Could a delayed property purchase scupper your summer holiday?

Around 370,000 property deals may be going through the conveyancing process this summer. We explain if a sale or purchase could disrupt your travel plans

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Longer conveyancing times mean hundreds of thousands of home buyers and sellers could face an anxious wait to complete on a property purchase during the summer, research suggests.

Property demand has started to improve amid slowing inflation and rising hopes of an interest rate cut.

Lenders have even started to reduce their mortgage rates.

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Meanwhile, analysis from property website Zoopla suggests supply is rising, making it a good time for those looking to buy a property and it could even ensure house prices remain affordable.

But while finding a property may be easier, buyers and sellers are waiting longer for the legal conveyancing process to complete.

Upfront information provider Home Sale Pack claims it now takes 154 days on average for the conveyancing process to complete.

This includes checking the financials of buyers and sellers and confirming all property details and any land restrictions before contracts can be exchanged and complete.

There are around 370,725 properties on the market that are listed as sold subject to contract (SSTC), according to Home Sale Pack.

The provider warns that many of these sellers and their buyers could have summer travel plans scuppered as they may need to be available to respond to queries and complete the deals.

But conveyancing experts and estate agents insist that holidays may not be an issue as long as you are prepared and work with tech-savvy solicitors.

Samantha Scott-White, of Cotswold Buying Agent, says she has never heard of anyone not being able to go away during a transaction.

“The key is preparation,” she says.

“Make sure you have provided all the information and completed the property information forms, while documents can be signed electronically and agents can hold onto keys.”

Can you go on holiday while buying a house?

With so many listings marked as SSTC, it is likely that plenty of deals will complete during the summer months.

Beth Rudolf, director of delivery at the Conveyancing Association trade body, says home movers can go on holiday so long as they have a law firm who communicates electronically and accepts digital signatures and digital ID.

“But the issue is that because of the lack of transparency in the process how can you book a holiday when you do not know what the completion or moving date will be until a week before moving – or worse case scenario with simultaneous exchange and completion, the day you are supposed to move,” says Rudolf.

“In a five to seven week transaction that isn’t so much of an issue but where law firms are not getting and checking upfront information before the property is put on the market, issues with the title do not become apparent until months into the transaction after a buyer has been found – and these transactions take 22 weeks on average and no wonder 30% fall through as a result.”

Many lenders as well as the Land Registry have moved on from wet signatures and will accept documents that are signed electronically.

Conveyancers can use e-signature platforms and then provide a certificate confirming that they have an audit trail of the signature of the document which Land Registry will accept, says Rudolf. 

Some lenders will accept digital signature of mortgage deeds but not all so it is worth checking.

“So, as long as the consumer has access to a smartphone and their email account as well as wi-fi or data, they can manage the transaction anywhere in the world,” adds Rudolf.

Make sure you use secure wi-fi though and don’t post progress on social media as a typical scammer trick is to look out for anything to indicate that people will be transferring money to intercept email, she warns.

“Your conveyancer should confirm their bank account details at the beginning of the transaction and will not change their bank account so if you get an email saying the bank details have changed, ring the lawyer on a number which you know is genuine,” she says.

Rob Hailstone, chief executive of the Bold Legal Group conveyancing network suggests some lawyers may let buyers or sellers sign documents in advance.

“The best thing a home mover can do, be they sellers or buyers, is to let their conveyancer know when they will be away, and to also ask if their conveyancer is also likely to be away and if they are who will be dealing with their transaction in their absence,” he says.

“Forewarned is forearmed, and communication is key.”

You may even need a holiday after the stress of waiting for a transaction to complete.

“Buying and selling is notoriously stressful and will take longer than you think especially if you are in a chain,” says Paula Higgins, chief executive of the HomeOwners Alliance

“A two-week holiday may be very much needed.  In fact, if you are selling, you might appreciate not having to keep the place tidy for viewings. “

She says it is important to choose your conveyancer carefully and make sure they do as much as they can digitally.

“Speak to your conveyancer and estate agent about your holiday plans and agree how and when you would like to be contacted,” she adds.

“If you have accepted an offer, make sure you get all your paperwork in order before you go.  If you are planning your holiday during school holidays there is a good chance that your buyer or seller might be doing the same thing.”

Marc Shoffman
Contributing editor

Marc Shoffman is an award-winning freelance journalist specialising in business, personal finance and property. His work has appeared in print and online publications ranging from FT Business to The Times, Mail on Sunday and The i newspaper. He also co-presents the In For A Penny financial planning podcast.