Why conveyancing during COVID-19 may take longer than usual

The UK’s housing market is experiencing a ‘mini-boom’ post the first lockdown, imposed in March 2020. However, while many are looking to move after seeking bigger spaces to accommodate working from home and not forgetting to take advantage of the current Stamp Duty holiday, this unusually busy property market is therefore seeing delays in transactions completing.

What’s causing the bottleneck?

SDLT Holiday

Probably the biggest reason for why the housing market is booming but people aren’t moving as quickly as they’d like is the stamp duty holiday. This short window of opportunity could see buyers saving thousands in tax if they complete before the end of March 2021 cut off. Yet, the knock-on effect of this is that conveyancing solicitors are managing an unprecedented number of transactions.

Delays with mortgage lenders

The global pandemic has left many in financial difficulties, either losing their job unexpectedly or being furloughed when their place of work has had to close or reduce their hours. These changes to people’s financial circumstances have led to mortgage lenders understandably upping their lending criteria to ensure an applicant will be able to manage the repayments of their mortgage.

What’s more, lenders are seeing the vast majority of staff members working from home, a challenge in itself. But with several important aspects conveyancers have to follow up with lenders such as post-valuation queries, mortgage redemption statements, settlement figures and more this typically well-oiled machine isn’t as accommodating as usual. This increased activity is on top of the fact that many homeowners have taken mortgage holiday’s which have also taken up a lot of lenders time in conjunction with processing new mortgage applications.

Local authority searches

When it comes to property searches in a transaction you either strike it lucky and hear back quickly on your local authority searches or you’re unlucky and you’re left waiting for several weeks. It can be extremely frustrating as this is completely out of your and your conveyancer’s control, and recently this was raised as a significant issue with some buyers voicing their concerns over the length of time searches were taking.

Staff using annual leave

Sadly 2020 hasn’t been ideal for those who typically spend their annual leave abroad or even exploring the UK on a staycation. What’s more, many employers impose a ‘take it or lose it’ policy for employee holiday’s which has left many with a lot of time off to use before the year ends. This means a lot of staff within the property sector are having to take leave just as the market is seeing a surge in property transactions.

Working through a global pandemic, lockdown 2.0 and WFH

In England, a second four-week long lockdown was imposed on November 5th, with all non-essential shops forced to close. While luckily this didn’t impact the housing market, as quickly confirmed by Housing Minister Robert Jenrick, it has seen businesses such as conveyancers working from home to help stop the spread of the virus.

Employers learnt a lot from the first lockdown and managed to put in place some new practices to facilitate staff working from home or remotely. Yet for some, it’s not a permanent solution and means the lines of communication aren’t as open as before. Especially for parents that are often left juggling childcare when children are told to self-isolate due to an outbreak in their school or early years setting.

How can you keep your transaction moving?

While a lot of the issues will be out of your control, when progressing your transaction there are things you can do to keep things moving as quickly as possible.

  1. Do your research and have your conveyancer lined up for as soon as your offer is accepted/you’ve accepted an offer on your property.
    • This way you know that your conveyancer can pick up your case
    • You’ll be one step ahead and contract-ready by getting the preliminary paperwork out of the way
  2. Respond quickly to enquiries – either from your solicitor, lender or estate agent. It may seem obvious but the longer you leave something the slower your transaction will move and other parties will become frustrated.
    Be willing to be flexible. If 2020 has taught us anything it’s things can change at a drop of a hat and that’s no different in
  3. conveyancing. During the peak of the pandemic transactions that were able to go ahead were often simultaneously exchanged and completed on the same day in case any party contracted the virus. Things aren’t too dissimilar now with exchange and completion still happening close together.
  4. As we’ve already mentioned, there are delays all round in the conveyancing process – for the latest approximate timings speak to your conveyancer to gauge how long something might take before chasing them later down the track for an update.

If you’re looking to move now or shortly get a free instant conveyancing quote here.

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