How To Check Time Frames From Searches To Exchange And Completion?
Hurry up… and wait. When you are in the midst of a house sale, this can feel like the command. Everything is urgent – but there are long periods of waiting in between. It can feel like both a sprint and a marathon at the same time. When you are selling or purchasing a property, many factors are largely out of your control, and one of the biggest is the amount of time it takes to complete certain key milestones. As this is a process whose progression depends on ticking off one step before being able to tackle another, this can mean that waiting becomes a critical task – and one of the most challenging!
When time is of the essence and you need a fast sale, it is important to know what to expect when it comes to each step and how they all work to impact the overall timeline. How long after searches are contracts exchanged? And after searches how long to completion? We know you are chomping at the bit, so let’s get started.
This guide will cover typical time frames from search to exchange of contracts to completion. Remember that these are generalisations, and your specific transaction may differ. With this in mind, we will also cover ways you can accelerate the process.
- A Quick Review of the Sales Process from Start to Finish
- What You Need to Know About Pre-Contract Enquiries
- What Are Conveyancing Searches?
- How Long Do Property Searches Take
- What Happens After Searches are Complete
- How Long After Searches to Exchange
- How Long From Searches to Completion
- Accelerating the process between searches and exchange
A Quick Review of the Sales Process from Start to Finish
The property sales process encompasses a number of steps, each of which depends on the success of the last – much like the overall property chain itself. A quick review:
- Selecting an estate agent. While you can sell yourself (i.e. there are no laws or regulations against “For Sale By Owner” situations), many people opt to leverage the knowledge and expertise of an experienced estate agent.
- Applying for mortgage preapproval (a mortgage agreement in principle). The buyer will need this document to prove they are a serious contender and that they can back up their offer with funding.
- Listing and marketing the property. The seller works to make the property as attractive and compelling as possible to potential target buyers.
- Setting up viewings. It can take up to 10 viewings before receiving an offer, depending on the state of the market.
- Waiting for offers. Frustrating!
- Accepting offers and negotiating. It looks as if the process is picking up steam. Certainly a good sign – but there are more hoops through which to jump.
- Completing valuations and inspections. Buyers with financing (i.e. mortgages) must meet the requirements of their lenders to receive funding. If the house does not meet the criteria, they will see their mortgage agreement in principle pulled.
- Title searches. This is a topic we will discuss in great detail today.
- Exchange of contracts. After this point, neither buyer nor the seller can simply walk away from the process without facing legal and financial consequences.
- Establishing completion dates. When parties agree to a day, they will then exchange keys for payment.
What You Need to Know About Pre-Contract Enquiries
Selling a house is typically a complex process, as you have seen from the number of steps we outlined earlier. When we talk about pre-contract enquiries, we mean those searches that occur between the time your house is “Sold Subject to Contract,” or “Sold STC ” and the actual exchange of contracts. The buyer needs to make sure all i’s are dotted and t’s crossed from a legal standpoint. Searches are intended to answer all of their questions and ensure the property transaction can proceed without encumbrance.
This is where the conveyancer or solicitor comes into action. At this point, searches will be centred on the title, rights and obligations regarding the property and/or the land on which it sits. Thus, the buyer’s conveyancer or solicitor will conduct searches related to:
- Property Boundaries
- Land restrictions
- Parking spaces that are allocated, if applicable
- Issues that came up on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- Utility supply (water, electric, gas)
- Restrictions on building alterations (e.g. listed buildings)
- Relevant planning permission
- Terms and costs, if a leasehold
- Building regulations and certificates
- Non-standard elements (e.g. it’s a probate sale)
How Long After Searches to Exchange 2022?
Quick Answer: Six to Eight Weeks. This is around the same average when it comes to how long after searches to exchange 2021 and preceding years. The process does not change much – unless cash buyers are introduced into the equation, as we will discuss later.
How long do house searches take? It can take weeks, as we will discuss in more detail in a moment. But it is a lengthy bit of process because buyers expect that their conveyancers or solicitors will be exceptionally meticulous and thorough at this stage. After all, if they do not do their due diligence and a problem emerges down the road, it becomes a surprise that they never wanted – and certainly didn’t want to pay for! When satisfied with the results of these various searches, it clears the way for the exchange of contracts.
It is important to note that before the exchange of contracts, the deal is not legally binding. The buyer – indeed, even the seller – can walk away without legal or financial consequences.
What Are Conveyancing Searches?
The last thing a buyer wants is to invest in a property only to find out the house was built on contaminated land or that there are restrictions on any modifications or alterations they planned on making to the property. This is why conveyancing searches are conducted; the buyer’s solicitor is charged with ensuring that there are no major issues with the house and property before their client exchanges contracts. This is also one factor in answering the question, “how long do property searches take?”
What conveyancing searches are carried out at this point? They include:
- Local Authority Search. Here, the solicitor enquiries into issues related to planning, building control and pollution. They typically conduct a more generic council search and instruct a company registered with the Property Codes Compliance Board to provide additional reassurance.
- Environmental Search. What the buyer and their representative are looking for here is whether the property is built on or located near a landfill site or contaminated land. At the same time, they check for issues related to landslip, subsidence and flooding.
- Flood Risk Search. This is a more in-depth search into an area to ascertain whether it is at higher risk of flooding. As you would guess, properties in flood zones are more costly and harder to insure.
- Drainage and Water Search. A search will be carried out to locate all of the drainage systems contained on the property and whether they pose a risk in future (e.g. if the buyer wanted to build an extension).
- Land Registry Search. A basic check, tells the buyer that the seller is, indeed, the legal owner of the property. At this time, the solicitor will also look into the title plan and title register for details about property ownership and to access a map with property boundaries.
- Coal and mining search. The task here is to see if any old tunnels were previously used for salt, coal or brine mining. This can increase the risk of subsidence.
- Chancel Repair Search. A property may be responsible for a portion of the costs to repair a local parish church. It can be a complete surprise as it may not be included in the title, so it is worth a search.
- High-Speeded Rail Search. Will the property be affected by HS2, the high-speed railway in development? This may be of great importance to the buyer.
How long do searches take when buying a house? Expect some wait time. At this point, there will be a lag until the conveyancer or solicitor receives the results of the searches and prepares a report. Only then can you proceed to exchange. It could be several weeks. Let’s break it down:
Local Authority: Usually weeks but can take up to several months
Drainage and Water: 1 – 10 Days
Environmental: 1 – 10 Days
Flood Risk: 1 – 10 Days
Coal and General Mining: 1 – 10 Days
Chancel Repair: 1 – 10 Days
Land Registry: 1 – 10 Days
High-Speed Rail: As this is relatively new, there is insufficient data but it’s not expected to take longer than 10 days
In most cases, you will have to wait between three to six weeks for the search results to get to the conveyancer or solicitor. What happens after searches come back? The conveyancer or solicitor will review the results and compile a comprehensive report. This can take two to three weeks.
How long after searches to exchange? You can expect six to eight weeks. Again, this will vary, especially if there are issues uncovered by the searches. In that case, the buyer will likely require that these problems be remedied before they move forward. It can be an incredibly tense time for both sellers and buyers alike! But once the buyer and their lender are satisfied, then you can move on to an exchange, where the process kicks into high gear.
How Long After Searches to Completion?
If the time from searches to exchange is between six and eight weeks (on average), the next question is how long from solicitor searches to completion? While we wouldn’t say the process was moving at a breakneck pace now, it is picking up steam. You can expect another two to four weeks from exchange to completion. You’re getting there.
How long from searches to completion in the UK? Barring a delayed completion (more on this in a moment), it typically takes eight to twelve weeks.
Now, what is delayed completion? It’s exactly as it sounds. Completion will not commence for months, and in some extreme cases, years after the exchange of contracts. This can be down to unanticipated problems uncovered by the searches that need to be addressed, or it could have to do with a snag on the property chain. For example, if the buyer needs to sell their house and has not yet, this can delay the work or they are building a new house and it is not yet finished. For others, it could be because financing has not come through yet.
How long after searches to completion with no chain, no financial obstacles and no other impediments? Again, we’re looking at eight to ten weeks all told. If those other issues interfere, your timeline could be significantly altered.
Regardless of the reason, it is beyond frustrating for the buyer – and even more aggravating for the seller.
Accelerating the Process Between Searches and Exchange
After having addressed the question of how long after searches to exchange, we turn to ways that you may be able to speed up the process. One of the most effective is to bypass many of the contingencies that are part of the process when you work with a traditional buyer (i.e. one that requires a mortgage).
Finding a buyer who has the financial resources to purchase the house without repayments streamlines the process immensely. Critically, these buyers are free to set their standards in terms of what they buy. They do not have to meet the criteria of the lender and thus they are not typically as worried about the results of searches. As they often buy properties in as-is condition, they are not going to baulk if the search finds dampness in the house or issues with the EPC. They accept those risks as part of their investment strategy.
Cash buyers typically offer a slightly lower price and they usually don’t require many (if any) searches on the property before they are willing to buy. This speeds up the process and eliminates a great deal of the paperwork involved, which reduces time even further. You can exchange within a few weeks and complete the transaction soon after.
Finding a Cash Buyer
Cash buyers have seemed to come out of the woodwork since the pandemic. The issue is finding one that has the financial wherewithal to complete a purchase. It is essential that you, as a seller, ask for – and receive – proof of funds. This usually entails a letter from their bank, as well as verified bank statements. If they cannot produce this immediately, or if they give you a line about why they have the money but no evidence to back it up, then they are wasting your time and putting you in a very precarious position. Move on.
Working with a reputable cash house buyer is an effective way to both streamline the entire sales process and ensure your buyer has the cash needed to seal the deal. You won’t have to wonder how long from offer to search or how long from a report on title to completion. Everything is expedited. You still need to see proof of funds, but after that, the sale moves towards exchange and completion without letting obstacles get in the way. You can complete the entire deal, from initial offer to completion, within as little as seven days. That is faster than it takes for searches to come in!