Why does buying a house take so long?

Why does buying a house take so long?

Last updated: 17/05/2022

Finally! You’ve found a home that’s right for you, and your offer has been accepted. 

It’s great news. However, you may find that the euphoria of having your offer accepted on your new home turns into frustration as you wait for the deal to be done and the day to arrive when you get the keys to your property.

While you might be lucky and move in just a few months after striking a deal, the process can easily take up to six months. In March 2022, property deals took 138.5 days on average from the time the sale was agreed to reach exchange, according to analysis by View My Chain.

But why does buying a house take so long, and can you speed things up at all? We consider some of the common delays below, but it might help to see our home buying timeline first

The conveyancing process

Solicitors and conveyancers are a big part of the home buying process. They look after the property searches for your new home – more on that below – as well as negotiating the exchange and completion dates for the chain and transferring the ownership of your new home to you. 

But the conveyancing process can be long and winding and, if you don’t have a good solicitor or conveyancer, one that doesn’t answer your calls, you might often be left wondering why it’s all taking so long. 

If there are any problems, then it can drag the process out further. Common issues include problems with paperwork, a disagreement between a buyer and a seller, or complications with the property itself. 

How to speed things up:

Choose a good conveyancer, based on recommendations from family or friends if possible. To help keep things moving at your end, ensure you have all of the right documents signed and organised. Remember to fill out information on forms promptly and accurately.

House buying survey

It might feel like an unnecessary cost, but a house survey can be a huge help, revealing some issues or problems with the property that you had no clue existed. 

Getting the survey done isn’t usually too time-consuming. You’ll need to book in a surveyor to visit the seller’s home. After the survey, they’ll then write up the report and email it to you. This might take 3-5 days.  

However, if your survey does uncover any unexpected problems, this can also slow down the buying process. 

One way to resolve this issue is to get a few quotes for the repairs and agree between the buyer and seller to take that amount off the asking price. But of course, the time required for arranging for quotes for work can quickly add up, adding weeks or months to your timeline.  

How to speed things up:

Book your survey as soon as possible to avoid delays. If you’re buying an old property and suspect there may be a problem, such as damp, then start researching local specialists in advance, so you can be ready to ask them to visit the property and give a quote for any work that needs doing.

Delays in the chain

The conveyancing process can only move as fast as the slowest link in the chain. 

A property chain is where a group of home buyers and sellers are connected. As a house buyer that means your purchase is dependent on the seller buying their next home.

This chain can be the source of delays, especially if it’s long and complex. Delays may include potential buyers dropping out. If this occurs, your solicitor will keep you informed and provide advice on the next steps to take.

How to speed things up:

If the chain is progressing too slowly, ask your conveyancer to help chase people who are holding things up. 

Local searches

Another key part of the home buying process that can cause delays are the local authority searches. 

There are two parts to a local authority search. The first relates to the property you’re buying, and includes checks on things like whether its a listed building, located in a conservation area or subject to a tree protection order. The second supplies information relating to issues such as proposals for new roads, rail schemes or planning decisions that could affect the property. 

The government has a target for local searches to be returned in a maximum of 10 working days. But this is very much a target. In 2021, Compare My Move analysed the speed of local council searches and found that Plymouth City Council took the longest, at an average of 36 days. Following closely in second place is Lewes District Council taking an average of 35 days. But some councils fared much better: 11 councils, including Cardiff Council and City of York Council, took just one working day to complete a local land search.

How to speed things up:

Instruct your conveyancer or solicitor to start local searches as soon as your offer has been accepted. 

You

Yes, you! You could be causing the house purchase to drag out. If you don’t quickly respond to any requests from your solicitors, or any documents that need signing, then you could be causing delays. Better still, consider yourself a project manager and be sure to keep things moving - that often means nagging to ensure you don’t end up at the bottom of the pile. 

How to speed things up:

Plan ahead where you can. That means arranging your mortgage as soon as possible, researching building insurance in time for exchange of contracts (you must arrange building insurance for your new property to take effect on the day you exchange contracts).

Click on the sections below to explore what you need to know at each stage of your home buying journey:

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