Published 26 June 2019

alarm clock corporateThe property market is one which loves statistics, and we are often deluged by facts and figures, with a huge variance in their accuracy and usefulness.  House price indexes, for example, are only really of any use if they track actual prices achieved, rather than asking prices (which too many do).

Now a new index has been launched which tracks the amount of time a property takes to sell.  Because the data is based on the time elapsed between the property first being listed on Rightmove and it achieving ‘sold’ status on the Land Registry, this is one set of statistics that are at least based on reality.  And they make depressing reading.

Across the UK, the average home took nearly 17 weeks to sell.  There is significant regional variation (fastest transactions are in London, where the average is ten weeks), but the Norfolk figures sit pretty much at the national average.

It’s a constant bugbear among both buyers and vendors.  Some of the factors which cause such a long time to elapse between putting a house on the market and completion are out of all of our hands; but both vendors and agents can help to reduce this frustrating wait.

For the vendor, the mantra should be: be prepared.  There is much that can be done before the property goes on the market which will speed up the process once an offer is made. 

This can include getting all the various certificates and guarantees you will need together, as well as engaging a solicitor so that you are legally prepared.  It also means having all the documentation to prove your identity to hand (money laundering regulations mean this is an unavoidable part of the process).

Also, if you are moving to another property, getting a mortgage offer in principle in advance will also speed up the process, and doing this from scratch can take valuable time.

Another common pitfall is assuming that your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is up-to-date.  These are only valid for ten years, and given that they were introduced in 2007, those early certificates will need renewing.

Perhaps the biggest factor in shortening the transaction time is the choice of estate agent.  It is a mistake to think that being an estate agent is just about marketing a property.  Of course this is important, but often where the agent really earns their fees is after the offer is accepted.  How proactive your agent is in this regard will have a direct impact on how long you wait to complete.

A good agent will have a close rapport with local solicitors, enabling delay-causing niggles to be overcome quickly; they will make themselves available at any point in the process; they will be able to access specialists for any reports needed; they will have a good local knowledge.  Above all, they will have a proactive attitude, not sitting back and waiting for things to happen, but taking the initiative and driving the sale forward.

We all wish there was a ‘silver bullet’ to make the sales process shorter, but there isn’t.  However, by doing as much as possible in advance, and by choosing a proactive estate agent with a good track record in progressing sales, the vendor can maximise their chances of bringing down that 17 week national average.

Clive Hedges | Residential Partner

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