Some may tell you that moving can all happen in a few months, a developer might want a deal done in just a month, but others will have statistics that say it takes around 16-20 weeks - or even longer during the pandemic.
What influences move dates?
One of the frustrations with moving home is there is so much information that is unknown when an offer is made and accepted.
There are moves to change this, but for now, there are lots of things that can delay a move. For example, even at the start of a move if someone needed an identity check, but this proved difficult to do as they were away a lot, it might take weeks to sort rather than a day or so.
If you are buying a leasehold property, not all freeholders or sellers have the information required about the lease that a buyer would need to know. Or, there may be problems that prove time consuming to solve if the correct planning paperwork required or a warranty or guarantee is missing.
Other things that can cause a delay are services you need in the chain, such as lenders or surveyors, being overwhelmed with work due to a busy market – as happened during the COVID-19 pandemic. This can mean what normally takes a few weeks to book could take months instead.
Sadly, often the problem is a buyer or seller that just isn’t too focused on the move and they don’t provide the paperwork or information requested in a timely fashion.
So what’s important to do at the start of your move, even when looking for property, is to be very clear on how long a move will typically take. This will help you understand if something is taking longer than usual, work out why and find out what you can do to move it along faster - if possible.
Our Moving Home Timeline can help you keep track of how long your move is taking versus the ‘average’ move which should hopefully help give you and idea of what you should be doing by when.
What move dates should you agree?
The key date you need to share with others from the start is when you would like to move in. Although people will be nervous to commit to this as there is a lot that needs to be done before a completion date can be assured, it’s worth having this chat at the outset when you make an offer.
Bouncing around a date to move and finding out if other buyers and sellers in the chain are happy to work to that date or they have another date in mind can be really helpful to uncover everyone’s expectations at the start. This is especially needed if someone in the chain has to move by a particular date for a specific reason be it their rental contract coming to an end, a new job or a new school. Understanding this early on in the move can help you keep focussed on the date.
One way to keep a date focussed is by suggesting the date you’d like to move in by as you put forward your offer, subject to finance and an independent survey.
If anyone says ‘we can’t commit to that’ or ‘it’s too early to discuss a move date’ just say to them that you would like to at least discuss a date as part of the offer process. Explain that you aim to understand when everyone in the chain would like to move. If your chosen date is vital, be clear that you need to move by a specific date, for a specific reason.
The key is to get everyone at least discussing moving dates and find out if it’s possible to agree some sort of provisional time frame.
Once a provisional move date is agreed, it is possible to then discuss when exchange should take place. This typically happens two weeks before completion, so if you have a provisional move in date for the 28th October, you should ideally exchange by 14th October.
Top tip – try and avoid moving on a Friday. It can be more expensive and there will be issues if for any reason money isn’t transferred, meaning you – and all of your belongings – are in limbo over the weekend. Moving on another weekday means things can likely be sorted within 24 hours.
Some conveyancing companies see a moving deadline as a good thing – others don’t. If you have a specific date to move in by, it’s worth ensuring that at least you work with a conveyancer who will work towards your deadlines.
Some will say it’s not possible as they are reliant on a lot of third parties to get back to them and can’t ensure they do on time (searches, the buyer/seller etc) however, a good conveyancing firm will be confident to agree they will at least aim to work towards a specific date with all parties concerned.
How and who agrees dates when moving home?
Basically it tends to be down to whoever starts suggesting dates and that’s often the mover that needs to exchange and complete on a particular date for a particular reason.
For example, a popular time for moving is in the summer so that people can be in their new home in time for their kids to start their new school, especially if they are moving for a particular catchment area.
Speak to the agent who has accepted your offer to begin with and then talk to your broker/lender and conveyancer to find out if they would have any issues working to your timeline. Always put things as important as this in writing so there is no question that you made it clear to them when you wanted to move.
And, just in case, always have a back up plan if your date can't be met. Can you stay with friends or family temporarily? Can you afford a hotel or B&B for a few nights or even a few weeks if needed? Can you put your belongings in storage until they can be moved into your new home?