If you're buying a house and are worried about delays, your anxiety is not unfounded. House sales have been taking much longer than usual during the past six months, with every step of the process, from viewings to securing a mortgage taking weeks – and often months – longer than the typical timeframes house buyers and sellers would expect.
But while many aspects of the house buying process are out of the buyer's hands, there are things you can do to speed things up a little, according to finance experts Bankrate (opens in new tab). Bear them in mind – especially if you're working to complete within a tight timeframe, i.e. the next few months.
1. Keep a close eye on your credit score
According to the experts at Bankrate, '[p]oor credit scores, a lack of documentation, tighter lending criteria, and a lack of awareness about affordability can all cause delays and upset.' Affordability checks have become stricter since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, so you can't leave anything to chance.
Register for a service like Experian, Equifax or Transunion to check and keep an eye on your credit rating throughout the process and understand what could be affecting it. Poor credit rating? Improve it before you start looking for a house and save yourself a lot of trouble further down the line when you start applying for mortgage.
2. Have your paperwork ready
A simple document such as proof of address, if for whatever reason you currently don't have an up-to-date one, can take a good couple of weeks to arrive. The same goes for statements from HMRC, which you will need for your mortgage application. Don't lose weeks of your time because you don't have all the paperwork required. Self-employed? You'll need to be extra-careful with your paperwork – make sure you have past two years' worth of accounts ready and certified by an accountant, as well as your SA302 tax return form.
3. Book a survey as soon as your offer has been accepted
A survey is an essential part of any purchase - flagging up potential problems and giving you a clear overview of the property.
Your lender will commission a survey as part of the valuation process but often this will only cover the basics, so book your own as soon as an offer is agreed.
Local surveyors get booked up in advance, so it pays to act fast. When you get the report through, forward it to your solicitor immediately so they can raise any snags with your seller asap.
4. Plan how you'll transfer your deposit in advance
Having the cash ready to go for completion is a good strategy to avoid a delay. With the large sums involved, it may take a few days for your bank to process the transfer, so it's a good idea to transfer it to your solicitor in advance. The funds will stay with your solicitor on account until you say it’s time to make the transfer. Being able to say that you have the money ready can also speed things up with the sellers, as it shows real commitment and intent.
5. Keep informed about the property chain
If you are part of a property chain, things often get complicated and delayed: '[o]f course, some delays are inevitable, but often days and weeks can be wasted for no reason.'
Don’t just rely on your estate agent and solicitor to push things along – do it yourself, setting deadlines to stay on track. Keep the conversation going – ask the agent selling your home to send a weekly update to the vendor’s agent – keeping an eye on progress.
If you’re buying from someone who says they’re chain-free, check this with the estate agent and solicitor.
If you’re in a chain, make sure you know what and who are involved – speak to other buyers and sellers to keep the channels of communication open, flagging up potential pain points.
Set a realistic target date for exchange and completion and keep checking in – set up a Whatsapp group to keep everyone in the loop – and keep checking in.