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How Long Does it Take to Exchange Contracts on a House?

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Fri 07 May 2021

How Long Does it Take to Exchange Contracts on a House?

Exchanging contracts on your property in Chelsfield and the surrounding villages is a significant milestone in the homebuying process, and along with completion, it’s the most exciting event for new homeowners.

The exchange of contracts is the point at which the buyer is legally obliged to purchase the property from the seller, and for the new owners it’s when they can finally start making concrete plans for their new home, but how long does it take to exchange contracts?

Well, when purchasing a property, the timescales for each part of the process can vary massively between different transactions.

As a rough estimate though, you can expect the exchange of contracts to take around 8 to 12 weeks on average.

Why has my exchange of contracts been delayed?

Various factors can slow down the exchange process and unfortunately cause unnecessary hold ups. Some of the more common reasons for delays when exchanging contracts include:

  • The size of the chain. Broadly speaking, the shorter the chain is, the smoother the transaction as there are less people and properties involved.
  • Waiting for a mortgage offer. Buyers only need a mortgage in principle to confidently make an offer on a property. However, once the offer has been accepted, they’ll need to wait for the lender to offer them the actual mortgage. This can be a drawn-out process if they have a messy credit history or a variable salary for example.
  • A difference in valuations. A lender may value a property lower than the agreed sale price. In this instance, they’re likely to offer the buyer a mortgage for the lower amount. This means the buyer either needs to get the price reduced, find a larger deposit to cover the difference, or find a new lender who will let them borrow the full amount.
  • Search results being delayed. When an offer on a property has been accepted, the buyer’s solicitor will begin to conduct several searches, including environmental, water authority and local authority searches. Sometimes it can take several weeks for the results of these searches to come back, and if they flag concerns then the solicitor will need to raise further enquiries, which delays the process further.
  • Overworked or slow solicitors. Unfortunately for buyers and sellers, there are times when a property transaction may not be top of the solicitor’s priority list. They may have a mountain of other cases to work through first, or they may be slow at responding to enquiries from the other party. In these cases, it’s worth chasing your own solicitor for updates and progress.
How can I speed up the exchange process on my property?

In most cases there is very little that buyers and sellers can do to speed up the process as most of the delays are out of their control, such as slow search results and mortgage lenders having to conduct background checks on the buyer.

However, in some cases, these things can help:

  • Chase your solicitor. Hopefully this won’t be necessary, as a good solicitor will keep you updated regularly. If they’re not though, then it may be worth just giving them a call to check on progress from time to time. There’s a difference between giving them a slight nudge and being a nuisance, so don’t fall into the latter category. However, if you feel like things aren’t moving very quickly then it may be worth picking up the phone and finding out what the delay is.
  • Buyers, have your deposit ready in advance. One thing that buyers often overlook until the last minute is their deposit funds. These can often be tied up in savings accounts or trusts which aren’t instantly accessible, which can delay the whole process by a few days or more. Therefore, make sure your deposit is instantly accessible before getting to the eleventh hour and discovering you cannot get at it!
  • Sellers, have your paperwork in order. If you’re selling a property, then consider the sort of things that buyers will want to know about in advance. Things like double glazing guarantees, boiler service records and electrical certificates may all seem trivial when you’re living in a property, but to a new buyer these are the sort of things they’ll want to know about before committing to the purchase.
  • Be proactive. Sometimes delays can occur because one side is responding slowly to the other’s enquiries and there can be a breakdown in communication in the middle. If this is the case, contact your estate agent to find out if they can shed any light on the delays, or ask your solicitor to chase the other solicitor. It can often be a minor detail holding up a transaction, which could be nipped in the bud with a couple of phone calls.

Langford Rae Property Agents are your local property experts for the Chelsfield, Orpington and Sevenoaks areas. Call us on 01689862770 or email chelsfield@langford-rae.co.uk to chat with a member of our friendly and experienced team.