Duration of property searches

How Long Do Conveyancing Searches Take?

What this article covers

  • What goes into a conveyancing search pack
  • Why searches can take a long time
  • Tips for speeding up the conveyancing process

Property searches are an important part of the house purchasing process. It is often a source of frustration for buyers and sellers because of the time it can take to complete. On average, searches can take anywhere from three to six weeks. How long it takes will depend on a number of factors such as the complexity of the house sale and the quality of the solicitors.

What searches are done when buying a house?

Searches are there to protect the buyer. You do not want to invest a large sum of money without knowing the potential risks that may come with the property. There are several types of searches a solicitor will conduct to gain a better understanding of the property. The most common searches include:

Local authority searches

This is a search that is undertaken with the local authority that serves the area. It may help surface issues related to planning history, building control, as well as area-specific information such as highway information and public footpaths. The duration of a local authority search will differ for every local authority. Some may take a few days, others may take a few months! From a timing perspective, it is in your best interest to have your solicitor conduct a local authority search soon after an offer is accepted. Most local searches should not cost more than two or three hundred pounds.

Environmental searches

Environmental searches are undertaken with the companies that maintain information about land uses within the vicinity of the property. It may flag potential risks such as land contamination, flooding, and ground instability. Environmental searches usually take no more than a few days to complete.

Water and drainage searches

This is undertaken with the local water company. It provides key information such as drainage, sewer ownership, and connections to public water supplies. Water searches also usually take no more than a few days to complete.

Other searches

Other types of searches may also be required depending on the complexity of the property sale. For example, properties near railway tracks may require a railway search. Properties in the vicinity of developments such as power stations and electrical infrastructure may require an energy and infrastructure search.

Why do searches take so long?

This could be due to factors in and outside of your control. As we mentioned before, local authority searches typically take the longest. Some local councils may simply not have the capacity to respond in a timely manner. Local searches may also take time if you are buying a property in a red-hot real estate area.

The solicitor the buyer hires can also make a huge difference to how long searches take. Some solicitors may have a huge workload and will require a lot more time to process your case. For this reason, it is advised to not automatically go with the cheapest solicitor. When a buyer looks for a solicitor, it is important to ask questions around how they communicate and who would be the primary of contact.

It is not just the buyer’s solicitor that can affect the duration. Property searches is a team effort. It also requires clear communication from the seller’s solicitor, especially if the buyer’s solicitor brings forward a lot of enquiries which only the seller might be able to answer.

How to speed up property searches

Ask your solicitor to start the local authority search as soon as an offer gets accepted. This does, however, come with a financial risk as there is no legal commitment yet on the seller’s side. You may end up losing out on some money if the seller decides to pull out from the sale.

Do your due diligence when hiring a solicitor. Do not always go for the cheapest. Find a solicitor that can show a strong commitment to getting the property sale done in a timely manner. This is all the more important for buyers who are purchasing with a mortgage. There is a risk of the property sale falling through if the searches process cuts it too close to the mortgage offer expiry date.

Published on | Last updated on 12/03/2023

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