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Slow going – average time to purchase a home passes five months

One of the biggest frustrations people have with the home buying and selling process is the amount of time it takes to complete a house move, and it looks like this frustration is going to remain if the latest research is anything to go by.

According to findings from Smoove’s Home Movers Report, the average time taken to purchase a home and have the keys in hand now stands at more than five months. 

The data found that, within the last six months, the average time taken to complete the home purchasing process sits at 153 days, some 23% (or 19 days) higher than the pre-pandemic timeframe of 2019. Back then, it took 124 days on average to complete a sale.


The report suggests the rise can most likely be attributed to the post-lockdown boom, with changing consumer lifestyles and demand outrunning supply. This, coupled with greater capacity constraints for solicitors and local authority searches taking longer than they should to complete (likely due to technology failures or a large backlog), have led to the average buying time increasing.

What’s more, the report suggests that the home moving process continues to be a ‘very protracted, fragmented and analogue experience, with many checks and documents still needing to be in physical form, rather than being able to be signed or reviewed digitally’.

Consequently, nine in ten homeowners – a worryingly high number - found the process stressful. The main reasons for stress were the sheer length of time it took to complete the process (40%), the lack of certainty (34%) and waiting for exchange and completion dates to be finalised (33%).

A particular bone of content for homeowners, the research found, is the length of time it takes filling out forms, such as property title deeds, EPCs, local authority searches, transaction (TA) and conveyancing forms (TA).

Meanwhile, the documents that take the longest to wait for and complete include mortgage application/agreement in principle (22%), ID checks (18%) and local authority property searches (16%).

Currently, the average length of time to receive personal searches from local councils across England and Wales is 9-11 days, according to Conveyancing Data Services (CDS).

While the majority of councils are processing requests in a reasonable timeframe, some councils are taking longer on search times. This includes Middlesbrough (35 to 40 working days) and Havering (65 to 70 working days), where the situation is especially bad.

Simon McCulloch, chief commercial and growth officer at Smoove, said: “Too often we hear of the misery that comes with moving home. The sheer length of time it takes to complete the process is a major stress driver. Local property searches being delayed only adds to the pressure and these significantly vary region by region with some search times taking up to 70 days. For this reason, we recommend ordering your searches as soon as possible, particularly as we, in partnership with CDS, offer a refresh or replacement service if needed.”

He added: “A further way to reduce time and stress for all parties is to use a platform or conveyancer that offers services like electronic onboarding, ID verification and case tracking. We need to modernise the industry and systematically transform the home moving experience by increasingly digitising and automating the process. Whether that means providing transactional visibility, quicker checks, automatic form filling, or real time updates, these will all ultimately ensure a more satisfactory outcome for everyone.”

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    Sorry but this is mere tinkering. The main reasons for the delays have little to do with alleged Luddite practices by conveyancers. Mass digitisation is a red herring being pushed by vested interests. Tackle the fundamentals first before you try to digitise everything that moves.

    For instance, the government suggests potentially huge fines for conveyancers when it is proved they have facilitated 'economic crime'. The new Building Act affecting flat purchases is nearly 400 pages long.

    It must be understood by the industry. that so long as the government spews out complex measures, delays in moving home will increase. Some issues cannot be just 'fixed' by technology, because measures like the above will always require a substantial manual audit of identity/ legality.

    There is also the problem of some councils taking in excess of two months to turn round local searches. This is an example of something which could be 'fixed' by better IT.

    Progress can be made to speed things up but certain realities must be understood by non-conveyancing participants in the housing sector.


    I agree in part and then not in others. i certainly agree conveyancing is getting more complicated. To make it easier, getting as much of the information required as possible, prior to the sale being agreed must make sense. Conveyancers can then focus on conveying rather than the admin of information gatherers.


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