One of the main criticisms of the house purchase process is the length of time it takes, which on average is 12 to 14 weeks. This is also a concern for the Government, who have recently called for a review.

In the meantime, there are a few simple things Watford house buyers or sellers can do to help speed up the process:

• Make sure you have your finances sorted. If you need a mortgage, get this agreed in principle before starting to look for a property.

• If you need to cash in investments, don't leave it until the last minute - there can be delays in selling stocks and shares.

• Instruct a solicitor to act for you as soon as you decide you will be buying or selling. One of their roles will be to carry out money laundering and ID checks. This can often take time.

• If you are selling, your solicitor can start preparing a legal sales pack, obtain a copy of your title and identify that there are no issues that could delay a sale, prior to putting your property on the market. A legal pack can then be sent out the day a buyer is found.

• When the sale is underway communication is key. Keep in regular contact with all parties involved: sellers, buyers, estate agents, mortgage brokers and solicitors. Concurrent activity is important.

• Buyers should consider paying for searches prior to a mortgage offer.

- David Marsden is a partner in the property department at Watford-based law firm VWV