Why does buying and selling houses take so long?

In this blog post, Stephanie Nield answers the commonly asked question in conveyancing, ‘why does buying and selling houses take so long?’.

Conveyancing is the transfer of legal title of property from one person to another and is actually very complex – there is a lot of legal work to be carried out before an exchange of contracts and completion can take place. At Beyond Conveyancing, we pride ourselves on being both thorough and precise with our legal checks, ensuring you have all the necessary information concerning the property you are purchasing. After all, for most people this is the biggest investment they will make in their lifetime, so we want to make sure it’s done right.

One of the questions we get asked a lot is ‘why does buying and/or selling a house take so long?’ There are many factors that can cause delays to the process and here are some of the most common examples:

  1. Long chains –
    If there are a lot of properties involved in your chain it is likely to take longer to reach a completion date. If one buyer or seller in the chain runs into an issue, this can delay all of the transactions as the process can only go as quickly as the slowest link. If one transaction falls through, this can put the whole chain in jeopardy.


  1. Local authority search –
    The timescale for this will largely depend on your local authority and how many requests they are currently dealing with. Routinely it should take around 2 weeks to be returned to your conveyancer however at busy periods this can take longer, with some local authorities reportedly taking up to 9-10 weeks to return their searches. At Beyond, we use regulated searches where possible. These contain the same information but are usually returned more quickly as they are not obtained directly from the local authority.


  1. Enquiries –

this is where most delays occur as your conveyancer needs to check over all of the legal documentation that has been provided and ask any questions they require answers for. Your conveyancer will be unwilling to complete the purchase until they are satisfied with the information in their possession as going forward without all the facts could result in further delays or, worst case scenario, an inability to complete the transaction. Common examples of delays at this stage include:

  1. Building work – if building work has been carried out without the correct approvals this can cause a delay as it will need to be remedied, also if you are purchasing with a mortgage, your lender will have certain requirements with regards to this.
  2. Title difficulties -sometimes the title will show issues such as if there aren’t sufficient rights in place, for example, to access the property. Matters such as these will need to be rectified to prevent any issues whilst you live at the property, when you come to sell in the future and also to satisfy your lender’s requirements with regards to the loan they are providing.
  1. Leasehold flats and shared ownership properties –
    Conveyancing for flats/apartments takes longer as there is, quite simply, more work to do. The documentation is more complicated and there are more checks to be carried out. Your conveyancer will need to deal with landlords and management companies and obtain information from them as well as the sellers, this can make the process longer waiting for their replies.


  1. High caseloads –
    1. Especially during busy times of the year, conveyancers are often operating with extremely high-volume caseloads, dealing with upwards of 100 transactions at any one time. We know that behind every transaction there’s a person and a family waiting to complete so at Beyond your conveyancer will do everything in their power to see that your transaction is finalised in a timely manner
    2. At Beyond, we are committed to first class customer service and always strive to ensure that our conveyancers have manageable caseloads, enabling them to commit the required time to each transaction and progress them promptly whilst keeping you updated


How can I help speed up the process?

  1. Return paperwork promptly – your conveyancer will need your initial paperwork and verified ID documents before they can begin work on your file so it’s important to get these back as soon as you can. If your conveyancer sends any documentation which requires your signature, try to review and sign as soon as possible as they will be unable to exchange contracts and complete the purchase without these
  2. Respond to enquiries from your conveyancer promptly and ensure you have any paperwork to hand such as warranties, gas safety certificates, installation certificates and ground rent receipts. If you realise during the process, you no longer have the paperwork, be honest and let us know so that we can assist you accordingly and look at other options
  3. Always keep in touch with estate agents and your conveyancer. Communication really is key during the conveyancing process and at Beyond we ensure that we are in regular contact with clients, agents and other solicitors
  4. Have your funds and proof thereof ready. We appreciate being asked where your money has come from is a sensitive question, but this information is paramount. Your conveyancer is under a legal duty to verify the source of your funds and this part of the process can take time so it’s helpful to your conveyancer if you provide the documents such as bank statements from the outset. If you are receiving a monetary gift from a family member or friend your conveyancer will also need to verify this and will need ID from the person providing the gift.

Stephanie Nield