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How To Speed Up The Homebuying Process

Buying a home has always been a slow, seemingly cumbersome process. In these days of instant decisions and ‘24x7’ services, the housebuying process seems to lag behind.

The process of searching for a house can definitely be faster than it used to be. Simply sit as your computer screen and search out the type of home you want, and you’ll instantly be provided with a list of options. Viewings can of course be arranged by telephone or by email outside of office hours, and the need to secure your purchase means that estate agents have to rise to the competition, be available seven days a week and do everything they can to meet your needs.

But once you’ve had you offer accepted things seems to slow right down. The average time it takes from offer to completion is a ditheringly slow eight to 12 weeks. Could it be done faster?

You will need to get the other party to agree to a speedy sale, but if you do, there is no reason why the sale cannot be achieved in about four weeks.

What are the points of bottleneck? They are usually with mortgage agreements, surveys and conveyancing.

There is no doubt that the mortgage application process has been better tuned in the last few years, but the process of acceptance can still take about two weeks, as the lender waits for a property valuation and performs financial checks on you.

Now, as competition hots up, some mortgage lenders are considering the possibility of offering instant mortgage offers online. Land Registry data can be downloaded and credit score checks are available online, so these processes can be performed in a matter of minutes, enabling a lender to make a mortgage loan offer to a homebuyer in a very short space of time.

Some brokers do not see this speedy process coming into play widely. There can be no such thing as a ‘five minute mortgage’, though we might get the ‘five minute decision in principle’. Lenders do not make quick offers, but they can often say it’s a decision, subject to this or that. Additionally, without a value having been done, a mortgage lender would inevitably make some limitations on loan-to-value amounts.

Thus, with an unexpected valuation, things could quickly fall apart. A good broker can package a deal for lenders and get a valuation done in 48 hours, followed by a mortgage offer within three days. Even that would be exceptional.

More often, delays come from solicitors working on conveyancing, contracts and searches. Solicitors say that the delays come from waiting for the information they have requested to be returned. Conveyancing cannot be completed until all the pieces are in place. The key to speedy conveyancing is a quick survey, with no problems cropping up, and searches being returned quickly by the local authority.

There are things you can do to help yourself with a faster process.

  • While you are hunting for your house, get a mortgage offer in principle.
  • As soon as you have found a property, get a surveyor.
  • Impress upon your solicitor the need for speed.
  • Don’t hold onto any documentation that you need to return or delay the signing and sending of any cheques. Send them off straight away.
  • Keep on good terms and in regular contact with all parties.
The delayed introduction of Home Information Packs is supposed to speed up this process, as searches will be included in the pack to be compiled before a property is marketed.


Tom Smith
11th July 2007

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