Completion tips for sellers and buyers!

When the property market rebooted after the first lockdown, the subsequent increase in demand has led to an unprecedented level of property transactions. At the same time, the capacity of property service providers has been compromised by the challenges of operating in a COVID safe environment. 
Agents, lenders, surveyors and solicitors have all been inundated and are struggling to cope. Reports suggest that residential property transactions are so severely backlogged, they are taking an average of 5 months to complete. 
This article highlights the proactive measures that buyers and sellers can take to prevent delays.

what is causing the delays?

The combination of pent-up demand, the stamp duty holiday and reduced capacity in the property service sector has led to a perfect storm of delays. Solicitors, surveyors, lenders and local authorities cannot cope with current levels of demand – especially given the challenges of operating within the COVID safety measures.
With the rush for some people to complete before the stamp duty holiday ends, conveyancing firms are at full capacity, with some firms even turning away new business.


The conveyancing process has always been fraught with seemingly preventable delays. In the midst of the madness, there is still much buyers and sellers can do to help accelerate the process.
Buying and selling a property has always favoured the proactive. With the added challenges of moving home during the COVID restrictions, the following measures will help buyers and sellers minimise delays.

tips for sellers

1. start the legal process asap

Getting the legal process underway as soon as possible is the single biggest step you can take towards accelerating your sale. And ASAP means as soon as you put your property up for sale.
With most firms offering no-win no-fee conveyancing, there are only downsides to procrastination.
Before a solicitor can act for you, there are a number of initial formalities including verifying your identity, money laundering checks and your formal acceptance of the solicitor’s terms and conditions. This initial phase alone could add a week or two to the process if you wait until you accept an offer.
Chris Salmon of said, “To get your sale off to the best start, the aim should be for your solicitor to send the draft contract pack to the buyer’s solicitor a day or so after you accept an offer, rather than weeks later. There is no reason why this cannot be accomplished if all of the preparatory work has been done during the marketing phase.”

2. complete the property forms

Once instructed, your solicitor will ask you to complete the standard property transaction forms. These include the TA6 Property information form, the TA10 Fittings and contents form, and the TA7 Leasehold information form (if you are selling a flat).
These forms are detailed, take a few hours to complete and require you to locate other documents such as building regulations approvals or warranties. 
With the forms completed, there is no reason why your solicitor cannot send them out to the buyer’s solicitor (together with the draft contract) as soon as you accept an offer.
Make sure your agent has your solicitor’s details and ask the agent if they can email the Memorandum of Sale to your solicitor immediately.
Don’t be afraid to chase your solicitor 48 hours later and check whether the draft contract pack has been sent to the buyer’s solicitor. This is a key step as nothing will happen on the buyer’s side until the pack has been received.
Completing the forms in advance will also identify any potential issues which you and your solicitor can strategically plan for in advance.
Resist the temptation to leave the forms on the hall table – fill them in as soon as you can.

3. apply for the management pack (if leasehold)

If you are selling a leasehold property, you will need to provide the buyer with a leasehold management pack. This pack contains information about the lease and how the property is managed. The pack will include details on service charges, ground rent, deeds of covenant and any planned major works to the property.
Even in ‘normal’ times, sourcing the managing agent’s pack is a major source of delays – measured in weeks and sometimes months. Managing agents are currently swamped. It is now taking even longer to source this critical information.
Leaseholders should apply for the pack at the earliest possible stage, ideally well before you find a buyer. The managing agent will usually charge for this information but to wait until you have a buyer could be a false economy.

4. locate documents

Time is often wasted during the conveyancing phase while sellers search for documents. If you carried out any building work or alterations on your home, for example, you should find any planning permissions, building regulation completion certificates, electrical and gas installation certificates, party wall agreements and so on.
If your property is a recent new build, you should find any applicable warranties, such as the NHBC certificates.
These documents, along with anything else that might be relevant, should be forwarded to your solicitor without delay.

5. raise any issues

If you think that there is anything that could negatively impact your sale, such as an unresolved dispute with a neighbour or a missing electrical installation certificate, you should alert your solicitor at the earliest possible stage.
With your solicitor instructed in advance, he will have the benefit of time to work out how best to resolve any issues, or present them in the best possible light.

6. choose the right buyer

If you are lucky enough to receive multiple offers on your property, choosing the right buyer can have a real impact on how long it takes to complete.
The highest offer is not always the best offer and there may be other factors to consider. If the prospective buyer is buying without a mortgage, is chain-free, or (better still) both, they should be able to exchange sooner. The longer a transaction takes, the greater the probability of a sale falling through. These factors may trump a higher offer if you are in a hurry or are looking for greater certainty.

tips for buyers

1. instruct your solicitor

Again, instructing a solicitor in advance of finding a property means that the initial new client formalities can be completed in advance.
If there is a proactive solicitor on the seller’s side, your solicitor should receive the draft contract and property forms shortly after your offer is accepted. Your solicitor will then be able to review these documents and raise enquiries without delay.

2. apply for searches

Local authority searches have been particularly hard-hit. Before COVID, searches took 3-4 weeks – but now many authorities have doubled their turnaround time. Some are only processing search requests if they are considered to be ‘urgent’.
Your solicitor should confirm if you are happy to apply for these searches immediately. If you are not asked, make it clear that you want to.
If you are a cash buyer you may be able to proceed without searches, so ask your solicitor to explain your options.

3. sort out your finances

Lenders are similarly inundated with mortgage applications and mortgage approvals are taking longer.
If you can, decide on a lender and mortgage product while you are still looking for a property. You should then approach the lender and ask for an Agreement in Principle (AIP). An AIP can help speed up the process of applying for a formal mortgage. It can also make an offer more attractive to the seller.

4. arrange your survey

If you are planning to have a survey, book it as soon as you have an offer accepted. Surveyors are also overloaded so contact a few to see who can carry out a survey the soonest. Alternatively, see if you can get your lender to carry out the mortgage valuation and the survey at the same time.

Contact us today on 01793 520 720 if you’re thinking about buying or selling a property in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire or Oxfordshire. 

Published on 14th January 2021
*Please note – All timescales are relevant at the time of writing and may be subject to change. Please speak to your solicitor for accurate timescales at the time of purchase.

Compare listings


Book a valuation with us

Please fill in the simple form and we will contact you to arrange a no-obligation valuation on your property as soon as we receive the details.

Not quite ready for a valuation? 

Thank you for signing up and referring a friend

Your details have been submitted successfully.