Does house moving day make you want to SCREAM?

The day of your moved has arrived – you are anxious to get into your new home (or use the sale proceeds from the house you are selling), yet it seems to take all day to achieve.  Why?

The completion date

The completion date must be one when the banks are open and is the day when the buyers of the houses – meaning each buyer in the chain of transactions – must, through their lawyer, pay over the purchase money, and the sellers must vacate the house and allow the buyer to move in

This means that each lawyer acting for a buyer must arrange for mortgage and other money to be with them, as cleared funds, by the completion day.

The dreaded “chain”

The lawyer for the first buyer in the chain sends the completion money to the seller’s lawyer; that lawyer, as the buyer’s lawyer on his or her client’s linked purchase, uses some or all of the sale money, perhaps topped up with mortgage money or other funds, to pay the completion money on that purchase; and so on, along the entire chain of transactions.

Obviously, the longer the chain, the longer the overall process takes.  Someone five or six links along a chain of transactions can very easily be waiting well into the afternoon before their sale money arrives with their lawyer and can be used as the purchase money to complete the acquisition of their new home.

Largely, this is unavoidable – even with everyone working at 100% efficiency, each step takes time. Things can, however, be made more difficult by avoidable delays and inefficiencies – usually, I have to say, on the part of the large financial institutions.  Most lawyers are too well aware of the stress caused to clients on moving day to allow unnecessary delays to creep in, and they are too personally involved with their clients’ transactions to be able to ignore that stress.

Minimising the problem

There are some things that can be done to minimise delays – getting mortgage money sent through by lenders on the working day before completion avoids having to wait for it to arrive on the day itself; the first buyer’s lawyer sending the completion money through on the day before completion, to be held to order until the day itself, also gives the chain a head start. However, these steps will not remove the delay or the stress, all the while we are dependent on sending money, one step at a time, through the banking system.

Things will be different once electronic conveyancing is in place.  Then, as long as each individual lawyer in the chain of transactions is ready, the entire chain of transactions can be completed in seconds – no more completion days waiting for the keys to your new home!  However, that facility is getting pushed ever further back – partly on grounds of technical and professional problems, but also on grounds of cost.

Unexpected problems

This is to say nothing of the circumstances that can arise when there are real problems: money not being available in time or (sometimes) at all; search results revealing unexpected, nasty, last minute surprises, documents getting lost in the post or being returned unsigned; parties in the chain dying between exchange and completion, bringing everything to a grinding halt.

In these circumstances, the best advantage a buyer or seller can have is to be represented by a well-established solicitor or licensed conveyancer who knows, respects and is respected by the other lawyers in the chain.  When local lawyers who know each other are involved, they will often be willing to rely on each other’s word as to the likely availability of funds or the steps to be taken in the background to resolve problems.

As a result, they will often, by not being too rigidly bound to the rule book and by cooperating and thinking imaginatively, come up with solutions that protect all parties’ legal and financial positions, yet enable the physical house moves to take place on the planned day, leaving the legal pieces to be picked up afterwards.

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