The ideal arrangement would be that the day after you accept a buyer’s offer, a pack of papers completely dealing with the property arrives on the buyers’ solicitor’s desk, followed up by a telephone call from your solicitor half an hour later asking if the buyers are now ready to exchange contracts. That can happen.
Contract races occur in which several prospective buyers compete to be first to be ready to exchange contracts. There are also ‘attended exchanges’ where the buyers’ solicitor turns up with their clients at the sellers’ solicitor’s offices, they go through the papers on the spot, and they exchange contracts. But in the normal transaction, it is going to take longer. It just doesn’t need to take as long as it often does. These are steps you can take to cut down delays.
You should appoint solicitors as early as possible in the process so that they are ready to send out a contract and relevant papers to the buyers’ solicitors as soon as the deal is agreed. Give them all the relevant documents you have about the property (‘the title deeds’). Then when a deal is agreed, your solicitor can immediately send out ready prepared photocopies of all relevant papers.
If you omit this step and only tell your solicitors when a deal is actually agreed, it may be two weeks before they can do all this. They may have to get in touch with your bank or building society to obtain title deeds if they hold them, and that can take up more time.
You should ask your solicitors to confirm to you when they have sent out the contract and other papers. You don’t want to find that, due to pressure of work or slackness, it is taking a week or more for the papers to be sent out.
Once the papers are in the hands of your buyers’ solicitors, it’s hard to know what is happening, because they don’t have to keep you informed. After about a week you should ask your estate agents or solicitors to ring them to find out whether they are happy with everything. If the buyers’ solicitors won’t return your solicitor’s calls, threaten to put the property back on the market unless he does.