Speeding up the buying process

Q: I’m buying a property but the purchase process is taking longer than expected – is there anything I can do to speed it up?

A: There are lots of different parties involved in any property purchase, so the more you know about each one, the easier it is to make people accountable and help identify – and resolve – any blockages in the process.

When a purchase is agreed, the vendor needs to formally instruct their solicitor and provide recent identification (you will also need to do this) and until they’ve done that, their solicitor is unlikely to even communicate with yours and you really want communication between solicitors to start ASAP. The vendor also needs to fill out basic forms stating whether they’ve done any works to the property, who the utility providers are and so on, which are really basic so any delays with this are hard for the vendor to justify, if they’re genuinely motivated to sell. I remember one client purchase where the vendor hadn’t got around to filling out the forms so I insisted that the estate agent go to his house with the printed forms so they could fill them out together.

Next, the seller’s solicitor collates all Title documents and so on for your solicitor, some of these come from Land Registry but can usually be downloaded online so shouldn’t cause a delay. If you’re buying a flat, your solicitor will request a Management Pack from the managing agent, if there’s one in place, that pack should outline information such as previous service charge accounts and details of any major works recently carried out or planned. The seller needs to pay the managing agent to prepare the pack, so check whether this has been done because, frustratingly, this can be a common cause of delays if the seller doesn’t realise they need to pay. Once payment has been made, a good managing agent should be able to send out the pack within a week, although, I have seen some take longer. Your solicitor may have additional enquiries for the managing agent so if they are being slow, ask the seller (via the estate agent) to chase them. Some sellers are less proactive, however, and during one client purchase I had to call the managing agent myself every day for just over two weeks until they responded.

Do check that your solicitor and the seller’s solicitor are communicating well; I’ve seen many solicitors clash over the years, so ensure that you’ve employed a solicitor who is proactive and will help push things forward and simply pick up the phone to the vendor’s solicitor if dead ends do occur.

Finally, don’t forget that the estate agent is a resource that shouldn’t be underestimated. Draft them in if you suspect delays as they should have a good relationship with the seller and can hopefully help make valuable progress.

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email enquire@eccord.com or tweet her @joeccles.