The enormous surge of demand to buy property after lockdown, combined with the stamp duty holiday, has overwhelmed the market. Buyers face huge delays at almost every stage of the process.
Last week, members of the property industry wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak warning that the length of time it takes to buy a home has ballooned, and now takes 12 to 20 weeks.
There is a risk that many of those in the market now will not be able to transact before the stamp duty deadline on March 31. Data company TwentyCi has warned that 325,000 people could miss out on tax savings of up to £15,000.
So how can you make sure that you are not one of them? Here, experts share their tips on how to transact as quickly as possible.
How to sell fast
Roarie Scarisbrick, of Property Vision, a buying agency, said: “Prepare, for God’s sake, prepare.”
It’s important to get your paperwork in order as early as possible, said Andrew Boast of SAM Conveyancing. Instructing a solicitor at the point of marketing your home, completing all property forms and supplying the necessary supporting evidence such as warranties and building regulation certificates, could save sellers up to two weeks.
You will need your Energy Performance Certificate, title deeds and, if the property is a new-build, any guarantees and warranties. If you have done any work on the property, you will need the relevant consent and sign off forms from the planning authorities.
Those who own a flat in a new block are likely to need to get an external wall fire review safety form (EWS1). It was supposed to be used on blocks over 18m tall, but had since been applied to buildings of all heights. Without a valid EWS1 form, banks will not offer a mortgage on a property.
Leasehold owners should order leasehold packs direct from the freeholder or managing agent as soon as they have accepted an offer, said Mr Boast. The process can take three to five weeks, he said, but it is not worth ordering earlier. “The information only lasts six months and can cost £100 to £400 to obtain,” said Mr Boast.
“If anything is missing, declare it on day one,” said Mr Scarisbrick. Surprises bring further hold-ups.
“If I was a seller I would be ordering my own local authority searches because they are taking so long,” added Mr Scarisbrick. “People are short-staffed, and it can feel like extracting teeth.”
How to buy fast
First, find a solicitor that has capacity, said Mr Boast. Organise local authority searches and the survey as soon as you have found a property to buy.
With speed, however, comes risk, said Mr Boast. If a chain falls through buyers will lose the money they spent on getting prepared.
Many solicitors have a “no sale, no fee” option which can protect your legal costs. Buyers can also look to sell searches and surveys to the seller for use by their next buyer, said Mr Boast.