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Conveyancing: How Long Does It Really Take To Move House?

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Update: this blog has now been updated, and you can view it here.

How Long Does It Take To Move HomeHow long does it take to move house is the question we get asked the most at the start of the Conveyancing process.

We could say, provided you live in a house (and not a flat) your property is registered at the Land Registry, you are selling only and there are no linked transactions  (a chain) and your buyer has cash and does not require a survey (more fool them) and your buyer’s Conveyancers are on the ball – between 24 and 48 hours.

But we don’t.

We could try and use a piece of string analogy here –but, we’ll save that for later.

Simply, there are many, many components which make up a house move.

The likelihood is that other house or flat moves will be linked to your move and one or more will require some kind of finance.

The more links in the Conveyancing chain, inevitably, the more complex and time consuming your move may become.

Sale Only

But, let’s not be too pessimistic.

You could be lucky and your sale fly through and leaving you wondering what all the fuss was about.

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt…

If you’re selling only and not buying on, you’re normally in the best position –provided you are not at the top of a chain of transactions.

One seller and one buyer (a first time buyer, someone living in rented or an investor) would be your best bets.

A word of caution: just don’t get too excited early on when your buyer says they are paying cash. Sometimes, we find out that the cash is actually coming from a Bank or Building Society in the form of a Mortgage. Not intentional deception more a misunderstanding of phraseology. A good Estate Agent will interrogate your Buyer to make no there is no miscommunication.

Buying and Selling at the Same Time

Where you are buying and selling at the same time then the length of time it takes you to move will inevitably be longer than just a sale or purchase.

Assuming there are 2 to 3 people in the chain (and no-one changes their minds for whatever reason and pulls out) then a reasonable time frame would be 8-12 weeks.

Who or What are the Main Culprits for Delay?    twitter_512

Let’s round up the usual suspects.

Mortgage Offers

We are living in different times since the financial crisis of 2008.

Banks’ and Building Societies’ mind set has changed and their aversion to risk increased immensely. Financial Regulators also insist on less reckless lending than in the past

More than ever before the computer likes to say no!

The impact for you is that where once mortgages were issued by the most efficient Banks and Building Societies within a matter of a couple of weeks or so, this process is now taking a lot longer.

Mark Hayward, Managing Director of the National Association of Estate Agents said recently that it now takes an average of 50 days to receive a mortgage offer.

The moment the chain is ready is, by and large, the time when the last mortgage offer is received.

It’s also a reason why suddenly after weeks of inactivity it’s all hands to the pumps for a quick exchange and completion 

Ahoy There! House Buyers Grab Yourself a Conveyancing Guide from Clutton Cox, Solicitors


Chains are a part and parcel of the house buying process in England and Wales.

Different countries have different methods for house transfers and we have a lot of opponents to our system in England and Wales.

“Buyers” are able to make offers on property “subject to contract” which means they are not committing to buy the property until all their arrangements are in place, a survey commissioned and linked chains of transaction are complete and also ready to go.

Buyers and Sellers are able to withdraw from a sale or purchase on a whim, bad survey, unsuitable mortgage finance, job loss: the list is extensive.

There is always room for increased efficiencies but my view is there are just enough checks and balances to ensure people are not forced or pressurised into buying a property they may later regret.

Managing Expectations

Which takes us neatly back to the original question.

It can be very stressful moving house with many built-in uncertainties.

Try and reduce your stress levels by not harbouring unrealistic expectations about how quickly you can move house.

If you condition yourself to an 8-10 week period , then you will be delighted if it takes less time.

Communication is key.

Do keep in touch with regularly with your Conveyancers, Estate Agents and Your Lender or Mortgage Broker, if applicable, and your Buyer or Seller if you both agree.

Then, even where there is an additional delay, so long as everyone in the chain is aware of the reason, the stress levels will reduce and expectations managed.

Me, now what did I do with my piece of string…

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in 2012 and has been completely revamped and updated.

Paul Hajek

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