Home-buyers are instructing their solicitors too late in the moving process and costing themselves valuable time, research has found.

Estate agent network Move with Us said a survey of its members found 84% of clients sought legal advice only when an offer was accepted, rather than as soon as the property is on the market.

The company estimated that this delay costs customers an average of 11 extra days to exchange, based on analysis of more than 1,000 completed conveyancing files last year.

Robin King, director at Move with Us, said the government's Help to Buy scheme is likely to attract more buyers and higher than normal transaction levels – increasing the need for estate agents to line up legal advice for clients earlier in the process.

‘Estate agents can speed up transaction times and ensure their pipelines are turning more quickly by ensuring all their vendors are legally prepared earlier in the transaction,’ said King. ‘This means that as soon as a buyer is found, contracts can be issued within 48 hours which also helps to minimise fall-through rates.’

Half of the 186 estate agencies surveyed across the country said that getting customers legally prepared earlier in the transaction was the best way to scale up operations. This was more of a priority for them than employing more permanent staff or offering extra online services.

The government launched the second phase of its Help to Buy scheme in October, with most guarantees expected to be entered into from this month.