for both sides will liaise to agree certain aspects, such as what contents the seller might be prepared to leave (such as white goods, curtains etc) but these are ultimately a decision that the buyer and seller need to make, as is the completion date. Fixtures and fittings can cause disagreements, so it might be helpful to approach this with an attitude of compromise, so the conveyancing process doesn’t stall.

Agreeing a date for completion can often cause tension. Speak to the agents early in the process to see if there is chain, and whether people are expecting to move during school holidays. You may need to be flexible, particularly if there is a long chain. Don’t forget the need to arrange removals – so be mindful of the time it might take to arrange quotes.

Make sure your paperwork is in order. Conveyancing creates a great deal of paperwork so ensure you complete everything correctly, and provide necessary information as soon as possible.

Arrange a mortgage valuation and (if you’re having one) a survey as soon as possible. Lenders and surveyors can take a while to book a valuation or survey into their schedule, so the more notice you can give, the better. Keep your lender updated, so they can arrange a valuation as quickly as possible; begin arranging the survey with an RICS certified surveyor as soon as you have an offer accepted on a house.

A survey may reveal issues with the property, anything from subsidence risk to rising damp. This may well cause a delay which is hard to plan for. You might consider reducing your offer, to account for the remedial work which will need to be done once you move in, and this should help overcome this delay.

If you have Agreement in Principle from your mortgage lender, there will be an expiry date (many are valid for 90 days, and others for up to six months). If the conveyancing process is moving slowly, with a risk that the Agreement in Principle will expire before completion, talk to your conveyancing lawyer about expected timeframes and consider taking steps to secure a new Agreement in Principle.

Local searches, conducted by the local authority, can often cause a delay, particularly if there is a backlog. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about this. However, it does make sense to engage the services of a local lawyer, who will have first-hand knowledge of how long the local authority takes to complete searches.

In reality, the answer to any delay is to be patient, and always keep in close contact with your lawyer, to find out how the process is going.

If you’d like help with buying or selling a property in the Swindon or Cheltenham area, please get in touch with Optimum Professional Services. Email Karen Gleed at kgleed@nulloptps.co.uk or Tara Screen at tscreen@nulloptps.co.uk.

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