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‘Millions on tenterhooks’ as conveyancing logjam hits 650,000 transactions

Activity is strongest in the upper end of the housing market where stamp duty savings are most significant.

Nigel Lewis


Rightmove says 650,000 property sales are now waiting to move to completion, 67% higher than the same time last year.

The portal says mortgage lenders, valuers and solicitors now face an unprecedented tsunami of transactions to process, of which two thirds will be hoping to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday that cuts off on 31st March next year.

The other third are those who are stamp duty exempt anyway, such as purchasers of properties under £125,000 and first time buyers.

“This ongoing activity means that the processing log-jam continues to pile up because of the sheer number trying to reach the finish line by the end of March,” says Tim Bannister (pictured), Rightmove’s Director of Property Data. “Millions of people are on tenterhooks until their sale or purchase has completed.”

His data also reveals that sales agreed in the higher end of the market where stamp duty savings are the most significant have doubled year-on-year and also seen the number of days it takes to find a buyer drop to a record low of 59 days.

But sales agreed in the £100,000 to £200,000 sales band, where stamp duty savings are minimal, increased by just 16%.

Unusually for such a busy period, asking prices have dipped during November by 0.5%, which suggests vendors are accepting lower offers in order to get a sale and be able to purchase their next home before the stamp duty cut-off.

Jeremy Leaf imageNorth London agent Jeremy Leaf (pictured), says: “Nearly all [home movers] are acutely aware that delays in arranging mortgages, valuations and conveyancing will mean meeting the 31 March deadline won’t be easy, even if deals are agreed in the next few weeks.”

Read more about conveyancing delays.



November 16, 2020


  1. SDLT holiday – an extension by Rishi, or no extension? Had the castle tourist Dominic not been hogging the limelight with his cardboard box exit of number 10, perhaps the chancellor of the exchequer and the cabinet might be focusing on this a bit more. Some sources say there is intense lobbying on the government over the home buyers ‘bottleneck’ saga, others are saying with No deal Brexit and senior advisors no longer running things for Boris – SDLT and a possible extension are now sadly low on the list of priorities at number 10 and 11 Downing street . Time as ever will tell.

  2. Now is the time for law firms to step up to this challenge by looking at their processes and ask how they can safely speed up cases. There has been a lot of focus during Covid on the way the pandemic has speeded up the move to digital working. The next important challenge is to speed up the conveyancing process, particularly by looking at how the local authority searches are handled, and analysing the efficiency of the lawyer review of key documents. With our MuveFast product we are able to get transactions done in 4-5 weeks and we now intend to take some of the key aspects of this methodology into our standard products. Let’s hope that, like virtual working, this focus on speed can become a permanent feature of conveyancing!

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