Aiming for the finish line: a simple answer to solving the problem of transaction timescales

Aiming for the finish line: a simple answer to solving the problem of transaction timescales

When it comes to buying a new home, searching for ‘the one’ isn’t a process to rush into. Inevitably it takes time to consider what the ideal home looks like, view potential properties, organise a mortgage and, if it meets the right criteria, make an offer. Yet, once that offer is accepted, the reality is that it’s just the start of a long, and sometimes unnecessarily drawn-out, conveyancing process.

Understandably, for people eager to get the keys to a new house, it can seem like a lifetime to wait. A recent study reported that in the past 12 months, the average UK property transaction took around 132 days to complete, meaning buyers spent more than four months waiting for an completion  date.

The economic situation over the last 12 months has not helped matters. After Liz Truss’s mini budget in September 2022 – which wreaked havoc on the housing market – and steadily rising interest rates, there has been a significant knock-on impact for buyers and sellers. Only now, perhaps as people have taken the time to better understand their financial position, is market activity beginning to pick up again.

Additionally, at the start of May, Skipton Building Society made headlines with the launch of a new 100% mortgage. With other providers anticipated to follow suit, this will also likely prompt additional activity in the first-time buyers’ market. Instead of just accepting lengthy delays as the norm for these future homeowners, it is time to start thinking about ways to work differently.

The same research poll, carried out by iamproperty, pointed towards new technology as a possible solution, with the majority of estate agents surveyed saying they would be keen to explore options to help speed up the conveyancing process. However, rather than reinventing the wheel, it needn’t be so complex.

If we cast our attention north of the border, it is a very different story. Speaking to my colleagues in Scotland, I have heard first-hand that most transactions take half the time and can be completed in 8-10  weeks. There is only one key difference: an agreed completion date.

With all parties working to an agreed date from the outset – which of course would be subject to searches and other documentation – the timescales could be easily cut. In theory, it’s a simple solution, but it obviously requires a degree of flexibility with all parties involved in the chain working together. Gilson Gray is already trialling this with some of their agents, and in most straightforward transactions, it is working well.

It’s not about rushing things. It’s about changing habits and mindsets and having an orderly way of managing our caseload. In addition, we are sending the draft contract to the client at the start of the transaction to avoid delays further down the line, as well as requesting searches in advance of receiving the contract pack. Ultimately, we are getting the best outcome for buyers and sellers, while also ensuring we stick to the parameters of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme.

We all know that a single property transaction can involve multiple firms and estate agents in one chain, but we are currently beholden to the slowest mover in the group. This doesn’t happen in the Scottish property market, because of the agreed targets.

Asking people to change their ways is no mean feat, but it seems to be working for our neighbours. Before investing in additional resources or new technology, surely it’s an approach worth testing to see if it could indeed cut timescales. After all, change needs to start somewhere.

For more information on conveyancing in England, please contact Gary Tyman.

For information on Scottish conveyancing, please contact Debbie McCathie.

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