What's the quickest way to buy a flat, and what obstacles might there be?
October 6, 2010 11:39 PM   Subscribe

What's the quickest possible way to buy a house/flat in the UK? What obstacles are there that stop things from going this quickly?

Hypothetically, if I were to turn up at an estate agents with a pile of cash and they had somewhere vacant how soon might I expect to move in? What causes the delays in the system? Is it quicker for new-build?
posted by handee to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
You can do it in under a week. There are examples of sales like this in the uber rich bracket where estate agents and solicitors are prepared to work through the night.

Basically if the place is vacant and your finances are in order you're talking about the time it takes for your solicitor to do the due diligence on the property (land registry checks, etc).
posted by MuffinMan at 12:16 AM on October 7, 2010


If you're buying an unoccupied house & don't care about doing local authority searches and the like (which can take a few days to a week IIRC) to check that there's no plans to knock down the property in question to make room for a hyperspace bypass then all you need is a solicitor to draw up the contracts & handle the exchange, all of which could be agreed to happen in a single day. (You probably can just pay cash on the nail & hope that the vendor transfers title, but that's probably being a little *too* trusting.)

In reality, you'll want to do the local authority searches, because there might be lurking nasties that you don't know about & if you're sensible you'll get the house surveyed by a professional at the same time. Say a week start to finish if you push & have all the professionals already lined up?
posted by pharm at 12:18 AM on October 7, 2010


I think the absolute quickest way to buy would be a cash private sale. Preferably vacant property, certainly no chain. Auction too. Solicitors, surveyors, estate agents and other hone owners are the enemies of speed.
posted by londonmark at 12:39 AM on October 7, 2010


The three biggest delays are processing the paperwork with the mortgage company - including valuation, having your solicitors talk to their solicitors to draw up the contracts, and the onward chain of the seller, trying to get somewhere to move to.

By skipping the chain with a vacant property, and being a cash buyer, you skip some of it. The longest time will be taken getting your solicitors and theirs to sort out the contract and handle the funds transfer. If both sides are working hard, and want to make it happen, it can be very quick. If there's any complications on either end (for example, the property is vacant because it's in probate, which was the case for me) this bit can drag on for weeks.

You really do want to get the place fully surveyed and do the local searches. You're taking a massive risk if you don't.

Also I presume you don't literally mean cash, as in a suitcase of it, as I think there's money laundering laws you might run into which will slow things down.

Basically, line your guys up front (surveyer, good solicitor, possibly an accountant) and find a house that's got a seller that's desperate - or rich, and can afford a good lawyer - and things should go through in a week or two.

Normally, house buying takes 6-8 weeks in the UK. It can take far longer. We have one of the longest and most complicated house selling markets in the world. It's nuts.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:41 AM on October 7, 2010


ArkhanJG: Basically, line your guys up front (surveyer, good solicitor, possibly an accountant) and find a house that's got a seller that's desperate - or rich, and can afford a good lawyer - and things should go through in a week or two.

Unfortunately, parts of the chain are simply outside of your control. In our case - cash on the table, full-time solicitor, survey complete - we ran into issues with the other side's solicitor, who seemed to be in absolutely no hurry at all despite an anxious seller. A closing that should have taken 10 days took four weeks, and required our solicitor to go to heroic measures to claw paperwork back from those offices.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:50 AM on October 7, 2010


Not a direct answer to your question about timing, perhaps, but when I bought in London I found the Which? How to Buy a House guide invaluable - it not only helped me avoid some pitfalls but also certainly speeded things up, as I knew what I was doing and what I needed and where to insist. It was available as a booklet from the Consumers Association in those days.
posted by aqsakal at 3:15 AM on October 7, 2010


Unfortunately, parts of the chain are simply outside of your control. In our case - cash on the table, full-time solicitor, survey complete - we ran into issues with the other side's solicitor, who seemed to be in absolutely no hurry at all despite an anxious seller. A closing that should have taken 10 days took four weeks, and required our solicitor to go to heroic measures to claw paperwork back from those offices.

In general several people were working on my file at my side and that made it drag on for ever. After over 8 weeks I ended up calling my solicitor 3x/day - once in the am asking them what they were going to do to progress it that day, once at lunch time to see how they were getting on and once in the afternoon to see how they had got on and what they were going to do next - as they do conveyancing on a flat fee basis they lose money if they have to talk to you too much and it motivates them to get you exchanged/completed asap because you make them spend time not in the budget when they quoted you the fee.......applying this strategy for a week got them moving.

However I then still had to threaten to walk away from the purchase because the other side were playing silly games. I really had had enough by then and as the seller would have lost their new house if I had walked away, whereas I was a 1st time buyer and could make another offer onother property that day, they started to see sense eventually...
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:53 AM on October 7, 2010


When I purchased my flat in 2001 (Stepney, E1) I had a bridge loan which massively speeded things up as it was more or less cash to the seller, and pushed all risk to myself e.g., securing a mortgage on the property (bridge loans are notoriously expensive, short term financing) and insuring there were no problems (which MuffinMan & Pharm have already covered ) that might impede this goal.

Here are some firms I'm aware that handle bridge loans and you can get an idea of what services they provide

Bridge Financing

Sterling Capital

There is no shortage since this niche is very lucrative. I know folks that have engaged via Sterling but can't comment myself since at the time I was with Natwest Private Bank and they undertook the transaction.

The biggest single issue we had was the surveyor; even though hired directly by and working for my Solicitor on multiple transactions, he clearly had far too much business and essentially went AWOL for a day or two. Not having a clear survey was our biggest potential obstacle, since no responsible lender will give you a mortgage on the property unless they have some idea of fair value. While I owned the property more or less after a couple of weeks (cash exchanged, contract in place), the entire transaction took about eight weeks to complete, and most of that time was dealing with the (glacially slow) local authority. Moving quickly in the UK means pestering folks daily and, in fact, several times a day.

If you are approaching this from the point of view of an all cash, no mortgage transaction you most certainly can do this in one week but ArkhanJG raises a good point; any transfers approaching or above £10K in the UK (they are a little fuzzy on the exact threshold for obvious reasons) are going to incur the attention of the authorities.

Depending upon the source of your funds, you may or may not welcome this attention.
posted by Mutant at 4:59 AM on October 7, 2010


Just as an anecdata point, I bought cash in hand and it took four months. Admittedly I had a survey done which delayed it by about 2 weeks, but the rest was mostly the solicitors dragging their feet.
While you can probably do better than that, I find these one-week estimates wildly optimistic.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 5:32 AM on October 7, 2010


May also depend where in the UK - the system in Scotland is different from that in England, though I don't know which is quicker.
posted by penguin pie at 5:56 AM on October 7, 2010


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