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Can anyone explain to me why solicitors are so slow?

(24 Posts)
ColdFeetWarmHeart Mon 10-Nov-14 23:41:06

In the process of both selling and buying. We'll be 12 weeks in this Thursday, and so far we don't have an exchange date in sight.It shouldn't be too long as it is now just a couple of things outstanding. All parties have signed contracts, we're just waiting on a couple of documents. Yet I just can't see us exchanging in the next week or two, as we have been at this point for a few weeks.

Why do solicitors take so long to do anything? Despite her lack of communication with me, my solicitor seems pretty efficient at turning things around (or that's what she likes me to believe), e.g. as soon as she gets a response in, she forwards a copy to the relevant people. Unfortunately the other parties are not as efficient. We're still waiting on our sellers solicitors to send us copies of gas and electricial certificates. According to the estate agent the seller (finally) gave them to the solicitors 2 weeks ago. I have no idea why these have not been sent into us yet.
And our buyers solicitors seem to be forwarding their enquiries in dribs and drabs - just when we think they are done, they ask something else!!

Is there something that I am missing? I am aware that each fee-earner will obviously have more than one client etc, but I just can't get my head around how long it takes them to do anything! 2 weeks to send copies of 2 certificates? More than 1 week (and counting) to confirm when a fire safety check was carried out??

Spickle Tue 11-Nov-14 07:42:53

If you were the only client then, yes, you could get the paperwork quickly.

What generally happens though is that your solicitor reads the paperwork that has come from the other solicitors, decides that certain enquiries, certificates and evidence of work are required. Solicitor requests that paperwork (by email or post). The other solicitor then requests said paperwork from their client, (by email or post). The other client then has to provide said paperwork (by scanning or post). If the client does not have it, then applications to the council, Land Registry, mortgage provider, FENSA etc are made (by email or post). Any query regarding spelling of name/change of name on the deeds or ID has to be queried and evidenced by the production of Marriage Certificates etc. The other solicitor can not proceed any further until the paperwork arrives, peruses it, decides if it is what he wants, photocopies it and sends it to your solicitor who peruses it, decides if it is what he wants and then forwards to you (scanning or post). When you consider that you are buying and selling, that is twice the amount of paperwork going backwards and forwards, and presumably you are looking to simultaneously exchange on both properties? While paperwork can be shifted around quicker if the client can deliver by hand, that only saves a day or two and it depends on the onward journey after that. The fee earner I work for currently has a caseload of over 200 clients at any one time plus an assistant and secretary. While that might sound scandalous, it is not uncommon. It is very annoying when enquiries come in dribs and drabs and it is also irritating for the solicitor who thinks exchange is imminent, when suddenly yet another enquiry is received!

I do feel for you and have bought and sold a few properties in my time and have been diligent in keeping paperwork in order, but so many people do not and that creates delays. So selling for me was not too difficult as I was able to answer queries and provide appropriate certificates. The house I bought was another story though - no paperwork for anything.

Good luck, I am sure exchange is not too far away!

MillionPramMiles Tue 11-Nov-14 09:59:58

The only way a conveyancing solicitor can make any money is to have hundreds of clients. The profit margins are very narrow.

Having said that the delays with our purchase/sale have been largely due to buyers faffing about collating responses or lenders being difficult. An organised, efficient, prompt client makes all the difference.

We're 11 weeks in and there's only a vague hope of exchange next does seem to take ages I agree.

cpic Tue 11-Nov-14 18:09:48

you need to be on the phone to them every day, being the person they most want to be rid of. If your solicitor is dealing with eg 100 clients, you've got to make the most noise.

Smukogrig Tue 11-Nov-14 23:34:20

I agree. Nag them. Hound them.

There was something my vendor's solicitor wasnt doing and i couldnt get my solicitor to movr it along. I offrred to find neighbours to vouch the wall hadnt moved. He rolled his eyes at me. He had sat on it for six weeks before he even opened the file.

ColdFeetWarmHeart Thu 13-Nov-14 23:44:40

100 clients or more at one time? How is that even possible? I can't see my conveyancer having that many clients as I don't think she has an assistant or secretary.

I have tried hounding. I phone and /or email my solicitor every day, sometimes several times a day. It's not made any difference, we're still waiting on the other solicitors! And the vendors to provide one bloody certificate!

MissWing Sat 15-Nov-14 18:40:05

As far as I can see, their most used phrase is: 'I haven't heard from the other party's solicitor'.
Your only way to keep things moving is to nag them.

ColdFeetWarmHeart Sat 15-Nov-14 20:39:09

Yes that's all I have heard for a few weeks now "I've chased the other solicitors and am awaiting a response". I have been chasing and chasing them, but I still don't understand why they are so slow!

ireallydontlikemonday Sat 15-Nov-14 20:44:01

If your house isn't expensive enough you will be at the very bottom of the pile. And they like to play golf.

Lunastarfish Sat 15-Nov-14 20:52:40

If all my clients called every single day I'd have no time to do my work and there would be even further delays! The most urgent work takes priority and constant telephone calls doesn't make that client a priority. Further, unless the work is being undertaken on a fixed-fee, everytime I speak to my client I am charging....

mandy214 Sat 15-Nov-14 22:43:19

I agree. 100 clients isnt an unreasonable amount. If your solicitor has something important / relevant to tell you or needs to update you, they will call you. As someobe has already said, if you get 100 calls a day from people saying 'have you got anything to report? ', you'd never get anything done. Nagging gets you absolutely nowhere. Solicitors have to work on a priority basis, not on a 'who shouts the loudest' basis.

And if your solicitor is charging you on a time incurred basis (rather than a fixed fee basis) you'll be charged for every phone call or email they respond to so if you're nagging them for an update & they haven't got anything to report, you're doing nothing other than increase your bill.

ColdFeetWarmHeart Sun 16-Nov-14 01:13:19

We are on a fixed fee. Unfortunately I feel the need to call regularly as I'm not being updated. They say they will let me know when this is to hand etc, but I don't get a call or email. I'm told 3 or 4 days later when I call. If I was to be kept up to date more, or their online tracking service was better, then I would never need to call!!

Luna can I ask what makes a client a priority? Is it time lapsed? Property value?

Spickle Sun 16-Nov-14 08:54:32

We are inundated with calls from extemely pushy clients demanding updates. Usually there is nothing to report because we are waiting for documents or replies to enquiries etc. It stops us from getting on with the work to the point that it seriously affects our workload.

Completion takes priority over anything else. Every day we have a list of completions to do. They generally take up the whole morning and early afternoon as monies and keys need to be transfered so there is enough time for everyone in the chain to move into their properties before close of business and bank clearing times.

After completions, those ready to exchange are a priority, but if one or two items are still awaited, or lower/further up the chain items are still awaited then exchange won't happen and the client is not a priority. Only those ready to exchange with everything in place up and down the chain will be prioritised after completions.

Clients who are at earlier stages in the process, i.e. still waiting for id checks, searches, surveys, mortgage offer, enquiries, paperwork, permissions and certificates etc are a lower priority because they are not yet ready to exchange, or if they are ready, it may be that other parts of the chain are not ready and therefore cannot proceed at that time.

Hope that helps.

ColdFeetWarmHeart Sun 16-Nov-14 13:42:21

Yes that does help spickle.

In terms of waiting for docs from other solicitors etc. How long do you expect to wait for replies? And how often do you chase the replies? I am trying to use other ways to chase everything up (e.g. calling sales progressor at estate agents, and asking her to chase the sellers to send docs in etc) instead of my solicitor doing this.

So the answer to my question really, is that solicitors are slow/not as quick as I'd like, because they are extremely busy and I am just one of one hundred clients??!

Lunastarfish Sun 16-Nov-14 13:47:10

being busy is only part of the issue. As others have said enquiries need to be resolved/documents need to be obtained. Even if each solicitor on either side only had 1 client each they can't physically make documents arrive on a particular date/make someone respond to a query.

Thehedgehogsong Sun 16-Nov-14 13:54:59

I think we are on about week 23 for our sale/purchase. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. My solicitor is one of the only people talking sense at the minute!

ColdFeetWarmHeart Sun 16-Nov-14 13:56:16

I understand that Luna, especially at the beginning of the process when lots of enquiries went out etc.
I suppose I have unrealistic expectations. Our solicitor originally told me we'd be ready to exchange on 10th october. And when I bought the property originally we exchanged within 4 weeks.

ColdFeetWarmHeart Sun 16-Nov-14 13:58:24

week 23!!!!bloody hell!! we're into week 12, I suppose I should be grateful!!

Thehedgehogsong Sun 16-Nov-14 14:03:02

I know it's awful, we were given a date of 31st July. I'm 38 weeks pregnant now!! We started packing and everything...!
It will happen. I try to nag the people who are being rubbish and just chat occasionally to the ones doing a good job smile

Spickle Sun 16-Nov-14 14:34:18

One thing that lengthens the time taken to move house are the demands for paperwork/evidence in support of any works done to the property and/or any discrepancies on the title. Years ago, for example, FENSA certificates were not needed for windows etc and due to money laundering laws, ID has to be checked thoroughly.

MillieMoodle Sun 16-Nov-14 14:44:18

Spickle's post is spot on. If you're not ready to exchange, your solicitor can't spend every minute of every day chasing the other solicitors in the chain. A quick email or phone call is pretty much all they can do on a daily basis. They will easily have 100 or more files. Ask your estate agent to do the chasing of the other solicitors. The problem is that the whole transaction/chain is dependent on so many other parties that it's almost never that everyone is on the ball.
I've had times where the phone has rung at e.g 9.01am, it's the client wanting an update. Nothing has happened since I last spoke to them at 5.30pm the day before. I say I'll chase up other side and get back to them. Then the estate agent calls for an update and spends 10 mins telling me if it doesn't exchange today then the whole thing will fall through (even though we all know it's not going to happen today) then another client calls wanting a point by point explanation of the very precise, clear email I sent to them yesterday (which was deliberately clear in order to avoid having another phone call), then another solicitor calls wanting to exchange, which means I need a release from the bottom of the chain so i need to call the other solicitor and then call the first solicitor back, then the post arrives (which I need to check in case anything important has come in on the first client's matter), then another estate agent calls, then another client, then the first client; it's now 10.01am and they want to know why I haven't chased the other solicitor yet....
I do know how frustrating it is though, our first house purchase took 5 months. However, I know from experience that the only person you are stressing out is yourself (and possibly your solicitor!) so try not to let it get to you too much.

ColdFeetWarmHeart Sun 16-Nov-14 15:07:08

Oh I am not phoning her that often MillieMoodle!! I try to do what I can via e-mail. I am now only really phoning her if she hasn't responded to an important question over email (I give her a couple of days, not hours, to come back to me) or her explanation isn't clear. As I said earlier, if her e-mails were as clear as yours seem to be etc, then I wouldn't need to call for explanations. she is a little better lately, but she doesn't always respond to my emails either (and I don't mean ones asking for updates when she has them, I mean ones with specific questions as to fees, deed plans etc).

Oh hedgehog I hope you get settled in your new house with your baby soon!! I'd hate to have to move that pregnant or with a newborn!

If I could contact the slightly tardy people directly I would. in our case the solicitors for our housing association (we are selling a shared ownership place) and the sellers of the house we buying. 12 weeks in and they still haven't supplied the gas safe certificate, or explained why they haven't. And this was the bloke who was really pushy about a quick sale at the begninning!!

MillieMoodle Sun 16-Nov-14 16:24:58

Oh I didn't mean to suggest you're the client who calls every hour! Just wanted to point out to those suggesting you should harass your solicitor that it won't necessarily help speed things up.
Shared ownership properties are notoriously difficult to deal with just because of the sheer amount of paperwork involved. Also housing association solicitors are not usually particularly speedy or helpful (I say this as a sweeping generalisation, I'm sure there are some who are lovely and efficient but I've yet to come across them!). Would definitely use your estate agents to get onto the sellers to find out what's going on with the gas safety certificate. Make them earn their commission! Good luck!

ColdFeetWarmHeart Sun 16-Nov-14 17:40:45

That's ok Millie.
Yes, the shared ownership solicitors seem fairly slow so far. Funny, they weren't as slow when I bought the flat off of them.........

Yep - will be on to the estate agents again tomorrow, and will get them to chase the sellers again AND get an answer as to where the certificates are!!

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