The online property giant Zoopla has launched a brand new property database as part of its extensive rebranding. The 'My Home' hub promises to offer the most exhaustive online property portfolios, pulling together information about past evaluations, additions to the property over time, and even relevant documentation required for selling the home – even if the home currently isn't for sale.
Related: get more information on buying and selling in our property advice section
The hub includes a separate page for every house in the UK and encourages homeowners to add as much detail to their property page as possible. Think of it almost like a CV for your home, a full comprehensive history of anything a buyer would need to know.
Zoopla CEO Charlie Bryant has said the new database should speed up house sales. 'Currently, it takes around 14 weeks on average in the UK to sell a home,' Charlie Bryant said in an interview with This is Money. 'We need to speed up this process and in the years to come, My Home, with other Zoopla products such as those enabling faster mortgage underwriting, will play a role in this.'
The intent behind the new database is clear. By making more information available to prospective buyers in a single place, it is possible to imagine that a buyer might act quicker, especially where it comes to arranging a viewing. But is it really possible to speed up other areas of the house selling process? We've spoken to Ross Counsell, chartered surveyor and director at GoodMove, about the realities of how long a house sale takes.
Firstly, Ross acknowledges that the Zoopla property portal is impressive. 'The new portal provides a wealth of information on what potential buyers need to know about the house they are interested in, and with homeowners able to add details and documents on their home, this does make for a very in-depth home profile that is sure to be helpful to buyers and sellers when looking for a new home,' he says.
However, Ross cautions against assuming that a house sale can be 'sped up'. 'Certain things come with buying and selling a home that cannot be rushed,' he points out.
What factors slow down a house sale?
Securing a mortgage is one such obvious aspect of buying a home, 'a process that usually takes up to four weeks. Finding the right mortgage can be a time-consuming process, especially as applications for mortgages are at an all-time high.' If you do want to speed things up a little, get a mortgage in principle, says Ross.
Next, there's the legal side of things. 'Once you have agreed on an offer on your house, you need to hire a solicitor or conveyancer to handle the legal work to transfer ownership of the property to you. This can take between 20-30 days to find one and exchange contracts, and this is something that cannot be sped up simply by putting more information online,' he explains.
'A solicitor can’t start work on a purchase until all relevant checks have gone through, so we’d recommend pulling together all the key documents you’ll need including deeds, notices, lease details, and ID to help speed up this process.'
On top of that, a survey will take 'up to two weeks to complete and get this back to you' and may raise further issues with the house that will need sorting out. Ross stresses that 'these parts of the home buying process cannot be sped up' and 'certain issues might crop up at this stage that need to be resolved and can’t be foreseen or planned.'
Even arranging to exchange contracts and arranging a moving date 'can be susceptible to delays beyond your control.'
When buying a home, you do have to accept that it will take the time it takes, although preparing as much of the paperwork in advance as you can is always a good idea. Zoopla's new property portal will definitely speed up those early search days.
But if you're planning to buy, be realistic about how long a house sale really can take, especially in the current busy market.
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Anna Cottrell is Consumer Editor across Future's home brands. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening.
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