Conveyancing in England a month slower than Scotland

The conveyancing process in England takes more than a month longer on average than in Scotland, according to research by Rightmove.

The website found that the average length of time between an offer being accepted on a property — when a home is considered to be “sold subject to contract” — and the sale completing was on average 109 days across Britain during 2018.

This marks an increase of 20 days from 2011 when the process took on average 89 days.

However, there were stark differences between countries, with conveyancing in England taking an average of 112 days, while in Scotland the process takes just 77 days.

This means Scottish buyers get the keys to their new home 35 days sooner than their English counterparts.

In Wales the time between offer acceptance and completion was on average 106 days.

London buyers and sellers face a particularly lengthy process at an average of 118 days.

Buying a flat takes longer than a house due to the extra complexities involved in leasehold agreements, especially now that such contracts have come under increased scrutiny.

In England and Wales it typically takes 123 days between offer and completion on the sale of a flat, compared to 110 days for a house.

Meanwhile, the time it takes to find a buyer — measured from the date a property is listed for sale to the date an offer is accepted — has fallen across Britain from an average of 74 to 51 days between 2011 and 2018.

In Scotland it took 41 days to find a buyer in 2018, while in England it took 52 days and in Wales 54.

For Londoners, the time it takes to find a buyer has been creeping upwards more recently, from just 39 days in 2016 to 60 days last year.

Rightmove housing market analyst Miles Shipside says: “The pace of the market has been slowing since then, and whilst it would be easy to link that with the Brexit vote in the same year, there are other factors at play especially increasingly stretched buyer affordability. 

“Scotland now replaces London as the fastest area of Great Britain to find a buyer and London has gone from being the fastest place up until 2015 to the slowest place in 2018, as the market in the capital slowed over the past few years.”

Shipside says that one reason for the slowdown in the timeframe between offer acceptance and completion is that resources were cut in the credit crunch years and there has not been enough investment since to cope with higher volumes of sales.

He adds: “The majority of houses are freehold which have a simpler and quicker legal process, whereas the majority of flats are leasehold and have more legal work for both buyers and sellers. 

“A Leasehold Management Pack has to be prepared and it takes time to compile historical management accounts, ground rent and service charge accounts and receipts of payments made, plus general information about the property. 

“Statistics show that once a buyer has been found it takes on average two to three weeks longer to carry out the legal process on a leasehold property than a freehold one. 

“This, along with the fact that there is now increased stringency for those needing a mortgage which takes longer to process, means that conveyancing on flats is taking longer than before. 

“That means those buyers who have an offer accepted on a flat this month may not complete until the end of the year, especially if they’ll be getting a mortgage.”

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