Mike Ellis, director at Ellis Winters & Co in March sheds some light on why sales transactions can take so long to complete and how to speed them up!


“I've been an estate agent for more years than I care to remember but, throughout that time, there has always been a cloud of mystery over why a sales transaction takes so long.


“In essence a buyer needs three things before they are ready to exchange contracts: a local search, an approved contract and a mortgage offer.


“Let's break these down into their constituent parts because they can actually all be done at the same time. A building society survey should be done within the first couple of weeks of the sale being agreed, with a mortgage offer coming out a week or two later. Local searches take two to four weeks and an approved contract should take four to six weeks. 


“So there should be no reason why contracts should not be ready to exchange within six weeks and yet the average length of time from sale agreed to exchange is 11 weeks. You’d think that with modern communications such as mobiles and email the process would surely be quicker today than 30 years ago. However, you may be surprised to know that the average length of time for a transaction in the 1980s was yes, you guessed it, 11 weeks!


“Because of our increasingly litigious nature, there are more hoops for a solicitor to jump through to ensure things are done properly and therefore less chance of them being sued. But still, these extra weeks cannot be explained.


“So how can you speed this process up? For me it's clear. Instructing the right estate agent who will not only sell your property but is used to dealing with solicitors and has the experience to solve any problems that crop up. 


“Your agent must do a proper job in qualifying the buyer to ensure they can proceed with the purchase; due diligence at this stage is paramount. Instruct your solicitor early i.e. when you first go on the market so they can get the mundane things out of the way such as your ID and formal instructions. Ask your solicitor to email any questions rather than posting them and reply as quickly as you can. Finally, tell you solicitor your expectations of timescales and make sure they stick to them!”