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Why buying or selling a home might take longer than normal

View profile for David Baybut
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House moves to resume

Under normal circumstances, it is generally accepted that the conveyancing process can take between 6 to 12 weeks to complete, but the process can be complicated by many factors, including now, the pandemic.

When it comes to buying or selling a home, the housing market is now being greatly affected in both positive and negative ways by the pandemic. It is far from behaving normal. Be prepared for delays.

In July 2020 the market experienced a post- first lockdown boom fuelled by pent-up demand, a rethink of our lifestyle/home requirements and a stamp duty cut (albeit a temporary one). According to online sales agencies at that time, enquiries from potential home buyers were up 75%, and since then  each month has been very busy for the housing market. According to the Nationwide, UK house prices rose by 5% in September 2020  compared with a year earlier. The highest rate of growth in 4 years. It is not uncommon to see sold boards bragging "sold in 48 hours".

The high demand for house moving services has obviously come at a time of major shift in how people work within the industry. At the same time as the post- first lockdown boom, conveyancers (and many  other organisations  in the house moving sector, such as banks, building societies, search companies, surveyors, local authorities etc) have all had to get used to working from home with many colleagues and support staff  furloughed, self isolating, shielding  or unfortunately ill. Reduced staffing will inevitably continue across the sector and will for the near future remain  an issue as staff working and efficiency are  restricted by lock down, child care issues, need  to self isolate, shield, or recover from illness.

The practical restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the virus is inevitably causing delays and complications across every aspect of our lives, and the conveyancing process is no exception. Patience is needed and the governments guidance on property sales during the pandemic calls on all parties to be as flexible as possible over this period and to be prepared for delays. As well, all involved  may also have to deal with additional issues, such as request for houses to be deep cleaned, inability for people to leave the house because they have to self isolate, failure or disruption to the banking system, inability to obtain search results because there is no one available to carry out the search or in some instances local authorities closing access for weeks/months, and also mortgage difficulties, including inability to obtain lending surveys and valuations.

The pandemic has caused major backlogs within banks and building societies. Conveyancers have been known in current days, to have been on hold with a banks call centre, for up to 2 hours, to obtain  updates on mortgage redemption monies and drawdown of funds – call answer times will increase as a knock on effect. Usually a borrower would be able to able to get a mortgage offer approved by a lender within three to four weeks. But currently a borrower could be waiting up to seven weeks  to get a formal mortgage offer.

The problems caused by the pandemic, is not only causing havoc in the conveyancers working day, but similar problems, lack of staff, IT issues  are  affecting banks, building societies surveyors, search companies. No part of the sector is immune. Multiply those issue by the number of parties that may be in a chain of conveyancing transactions. Unfortunately delay is inevitable, and no guarantees can be given to when completions will be achieved. The Target for well advanced transactions, is to complete before the end of the stamp duty (SDLT) cut holiday, though unfortunately many will not be ready an home movers may miss out on these savings. They should not be counted upon a seeing guaranteed savings.

That said, I am pleased to say, that I am very proud of  both my conveyancing team, the support teams around them and the conveyancing industry as a whole in completing (albeit in some cases delayed ) as many house purchases and sales that they have. We strive to deliver a customer first approach and to mitigate the challenges being faced in the process. I know that there  are many unhappy and dissatisfied home movers, however I am pleased to note that they remain in the minority, and the majority appreciate the extra efforts that are needed to conclude a house move in this current pandemic climate. I would please ask anybody in the house buying and selling process to be patient, to think carefully about raising non major complaints (which are time consuming to formally attend to, distract from conveyancing work  and further add to delays) and appreciate that there are many difficulties being faced, and to accept that , it  may not always  be obvious and seen, but that your conveyancing team are doing their best to ensure your house move progresses as quick and as smoothly as is possible. Patience, an acknowledge of the difficult circumstances in which we are all working and a thank you for the work done to date, will boost morale, and drive our conveyancing teams to more completions.

Please  be assured  that we will  continue to progress all  the house purchases and sales upon which we have been instructed as best we can, in these busy and complicated times.