Recent headlines show that home-selling timelines have increased. Whether prices are up or down; people are still moving to the country from the city, or back again. In this article we look at long it takes to get the keys to a new home.
Following the dramatic 30% fall in the number of sales agreed in the aftermath of last year’s mini-budget, when mortgage rates soared, there were concerns that double-figure inflation and the cost of living crisis would put a permanent dampener on the property market. However, those figures appear to be in contrast with the latest figures from the property portal Rightmove, which shows the number of sales agreed is on the rebound and just 11% down in 2019.
Have home selling timelines increased?
But while markets may have slowed, it is not uncommon to have a much-extended timeframe from putting a property on the market to moving home. The time taken to agree to a sale with a prospective buyer has risen by 50% to 65 days compared to a year ago. In addition, the time to exchange contracts is up 5% to 139 days, according to property data specialists TwentyEA.
The slowdown can be attributed to a number of factors. The market has had to contend with a massive backlog that arose during the pandemic, in addition to experiencing a surge due to the stamp duty holiday that reduced the cost of moving between 2020 to 2022. According to Rightmove, there were 44% more homes sold subject to contract in June 2022 than in 2019.
Many conveyancing departments are under a strain not just from the transaction at hand but also from those involved in the many connecting strands of a sale and purchase. They can include the Land Registry – which is the government department responsible for registering property transactions – local authority departments, and lenders.
Whenever a property is purchased with the aid of a mortgage, the buyer must have a number of searches carried out as part of the mortgage requirements. The local authority search is carried out to check upon a number of points including, planning history, planning restrictions that could have an impact on what you might want to do with a property and if any enforcement notices have been issued. The number of requests for searches has put extra demands on the process. Many local authorities are taking as much as a month to handle these requests.
Similarly, mortgage lenders can often take up to six weeks, before issuing a formal offer.
Said Dhammika Baker: “For those hoping to celebrate Christmas 2023 in a new home, this spring is a good time to start getting paperwork in order before putting up the sale board.
“It’s like preparing for a marathon in today’s market, as it’s not unusual for the sale process to take as long as six months. In these conditions, buyers need to ensure they have their mortgage offer agreed upon, and sellers need to be well prepared before they instruct the estate agent. It’s this sort of approach that will make the difference between a failed sale and getting over the finish line to completion.”
For sellers, preparation includes checking the location of any relevant deeds and conveyancing documents from the original purchase, old deeds may contain detailed information that does not appear in the Land Registry records.
Other key paperwork can consist of planning documentation you have, for any alterations or additions to your home. Here, certificates will be required to show the works have been completed correctly and according to building regulations. For leasehold property, any works may also require approval by the freeholder and will need to be documented too.
Any electrical or gas work will need a certificate to show that the work has been properly carried out in accordance with applicable regulations by a suitably qualified technician. Similarly, new oil boilers or oil tank installations should have an OFTEC certificate and new windows should have a FENSA certificate.
Dhammika added: “Sellers who are ready before they market will have engaged with their solicitor to ensure they have already examined the title, lined up all the paperwork, anticipated any problems and dealt with them in advance. It’s a tactic that avoids delay later and means they are ready to act immediately when a buyer is found.
“And for those chasing the perfect property, with a continuing shortage of new instructions coming onto the market, make sure you are the best bet, not just the highest offer. Sellers will choose the safe option to keep their move as smooth as possible. Buyers who instruct solicitors, get their finances in order, mortgage offers confirmed and flexible on completion dates, will show sellers they are serious.”
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.