The timeline of buying a home -how long is too long?

July 5, 2013 at 3:32 PM 5 comments

Today, yesterday, and tomorrow words on blackboard

How long is too long? Jessie Hewitson takes a look

In an ideal world a freehold sale could complete within six weeks; a leasehold sale takes longer – a minimum of eight to 10 weeks. The current property market is far from ideal, however, for the speedy purchase. It is a market in transition – one that is becoming busier in many places in the country. This has meant solicitors and surveyors are finding themselves stretched and this is causing delays. So how long is too long, what can you do to prevent any hold-ups and how can you speed things up?

Some tips from the experts are here to help:

  • A simple sale with no chain that lasts more than three months could be considered too long. Sales involving chains can take far longer – six months is not uncommon.
  •  “Don’t rely on the agent to do all the communicating” advises estate agent Trevor Abrahmsohn, of Glentree International. If there are issues that need resolving, he suggests arranging a meeting with the other party to discuss things in person. Requests or questions can seem less confrontational when dealt with in person, too.
  • Solicitors, who can appear to have no incentive to act quickly, are one of the biggest causes of frustrations. Best to avoid understaffed, smaller practice, advises Mark Poole, Chiswick branch manager for Felicity J Lord – and don’t go for the cheapest.
  •  To try and avoid delays (if you are selling), check all the relevant property searches are up-to-date and the sales process can progress quickly. Make sure you have an agent and solicitor in place – and you’ve communicated your desired time frame – and that your buyer has sorted out their finance. “With a chain, establish a completion date as soon as possible for all parties and try to work that into the negotiations at an early stage,” recommends Annabel Morbey of the Stamford branch of Smiths Gore.
  • If there is a delay, a bad or inexperienced estate agent will often do nothing and wait it out. This is less than ideal. “Where an estate agent can really make a difference here is by chasing this process on and making sure all parties are kept in the loop” says Stephen Binder, associate partner at the Grantham office of Fine & Country. “For example, within 48 hours of emailing a draft contract, call up the solicitor to see if it has been successfully received. Constant maintaining and feedback reduces stress, delays and any confusion in the process. A good estate agent will do this and if there is a problem, they will strive to solve it. They are the oil in the engine.”

Entry filed under: Advice. Tags: .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Julie West Solicitor  |  July 16, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    Lawrence – some great advice for potential clients – good estate agents certainly are ‘oil in the engine’!

    The advice from Mark Poole regarding small practices worries me, as a sole practitioner who runs a small conveyancing practice in Leatherhead, Surrey.

    It is my experience that the most significant delays come from large, cheap, bulk-work practices where one solicitor oversees many unqualified staff. Clients who instruct these firms often find there are delays in the simplest of things – because too many cooks have spoilt the broth – no one is truly sure what is going on with their case.

    Of course this is not always the case, but I find generally in my day to day practice that the smoothest transactions are with small, dedicated, highly skilled and experienced solicitors on the other side.

    When you choose to instruct a smaller practice of solicitors, or a sole practitioner you ensure that an expert is there for you every step of the way, they know what is going on at every stage, and you get straight through to them when you call. It may not always be the cheapest option, but a good solicitor will often save their clients money and grief in the long run by spotting problems that others may have missed.

    If you would like more information on us, or on the merits of a small practice, please see my website (which is being updated over the next couple of weeks):, and my blog:

    • 2. Roger Buston  |  September 9, 2013 at 8:06 PM

      ….too true….. .

      The smaller accredited local legal practitioner generally has better experience , a personal commitment and more expertise …..and can react far quicker and more flexibly- than ever can the Conveyancer factories.

      …costs, often further, work out to be less expensive for the client too.

      All in all this is a “win win ” situation. for the client , who has the added comfort of actually being able to go and see their solicitor and discuss matter face to face, when and if there is a problem….and even if there isn’t……..: personal contact is a very good way indeed to speed up the whole process…..we actively encourage it.

      Agents who use this service always find a far better and speedier transaction too….

  • 3. Stephen.  |  August 22, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    Solicitors have every incentive to act quickly otherwise the client will be dissatisfied and / or they will incur a loss on the transaction.

    The large firms are the ones to beware of. They are systems driven and have problems personalising the service. They often use paralegals extensively and due to high overheads each fee earner is often overstretched.

  • 4. Liz  |  February 9, 2014 at 9:40 PM

    In my experience, solicitors are reluctant to communicate with agents and that all too often leads to delays! Befriend the agent, trust him/her to use their abilities to travel the chain from top to bottom and report back with delays and issues. I am all too happy to help, and have done so on many occasions but still find a hierarchy distinction that discourages solicitors from asking for help!

  • 5. Richard Day  |  February 9, 2014 at 10:25 PM

    It is no surprise small or independent solicitors are being defensive to larges corporate firms, but experienced movers and Estate Agents know that some matters are out of solicitors and sellers control, such as local authority searches and the processing of mortgage offers, but

    Choosing your solicitor or conveyancer is critical, whether they are large or small. I suggest a third parties recommendation and ensure the conveyancing principle is on the lenders panel, as a third party solicitors will be required, further increasing disbursement costs. Make sure the solicitor is easily contactable by phone or email and that they have experienced admin support.

    If you need your transaction to move quickly, the choice of lender can make a difference, some lenders state their average processing time, some are as long as 6 weeks and no one can influence this, not even a private broker.

    I advise sellers to engage a solicitor before a buyer is found, preparing property question and fixtures, this way a draft contract can be forwarded to the buyers solicitor within hours if required.

    Before you start the whole process choice your Estate Agent wisely, ensure you get value for money and that doesn’t mean the cheapest, will you have an experienced team of agents and a strong marketing strategy. Chosen an agent on recommendation and one that has a record of sales in your area, check the websites and look for broads.

    This may not be a perfect recipe, but it’s a good start.


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