Every stage of a house purchase can be stressful and feel like it is taking up much more time than necessary. With a variety of checks to be completed, a host of paperwork to be filled out and a hope that the chain doesn’t break, it is no wonder people say it is one of the more challenging times in their life.
One of the many factors that can delay the process is when the searches are being carried out. Failures to have the correct paperwork available or incorrect information being disclosed by the seller can all lead to long delays in the purchase being completed. It has been known for them to be completed in as little as 48 hours, but as long as 155 days.
Below, we look into how long searches take and what they consist of.
What are property searches?
The searches completed by the conveyancing solicitor are carried out in stages and will ultimately act as deciding factors in whether the house purchase will go through or not. Once an offer has been made and the property is listed as sold STC, initial searches will be completed. These are known as pre-contract enquiries and will focus on the following:
- Planning permission
- Terms and associated costs of leasehold where applicable
- Boundary checks
- Allocated parking spaces
- Building regulations and certifications
- Any shared utility supplies
- EPC-related issues
- Any building constraints
- Whether the house sale is a probate sale or similar
- Land restrictions
These will be very thorough and take up the most time of all the stages involved. Once all this information has been collated and the results are deemed good enough, the property moves closer to contract exchange.
The conveyancer will also take on several important searches to ensure the property doesn’t have any issues that would not have been picked up in the pre-contract enquiries. There are several common searches but, in some cases, certain properties may require additional searches that are specific to certain areas or property types.
The most common searches are:
- Local authority search – this type of search looks at any issues on pollution, planning and building control. You will see two parts when these searches take place: LLC1 and CON29
- Environmental search – this search will look at whether there are any issues with the land. It will investigate whether the property is built on or near any contaminated land, waste or landfill. The risk of subsidence will be looked into, as will the potential for flooding. However, there is a specific search for flooding that is much more in-depth
- Flood risk search – if you are buying a property near water, these searches will be completed to assess the risk of flooding
- Coal mining search – this search only takes place if the property is located where coal mining was prominent. Land where mining took place is more likely to be unstable, so the search will go some way to alleviating that worry
- Water and drainage search – much like the flood search, this particular search looks at the effects water has on the property, but in terms of sewage and mains. The search will check whether the property is connected to public water supplies and whether a public sewer runs within its boundaries
In addition to these searches, it may be necessary for some others to take place:
- High-speeded rail search – this is a relatively new search and will only apply if the home you are looking to buy is likely to be affected by the planned work for the proposed HS2 railway
- Chancel repair – a search like this will only apply if you are living with the parish of a church Chancel repairs mean that you will be liable for contributions towards repairs and maintenance of the church. The search will tell you if this is the case
- Land charges – the land charges search will apply if you are looking to purchase unregistered land. It will show whether there are bankruptcy proceedings against the landowner and illustrate any restrictions on the use of the land
- Commons registration – this search takes place when a property borders with common land
How long will property searches take?
The timescale varies and much will depend on how quickly the results are obtained and what those results show. If issues are uncovered, then it will take significantly longer than if there were no issues at all.
If any problems have been discovered, they will need to be resolved and the resolutions satisfactory for all parties involved. This can delay the process by several weeks depending on the scale of the problems.
You can expect to see the conveyancer begin creating the report approximately 3-6 weeks after the searches began, meaning that the full timescale for searches to be completed is around 6-8 weeks.
Each stage of the searches has a differing timeframe, but approximate timescales are listed below. It is worth noting that the location, property size and overall condition of the property can hinder how quickly the searches are completed.
|Search type||Time taken (avg)|
|Local authority||A few months|
|Drainage and water||Up to 10 days|
|Environmental||Up to 10 days|
|Flood risk||Up to 10 days|
|Coal and mining||Up to 10 days|
|Chancel repairs||Up to 10 days|
|Land registry||Up to 10 days|
Can property searches be completed any faster?
In theory, no. However, you can trim a few days off the wait for completion by keeping fully alert to all that is happening. The conveyancer will often be in contact with you, so it is important to respond as fast as possible. In addition, a good relationship with the sellers will help keep the process smooth and fast, allowing for a quicker relay of information about searches.
Finally, do not take on searches that the property will not need. You will be advised of what is necessary by the conveyancer and a timescale with which they should be completed. If you add more searches to the list, it only increases the workload and therefore the time you can get your results back.
You could also opt for regulated searches. These are conducted by experts that specialise in such matters. They are fully regulated and have indemnity insurance against them. They tend to go through a little faster than searches conducted by local authorities.
Alternatively, to forgo searches altogether, buy a house via online property auctions. Searches will have already been completed on these properties, saving you time and money.
SOLD.CO.UK are market-leading online estate agents that help facilitate a smooth and quick route to selling a house. With no fees or no commission, we help homeowners sell without fear of losing any of the value their sale generates. Contact our property experts today so we can help get you moving.