Nobody wants their house sale to drag on. Once you’ve accepted an offer, you’ll be eager for things to keep moving forward smoothly and quickly.
So, how can you avoid delays when selling a house in the UK?
How Long Does it Take to Sell a House in the UK?
The house sale process in the UK is not known for simplicity and speed!
It takes over four months on average to complete a house sale, from day one of marketing a property to completion. And there have been reports of the process taking much longer than this recently due to the sheer volume of transactions since the first COVID-19 lockdown ended in May 2020. The conveyancing process and searches are taking months in some instances as solicitors and conveyancers struggle to keep up with demand.
The time it takes to sell a house will also depend on the unique circumstances and preferences of the seller and the buyer. One or both parties may have a reason to deliberately stall the sale — perhaps the seller has yet to find a new property to buy, for example? — or unintended delays can creep in, such as problems securing a mortgage.
A traditional on-market sale with an estate agent is often a long process, and there can be many delays.
Common Causes of Delays When Selling a House
- The Buyer Is Slow to Instruct a Solicitor
As soon as a buyer offers on a property, their estate agent will need the details of the conveyancer or solicitor who has been instructed to manage the transaction. Waiting until this point to appoint a legal professional can slow the house sale process down.
- The Seller Is Slow to Prepare Documents for Sale
There is a long list of documents that a seller must share with the buyer before exchange and completion of a house sale can take place. The seller’s solicitor will give them various Property Information Forms to complete, and these are lengthy — they could take several weeks to fill in. If the seller does not receive these early on in the sale process, this could lead to delays.
For most people, a home is filled with memories, and selling is an emotional experience. These emotions can cloud a seller’s judgement and lead to unreasonable behaviour that causes delays, for example, refusing to accept the market value of the property and vetoing all offers and opportunities to negotiate.
- A Poor Estate Agent or Solicitor
If either the seller or buyer has an estate agent, solicitor or conveyancer who is drowning in work or not sufficiently proactive, this can lead to severe delays and frustrations. Cost should not be the only factor when choosing professionals to help manage a house sale. Asking for referrals and recommendations is a good idea.
- The Property Is a Leasehold
The process of selling a leasehold property is more complicated than selling a freehold. The seller’s solicitor will need to obtain documents and accounts from the management company, which can take time. Instructing a solicitor as early as possible and letting them know that this is a leasehold sale will help keep things moving.
- Missing Planning Permission
If changes have been made to a property, a conveyancer or solicitor acting on behalf of the buyer must ensure that the necessary planning permission was obtained. If permission was not granted or the proof of consent is missing, this can cause delays.
- Property Chain Problems
If the seller and/or buyer are part of a property chain, delays may be caused by people further along the chain. For example, if one seller loses their buyer or if one local authority takes a long time to complete the necessary searches.
- Difficulties Securing a Mortage
If the buyer has problems securing a mortgage, they will need to shop around until they find a lender who will approve the loan they need. Each provider will need to complete their own property valuation and financial checks, which can take time, especially in a buoyant market with high demand.
What Can You Do to Reduce the Risk of Delays?
That sounds like a lot of potential causes of delays! What can you do to avoid these issues arising and keep your house sale moving forward on a time scale that suits you?
- Instruct a Solicitor or Conveyancer ASAP
As soon as you decide to sell your property, start asking family and friends for recommendations for solicitors and conveyancers. Instructing a legal professional as early as possible will prevent delays from occurring when the time comes to make or accept an offer.
- Get All Your Documents in Order
Gather all the documentation you received when you bought the house, along with anything else you need to sell — such as planning permission for changes made during your ownership. Identify any missing documents and start the process of tracking these down or replacing them. If you want to sell your house fast, get organised from day one!
- Choose a Buyer with Care
The best offer is not necessarily the highest one. Selling to a chain-free buyer, or even better, a cash house buyer, could save a lot of expense and hassle in the long run because the risk of property chain problems is removed.
- Be Proactive
If you feel that your solicitor or estate agent isn’t pulling their weight, give them a nudge. Sellers and buyers are perfectly within their rights to ask for updates and question why there are delays. A proactive seller who isn’t afraid of pushing for excellent service is likely to enjoy a much faster sale process than one who sits and waits for things to happen.
The house-selling process in the UK typically takes months to complete, and there are many factors that could cause delays. Some may be out of your control, but there are ways that sellers can reduce the risk of delays occurring and keep things moving. Be as proactive and organised as possible from day one, and if you have the luxury of multiple offers, choose your buyer with care!