How Long Should a Transfer Take?


An interesting article appeared in this months De Rebus (the S A Attorneys Journal). The article written by Lizelle Kilbourn, a conveyancer, dealt with the questions of how long a “typical transfer” of property should take and how long these transfers actually take. Ms Kilbourn recently completed a thesis on this subject and her findings are quite interesting.

The article made mention of the fact that articles quite often appear in the popular press accusing conveyancers of monopolistic practices, laxness and incompetence. I can recall a fairly recent article in which a Natal agent was quoted as saying that conveyancers “deliberately delay transfer” I do not know on what basis this claim was made but it makes no sense. Conveyancers only debit their fees on registration of transfer so the quicker they are able to effect transfer, the sooner they get paid. Conveyancers are therefore just as keen to effect speedy transfers as the seller, the purchaser and the estate agent.

Ms Kilbourn quoted a passage from an article which appeared in P A Homefinder which stated “what is disquieting however is that the average transfer takes around 3½ months this despite the well-known fact that conveyancing is a relatively simple procedure”.

South Africa in fact has one of the most complex (and best) systems of land registration in the world. Conveyancers must be qualified attorneys and write a further exam to qualify as conveyancers. Anyone who thinks that conveyancing is a simple procedure is labouring under a serious misconception. The downside of the complexity of our system is that the transfer process takes time. The upside is that it provides extremely secure land tenure. In other words once a property is registered in your name your ownership thereof is guaranteed.

What most people do not realise is that the speed at which a transfer is effected is not solely dependent on how fast the conveyancer processes the necessary documentation. The conveyancer in registering a transfer must interact with a number of persons and bodies such as the seller and purchaser, the banks, the municipality, the deeds office, the Receiver of Revenue and other firms of attorneys. The speed with which a conveyancer is able to effect a transfer is significantly influenced by the performance and co-operation of these other persons and bodies.

A typical transfer is one in which the property must be transferred to the purchaser, the existing bond over the property cancelled and a new bond registered over the property. On the question of how long a transfer should take Ms Kilbourn interviewed a number of conveyancers countrywide and their opinion was that such transfers should take six to twelve weeks. On the question of how long a typical transfer is in fact taking, Ms Kilbourn researched the statistical data which was available on transfers countrywide. The statistics reveal that a typical transfer is taking 90 days on average. This is longer than what most conveyancers feel a transfer should take but just within the two to three months period that conveyancers regard as reasonable.

In my opinion a typical transfer should take between six and approximately eight weeks if all the parties involved co-operate with the conveyancer and there are no unforeseen delays or complications. In the absence of serious complications but allowing for minor complications transfer should still be effected within no more than 90 days.

(Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice)