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Explaining what solicitors do, why they're so slow and how to put pressure on solicitors to help speed up the selling process...

When it comes to selling your house, the conveyancing process is the one area where you have the least control over what is happening, with it lying in the hands of your and your buyer’s solicitors.

But what if the process is taking too long? What if you need a fast sale? Do you know how to put pressure on solicitors to speed the process along?

If your answer to our last question is ‘no’, don’t worry! We’re here to help, answering all your questions about what your solicitor does in the selling process, why they can be so slow and how to put pressure on solicitors.

What does a solicitor do in the selling process?

A solicitor’s job in the moving house process is to do the conveyancing, which essentially gets you from accepting an offer all the way through to exchange and completion.

Although on the surface it sounds like a fairly simple process, conveyancing can actually be quite complex, making it last for a long period of time. In some cases, it can take months to get through the process.

Some areas will take longer to get through the conveyancing process and the more bedrooms your house has, the longer the process tends to take.

Also, if your house flags up issues on the searches, then this will make the conveyancing process last even longer, as the issues will need to be resolved with both the buyer and seller.

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What is the average conveyancing time?

On average, conveyancing can take between 12-16 weeks, but in a lot of cases, it tends to take a lot longer. Also, with COVID, solicitors have been made to work from home, leading to them not having access to all necessary facilities.

On top of this, as a result of the Stamp Duty Holiday, there’s been an increased demand in the housing market, giving solicitors more work, meaning most solicitors are still working through the backlog, causing lengthy delays to conveyancing.

To help you understand why the conveyancing process takes so long and a breakdown showing all the possible situations that can cause a delay, take a look at this table:

CategoryApproximate Time
Pre-contract work: appoint conveyancer, instruct local searches, get survey, get draft contract2 weeks
Time for the buyer to arrange house repayments4 weeks
Draft contract: reviewing survey report, local searches, answering outstanding questions2-10 weeks
The time between exchange and completion1 week
Total time from an offer being accepted to completion12-16 weeks

Figures taken from HomeOwners Alliance

Not only can the conveyancing process be long, but it can also be very costly. As an average, the conveyancing costs for sellers tend to be between £550 and £1000. In some cases, solicitors may charge a percentage of your home’s value, which can increase the costs further.

Costs and length of the conveyancing process will also differ depending on whether your house is freehold or leasehold and also whether or not you have house repayments.

Why are solicitors so slow?

If your conveyancing process is taking forever, you should bear in mind your solicitor won’t be going slow on purpose – after all, they don’t get paid until your sale completes.

However, sometimes there are factors out of their control, meaning the conveyancing process drags out. These potential factors could be:

Slow buyer

There may be a case that you find your buyer is acting slowly, whether it’s through not replying to enquiries or not signing contracts on time. In order for your solicitor to be able to act fast, it’s important all parties do their job in responding as fast as possible. You may need to get your estate agent involved to push your buyer along if they’re acting too slow.

Complex transaction

Certain transactions will involve ‘non-standard’ elements, which will add some confusion into the process. Confusion naturally delays conveyancing, causing your solicitor to be slow.

Slow house survey

After a house survey has been conducted, it can take a long time before you get the results. Conveyancing is unable to go ahead without the survey results, which will mean your solicitor can’t do anything until results come in.

Unhappy with enquiries

If a solicitor has asked you or your buyer a question and they’re unhappy with the answer, they will slow the process down until they can resolve the issue.

Slow house repayments lenders

If your buyer requires a house repayments scheme to purchase your property, then the conveyancing can be slowed down by the lender. Although this is out of your control, it’s best to make sure your buyer has everything in place and an agreement in principle before you accept their offer and being conveyancing.

Reduced working hours

As a result of COVID, a lot of people are now working flexible hours or may have had to reduce their hours due to the company not being able to afford their wages. This naturally leads to work being done more slowly, as the same amount, if not more, work needs to be done in a smaller amount of time.

Working from home

Also as a result of COVID, a large number of people have begun working from home and are still doing so now. This leads to more room for problems, such as Wi-Fi struggles or not having access to files needed, slowing your solicitor down.

Less staff

Finally, another impact of COVID was workers being put on furlough. Now the furlough scheme has ended, a large number of people have lost their jobs, due to firms not being able to afford them. As a result of this, businesses are dealing with less staff, meaning your solicitor will likely have a larger workload, meaning they’re slowed down.

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How often should I chase my solicitor?

There’s no right or wrong answer to how often you should chase them, and it will depend upon how you feel and whether you require anything from your solicitor.

If you’re checking in with your solicitor on a regular basis, this is just one way of how to put pressure on solicitors, as they’re unable to slack at all with you always on their tail.

How often you want to chase your solicitor will also likely depend on where you are in the conveyancing process. For example, at the start there’s less for you to do, meaning you will probably feel less need to check in.

However, towards the end of the process, there will be a lot more work for you to do, such as answering enquiries and signing contracts, meaning you may feel the need to check in with them on a daily basis.

If you’re wanting to achieve a fast sale, then you will feel more inclined to check in with your solicitor more often, to try to speed the conveyancing up to get your house sold ASAP.

It is actually your solicitor’s job to update and report to you when they have an update or something of note has happened, but that isn’t to say solicitors will always do this.

What can I do if my solicitor is not responding?

If your solicitor isn’t responding to you for whatever reason, it’s time to get your estate agent to step in. Even after you have accepted an offer on your house, it’s your estate agent’s job to oversee the whole process, to ensure you get to completion as fast as possible.

If your estate agent is still unable to get a response from your solicitor, you can lodge a complaint with The Legal Ombudsman. They will get involved and listen to both sides of the story and come to a conclusion for you all.

However, this will add an extra element of confusion and delay to the conveyancing process and will just lengthen the amount of time before you can complete and get your house sold.

Can I chase my buyer’s solicitor?

No, you should not be chasing your buyer’s solicitor directly and if you were to call them, they would not speak to you.

If a delay is being caused by your buyer’s solicitor, you should ask either your estate agent or solicitor to contact them to apply some pressure and find out what’s causing the delay.

Can I contact my buyers directly?

If you and your buyer have given each other contact details and are therefore happy to speak to each other directly, then there’s no reason why you can’t do so.

It may actually be beneficial for you if you can speak with your buyer directly, especially if the delay is being caused by something on their side, like their solicitor.

In this situation, you could ask them to get in touch with their solicitor to resolve the issue, without needing to involve the estate agent (another little hint of how to put pressure on solicitors).

Having said this, it’s not always wise to deal with your buyer directly. It can often lead to confusion or result in a falling out.

An estate agent’s job is to make sure everything is done correctly and goes smoothly, so by bypassing the estate agent and going to the buyer directly, there’s no one in the ‘middle’ to smooth things over and sort things out.

How to put pressure on solicitors when selling

If you’re wanting to achieve a fast sale, knowing how to put pressure on solicitors is going to be key to achieving this.

As you’re reading this, we’re going to assume you’re keen to know how to put pressure on solicitors because you want your house to sell ASAP, so let’s get into it:

1. Use your direct contacts

As we mentioned earlier, you’re able to contact your buyer directly if both parties are happy to do so.

If it’s your buyer’s solicitor who is causing a delay, you can contact your buyer directly to ask them to speak with their solicitor to resolve the issue.

This way, you’re able to apply pressure to the solicitors without directly needing to do it yourself

2. Give your solicitor a deadline

If you give your solicitor a deadline, you’re subconsciously applying pressure. Your solicitor will be aware of the deadline, meaning they’re constantly pushing themselves to meet it

3. Use your estate agent

As we mentioned earlier, your estate agent is there to oversee the process and to make sure everything is as smooth sailing as possible.

This means you can ask your estate agent to get involved to remind the solicitors of the desired completion date, which will help push either your solicitor or your buyer’s solicitor along

4. Make a complaint

No one likes being complained about and it can often be the missing ingredient in getting someone to do what you want them to do.

Whether you complain to your solicitor directly, or escalate it higher up to The Legal Ombudsman, putting a complaint in is just another way of how to put pressure on solicitors

5. Be proactive

As much as the conveyancing process relies on your solicitor, it also relies on you to be proactive and do what is asked of you.

Whether this is signing contracts on time or being available to allow the house survey to be taken out, by being ‘on the ball’, you’re naturally putting pressure onto the solicitors to get their job done

6. Change solicitors

If you’re really struggling with your solicitor, then it may be quicker to swap solicitors to one who’s going to be able to get the job done faster.

Although you will have to start the process again with a new solicitor, causing a delay, it may be worth it in the long run when they get through completion much faster

7. Threaten to pull out

If it’s your buyer’s solicitor who is causing the delay, you could threaten to pull out of the deal if they’re not able to speed things up.

The threat of potentially losing the deal, meaning the solicitors won’t get paid, should be enough to apply pressure.

We suggest only doing this if you’re actually willing to potentially lose the deal though and only use this as a last resort

8. Use a cash buyer

Using a cash buyer will naturally apply pressure to solicitors as cash buyers have the money ready and available, meaning solicitors won’t have to wait for the house repayments lender and cash buyers often aren’t bothered about having a survey.

As a result of this, the pressure is completely on the solicitors to get the deal done and over the line

Also, in selling to a cash buyer, there will be no chain, meaning your sale won’t be slowed by waiting for the rest of the chain to exchange and complete, so the focus is completely on you and your sale.

Cash buyers will also be happy to complete in a timescale that suits you, as they have no house repayments to sort and no house to sell, meaning you can decide how fast the process is.

There’s also less paperwork when selling to a cash buyer, meaning there’s less room for things to go wrong and for conveyancing to get confusing.

This is easy to say, but are cash buyers that easy to find?

Yes, they are!

Here at The Property Buying Company, we’re a cash buyer of property, buying any house in any condition in any location.

We’re able to complete in a timescale to suit you, whether that be a week, a month or a year, but our speciality is fast sales!

We will also handle all the legal bits for you, so you’ll have no legal fees to pay, no confusing paperwork, no endless waiting games with your slow solicitor and no more searching ‘how to put pressure on solicitors when selling’.

We only require one quick viewing to give you our cash offer.

The offer we put forward will be the amount you will receive in full, in a fast timescale of your choice.

Fill in our online form or give us a call for a no-obligation cash offer which we can have in your bank, without the stress of needing to deal with slow solicitors…

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Alexandra Ventress

Alexandra is a Content Producer who enjoys writing articles, finding out about the property market, keeping you up to date with the latest trends.