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25th February 2020

Why Do Solicitors Take So Long to Exchange Contracts?

Most individuals often wonder why solicitors take too long to exchange contracts, whether it’s a purchase or sale.

Why do solicitors take so long

Why do solicitors take so long

There are numerous factors that can cause delays, delays in conducting or obtaining searches, differences in valuations, the size of the chain, unresponsive buyers or sellers, a solicitor having too much to handle or simply being bad at his or her work.

None of this helps since the longer the process takes the more you are at risk of being gazundered if you’re the seller or gazumped if you’re the buyer.

However, if you really want to comprehend fully why they take long to exchange contracts, you will first need to understand what the conveyancing process involves. Continue reading!

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The Conveyancing Process

How long enquirers take?


The first step of the conveyancing process is the enquiries. It is when the solicitor of the buyer formally asks for draft contract from the solicitor of the seller. They will also send documents like a property detail form that the seller completed.

A solicitor will then make requests for clarification or information on the documents they have already received, which is referred to as enquires.

Now how long a solicitor enquires will take normally depends on how responsive the parties involved are; the respective seller and buyer and the solicitor. Typically, they’ll last for at least 1 to 4 weeks – it all depends on the sale’s complexity. It is worth talking to your solicitor if the enquiries take longer than this to determine why.

The typical time from the enquiries to exchange of contracts


Most people think that once the enquiries are completed, the rest of the process is straightforward and pretty quick.

Unfortunately, that is not case since the transaction that would actually be considered quick can take around 2 to 3 weeks to reach exchange of contracts. A typical transaction takes roughly 4 to 8 weeks and most of them take even longer.

How long solicitors’ searches take

Good solicitors will make sure that they begin conducting searches as early as possible. The amount of time the searches take is just somewhat out of solicitors control.

Searches include looking for potential environmental hazards, confirming how the property is linked to the water system, and checking the property’s risk of flood.

The buyer’s solicitor is the one that conducts these searches and he\she relies on the reports sent from different authorities.

So, the typical time that the searches take depend on how quick the authorities are providing them and the requested searches. This stage can take about 3 to 6 weeks.

How long it takes to buy and sell a house in total from start to finish

If the searches and enquiries are the areas where many individuals see delays and get frustrated, then how long does it normally take to sell and buy a house from start to finish?

When buying, if you’re considering the conveyancing process from the time the offer has been accepted on that property, then the process can take around 2 to 6 months.

Some people spend hours, others months, or even years, trying to find a property.

Generally, sales and purchase with no downward or upward chains usually complete a bit quickly, whereas, those with numerous sellers and buyers involved (especially old properties) simply take the longest time.

What can delay the exchange of contract?

The things that can delay the exchange of contracts include, but aren’t limited to:


  • Overworked solicitors: Solicitors with so many clients to attend to may take longer to carry out the needed work.


  • Unanswered enquiries: If your solicitor has unsatisfactory answers to any of the queries, he\she will not want to complete.
  • Slow searches: Most authorities are just slow at offering search results and that can delay the entire conveyancing process.
  • Complex transactions: Transactions that include non-standard elements are complex resulting to delay.
  • Mortgage lenders: There are buyers who normally need a mortgage and the speed of that transaction depends on the lender’s speed.
  • Slow sellers or buyers: Sometimes it is the seller or buyer who delays the conveyancing process by maybe not signing contracts promptly or not offering information.

To find out what exactly is delaying the exchange of contracts, you will need to speak to your solicitor.

A professional solicitor should always keep the client updated on what they are waiting on and where things are throughout the conveyancing process. However, do not hesitate to put a little pressure on your solicitor and seek answers on why things are taking too long.

In addition to that, remember that there are things that are out of their control and their main goal is to make sure they protect their clients during the entire transaction.

So, what if it is the seller or buyer holding up the exchange of contracts?

If the seller or buyer is in a chain, he\she may intentionally hold up the process in order to give other parts of that chain a good chance to catch up.

Also, if issues with the property has been stressed on a survey, the purchaser may want some time to look into them.

Sometimes a seller or buyer can get cold feet and delay exchanging of contracts in order to give himself\herself more time to think. It can also happen when they have spotted a great mortgage deal or want more time to sort out finances.

It can be extremely difficult to know the truth it it’s the seller or buyer delaying the exchange of contracts; however, you can look for an estate agent to talk to the other party and attempt to find out his\her position.

What should you do if your solicitor is delaying the exchange of contract?

If evidences suggest that it’s the solicitor that is holding up the exciting exchange of contract, then you should try to find out ‘why’.

The issue can also be with the other party or even his\her solicitor. If that’s the case, consider going through the estate agent to encourage them to try and quicken their pace and even get their own side of the story.

If the problem is that your solicitor is still awaiting the search results, try to find out from him how essential the search is.

If your solicitor that is not spending a significant amount of time on your transaction or is simply overworked, put pressure on him.

Do not be afraid to find the new and right solicitor if the one that your chose is not good for you. You should also know that switching solicitors can delay the completion.

Using an online conveyancing specialist can save you considerable time and money as this is what they do all the time, and they will more than likely have come across any problems you may encounter in the past.

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