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13th September 2021

5 Factors That Can Hold Up The Exchange Of Contracts

Buying or selling a house can take anywhere from three to six months. This includes the time that the property is on the market and a buyer spends browsing for their perfect property. Once an offer is agreed and the conveyancing process has begun, it can take around 8 to 12 weeks to exchange contracts. Each of these time periods are extremely variable due to a number of factors. There are certain things that can be done to speed up the exchange as well as things that can hold up the exchange of contracts.

Exchange is a term used to describe the exchange of contracts between buyer and seller. This specific action is somewhat pivotal during the property transaction as it stands as the point of no return. Both buyers and sellers cannot back out of the transaction without serious consequences and legal action after the point of exchange. There is a long and complicated process before this point, which can face any number of delays. Here are the top 5 that create the biggest hold ups in the exchange of contracts

One of the key things that can be arranged to secure a fast and efficient conveyancing process is working with an experienced and competent conveyancing solicitor. My Conveyancing Specialist are able to offer the services of dedicated solicitors to complete your exchange quickly and painlessly. Get your free online conveyancing quote here.

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What can hold up the exchange of contracts

  1. Solicitors’ enquiries

To ensure the seamless transaction of property. The buyers conveyancing solicitor will carry out a number of checks before the exchange of contracts can occur. This will include:

  • Bankruptcy Search: Checks on your financial history are performed for the favour of mortgage providers. This ensures you are able to pay back the loan and have no history of bankruptcy.
  • Land Registry Office Copies: A fee must be paid to register the transfer of property between seller and buyer
  • Electronic ID Verification: Security checks are completed against the buyer to protect from fraudulent purchase.
  • Local Authority Searches: This confirms the history of the property. A search of public records will assess planning issues or complications associated with the property.
  • Water and Drainage Search: a search of flooding history or damage to the drainage system is assessed to protect against water damage
  • Environmental Search: Any records for potential environmental contamination are recovered for the safety of the prospective tenant.
  • HMLR Final Search: One final check is completed for your property against the Land Registry before you transaction can be completed.

Individually, these checks don’t take an excessive amount of time to complete. However, hold ups in retrieval of information or issues that need to be addressed can lead to accumulation of delays.


  1. Survey Results

A buyer will likely order a survey on a property to protect their investment. This can involve either a property valuation, homebuyers report or building survey. Each of the surveys take a number of hours to perform. The results will be sent to the buyer within a week and any required remedial

A home survey is completed to assess the structural integrity and quality of a property. If the results of the survey highlight major issues or any matters that the buyer wants fixed, they can arrange with a seller to have these requirements satisfied.

Major delays in the exchange procedure can occur if there are large structural issues with the property and they require a lot of work to fix. If the seller is aware of these issues before putting their house on the market, it may be in their best interest to fix the concerns to be able to have a smoother selling experience.


  1. Buyer & Seller Hesitations

Certainly, something that can hold up the exchange of contracts is if either party has doubts about continuing the process. Either party pulling out can lead to the entire process starting again. A buyer would have to find a whole new property which could be very disappointing. The seller would have to remarket their house and potentially find a new seller if they decide to carry on.

A buyer’s hesitations can come from a number of sources. They may realise they are no longer happy with the agreed price; this can reopen negotiations which may take a long time to come to agreement. The results of a survey could cause some concern and change their mind about the property. If the seller wants to retain the buyer, dropping the price or fixing the issue will likely be the only two solutions. The buyer might find a better option or just lose interest in the property altogether. In this situation there is not much that can be done.

In the case of the seller, there are also different reasons why they might consider taking their property of the market. They too might be concerned about the agreed price. Alternatively, there could be issues in the chain, if they don’t have a property to go to after selling theirs this can cause lengthy delays. They also might realise they don’t want to sell their home.

There are a number of reasons why either the buyer or seller may have hesitations about the exchange. They can cause any length of delay, or even cause the sale to fall through.


  1. Finance Issues

Any number of issues may arise with the buyer’s financial situation. However, they are a pivotal factor within the purchase process. If mortgage funds cannot be secured to purchase the property, the sale will fall through.

A slow mortgage provider can hold up contract exchange even if the buyer has done everything, they can to speed up the process. You may have applied for a mortgage in principal and secured the amount needed to purchase the property. However, when it comes to confirming the funds in order to exchange contracts, delays on their end can keep you waiting for undetermined amounts of times. There may be additional checks to completed, or the lender may be overwhelmed with fund requests, putting you somewhere on a waiting list.

The other main factor for delay can be down to the fault of the buyers. If they start the mortgage application too late, it can lead to both parties waiting for the lenders approval before exchange can occur. Applying for a mortgage should start before you even start looking for properties. You want to ensure you have a mortgage agreed in principle ready for whenever you want to place an offer on a property. There are multiple stages to be completed in the mortgage application, any delays to starting this can halt the exchange for days or weeks.


  1. Complicated transactions

Most commonly, the buyer or seller will find the exchange being held up when they are in a chain. This happens because you are relying on numerous people to be completing their transaction smoothly so you are able to continue with yours.

A chain starts with somebody that is trying to purchase a house but isn’t selling one at the same time. This can typically be a first-time buyer. The last person in a chain is somebody only selling a property, not buying another. Everybody else within the chain are selling and buying properties.

We have already discussed four reasons why the exchange of contracts can be held up. Every single person within the chain can face these same issues. For this reason, chain property exchanges are typically the longest. Buying and selling without a chain or at least a much shorter chain is much more preferable because they are often quicker to exchange.


How to speed up the exchange of contracts

In order to speed this process up, it requires immense effort from all parties. This includes both the buyer and seller and each of their respective solicitors and estate agents. There are actions that can be taken in order to avoid certain delays. These include:

  • Make yourself available: At any point up to the exchange of contracts, you might be required for updates, checks, retrieval of information and multiple other reasons. To avoid delays at your own fault you should make yourself reachable as much as possible. This means responding to solicitors’ emails hastily and responding to any phone calls.
  • Be prepared early: We previously discussed how a late mortgage application can detrimentally hold up the exchange. It would therefore be in your best interest to get prepared for all stages of the transaction. This would include mortgage applications as well as instructing a solicitor and deciding whether you require any surveys for the property.
  • Online conveyancing: Having a good solicitor on your side is one of the key methods to increase the rate of exchange. Completing the process with an online solicitor can improve this exponentially. Working with a company such as My Conveyancing Specialist who have optimised the conveyancing process can be convenient and efficient.
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