Frequent delays and a lengthy transaction timeline are the biggest problems with the UK house selling process, a recent survey reveals.
A recent YouGov survey, commissioned by House Buyer Bureau, found that the number one complaint of house sellers in the UK is how long it takes for the process to move from offer acceptance to completion.
Common Causes of Delays When Selling a House
One in seven of all UK homeowners experiences delays in the house sale process. This was listed as the biggest frustration amongst the 2,000 adults polled in our YouGov survey. Delays result in the sale process taking much longer than expected, which can disrupt plans to move on and add costs.
If you sell to a buyer in a property chain, there is a greater risk of delays. A survey by the Home Owners Alliance found that one in five homeowners experience a delay to their agreed completion and moving date due to funds arriving late or sellers being slow to leave their homes.
Another common issue is the speed at which conveyancers and solicitors get things done. Many people find their legal representatives insufficiently proactive and too slow to respond to enquiries. House sales are currently taking longer to complete in many cases as conveyancers, solicitors and local authorities struggle to keep up with the increase in demand from house buyers and sellers since the end of the first COVID-19 lockdown in May 2020.
Estate agents face criticism from sellers too. Many report a distinct lack of effort in selling and inaccurate valuations, resulting in a slow house sale as the price has to be reduced to attract buyers.
Other common causes of delays include gazundering, gazumping and a buyer struggling to secure the mortgage they need.
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What Is Delayed Completion?
The buyer and seller agree on dates for the exchange of contracts — after which both parties are legally bound to proceed with the sale, and completion, via their legal representatives. There is normally around two weeks between exchange and completion.
If completion is “delayed”, there are more than 28 days between exchange and completion, or the agreed completion date is subsequently postponed. In both cases, completion may occur several months after the exchange of contracts.
When a delay is unexpected, the party that caused the delay may have to pay penalties if they are deemed to be in breach of contract. Delays may also result in a failed sale; for example, if the buyer fails to receive the funds they need in time and delays completion, the seller may choose to rescind the contract rather than wait for the buyer to be in a position to proceed.
Sometimes, the buyer and the seller may agree to a longer gap between exchange and completion. This might happen if the seller has yet to find a home to buy and is keen to make the sale of their house legally binding while allowing themselves enough time to house hunt. Alternatively, the buyer may exchange “subject to planning”, and completion is delayed until the outcome of planning permission is obtained. If the buyer does not get permission to make planned changes to the property, they are not obligated to proceed with the purchase.
Common Problems with Delayed Completion
For the seller, there are several inherent risks of delayed completion, whether it is consensual or unexpected:
- Problems buying your next home
If you are selling one property to buy another, a delay could put your purchase in jeopardy. If the seller of your new home is in a rush to move, delays could cause them to withdraw from the sale.
- Unexpected costs
Although the exchange of contracts makes the sale legally binding, ownership is not transferred until completion. The seller is legally obligated to maintain the property to the same standard as it was at the point of exchange, which could result in additional costs if completion is significantly delayed.
- Disagreements and miscommunications
If the delay is not mutually agreed upon between the buyer and the seller, frustrations and disagreements can quickly arise. These can cause further delays or jeopardise the sale altogether. If communication between both parties is hampered by inefficient estate agents or conveyancers, misunderstandings can easily crop up too.
- The buyer’s financial situation could change
If your buyer requires a mortgage, the agreement in principle they obtained earlier in the house sale process may expire or become insufficient; for example, if the value of the property increases.
Download our Top Tips to Sell Your House Fast
How Quickly Are Properties Selling in the Current Market?
The housing market boom that exploded after the first COVID-19 lockdown ended in May 2020 has resulted in lightning-fast house sales for some — although not all — homeowners.
However, as Chris Hodgkinson, Managing Director of House Buyer Bureau, observes,
“…each and every week, sellers are being subjected to headlines stating how property stock is flying off the shelves and house prices are climbing to new heights. This is causing many to enter the market with unrealistic expectations as to how quickly they will sell, and while they may secure an offer at an incredibly swift pace, they are still subject to the same processes required to get their sale over the line.”
Furthermore, many people are finding that the house sale process is taking even longer than usual as conveyancers struggle to keep up with demand and local authorities in some postcode areas battle to complete searches in a reasonable timeframe.
Top Tips for Speeding up Your House Sale
- Give your conveyancer or solicitor a nudge.
If you feel that your legal representative is not keeping things moving as swiftly as they should, keep the lines of communication open and gently “nudge” things along. Many conveyancers and solicitors are battling a huge workload, and quiet clients may get sidelined for those who make their expectations clear.
If you have serious concerns about your conveyancing professional’s performance, you have the right as a consumer to complain. Start by contacting the legal firm your representative works for. If this is unsuccessful, escalate your complaint to the relevant governing body — the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or the Council of Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).
- Keep the lines of communication open.
Make sure you keep your estate agent and solicitor informed of any changes in your circumstances. If problems arise, try to retain a calm, problem-solving approach. Selling a house can be highly emotive, but try to avoid making snap decisions when you are upset or angry. You may need to put a little pressure on your solicitor or conveyancer to ensure they are doing as much as possible to keep things moving.
- Serve your buyer with a completion notice.
If there is an unexpected delay from the buyer’s side and the agreed completion date has passed, you can ask your solicitor to serve them with a “completion notice”. This gives your buyer two weeks to complete before contracts are rescinded. In this situation, the seller is entitled to keep any deposit paid when contracts were exchanged and any interest that has accrued.
- Find a guaranteed, chain-free buyer.
The best way to avoid delays when selling a house is to sell to a cash buyer with no chain. House Buyer Bureau can offer a guaranteed house sale in as little as 7-days. We’ll work to your preferred time scale. You’re in the driving seat and can choose a completion date that suits you. What’s more, there’s no need for property viewings, you’ll save thousands on estate agents and legal fees, and we’ll take care of everything for you. A house sale without the headaches!