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How Long Will My Sale & Purchase Take?

The million dollar question. The one that your solicitor will struggle to answer although they wish they could!

The approximate timescale is six to eight weeks. A common misconception is that time starts to run from the moment the offer is accepted.

The offer being accepted is an exciting time but the legal work cannot start until your solicitor receives the contract pack. So, if you’re selling, this pack will be produced by your solicitor, if you’re buying it will be needed by your solicitor.

Then The Legal Work Begins

The buyer’s solicitor will be able to use the plan within the contract pack to submit the application for searches. The plan is carefully checked to ensure it shows the full extent of the land the buyer believes they are buying.

The contract will be checked, amended if necessary. The title and the protocol forms completed by the sellers will be investigated and enquiries are likely to be raised.

Whilst the replies are awaited, your searches may come back, your mortgage offer may arrive and your survey report may be completed.

The buyer’s solicitor will check all searches and your mortgage offer and this may lead to further enquires.

At each stage you should receive an update and often a written report on the legal matters. You may also be sent the contract, mortgage deed and other documents to sign but this doesn’t mean you’re ready to exchange.

Exchange can happen when all of the above is completed for every person in the chain.

Frustrations & Delays – Why Do They Happen?

The most common reason for delay is waiting for others in the chain to be ready to exchange and you have to remember that not everyone’s legal work will have started at the exact same time nor will all transactions progress at the same pace or involve the same practical and legal issues. Every single case is different!

Some common causes for delay are –

At the start:

  • Search fees not paid in good time
  • Completed forms and deeds not sent back swiftly will hold up the title investigation and enquiry stage
  • Waiting for legal issues to be resolved, for example a Grant of Probate to be issued
  • Waiting for the chain to be complete


  • A poor plan making the correct identification of the land difficult
  • A delay with the local authority/search provider

Mortgage offers

  • A delay with a mortgage offer being issued in the chain
  • Mortgage conditions, CML Guidelines and BSA Guidelines. The buyer’s solicitors will not be able to preempt what these may be until they have both the legal title and the mortgage offer in their possession

What Can You Do To Help?

I’m a seller

  • Instruct your solicitor early – we can explain the process and answer any questions you may have
  • Complete the conveyancing protocol forms – we can identify any issues that need to be overcome at the earliest opportunity
  • Get all deeds, certificate, planning documents and notices together to send back with the forms
  • Make sure you’re clear on your requirements from the outset and we will give an honest and experienced opinion

I’m a buyer

  • Instruct your solicitor as soon as you can, we can give you an estimate of costs to factor into your budget – even before you start viewing property!
  • Ask questions and tell as your concerns, we can explain the process right from the start
  • Pay your search fees and arrange your survey as soon as you can
  • Don’t hand in your notice on rented accommodation until you have taken our advice
  • Make sure your clear on your requirements from the outset and we will give an honest and experienced opinion

There are many experts and individuals involved in the process. Sometimes the different updates are confusing, everyone is trying to help but your solicitor is the one who will bring it all together and they will know if anything is missing. Overall, speak to your solicitor.

Fosters are happy to talk you through the process and offer that early guidance you need even before your home is marketed or you’ve arranged your first viewings so do get in touch.

This article was produced on the 23rd May 2018 by our Residential Property team for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.