Property searches are an essential part of the home buying process. This is, after all, commonly the single largest purchase most of us will make in our lifetime, so doing a little due diligence should be a given.
Despite their relatively hands-off nature, as your solicitor will carry them out for you, conveyancing searches can become the bane of buyers' lives. Many cite them as the primary cause for delays when purchasing property.
So, how long exactly do property searches take? That’s what we’re going to find out today.
What searches will my conveyancer undertake?
Before we look at typical timescales for property searches, let’s take a look at some of the most common things conveyancers look at when carrying out searches on your behalf. Broadly speaking, these can be split into six different categories: Land Registry, Local Authority, Drainage and Water, Utility, Transport, Mining, and Miscellaneous.
Land Registry (AKA Title Searches)
Checks are carried out to ensure the seller is indeed the true owner of the property being sold. This is done by obtaining a copy of the title register.
A title plan will also be procured by your conveyancer in order to get an overview of general boundaries and other location-specific information based on Ordnance Survey mapping. You can find out how to read your title plan here.
Local authority searches are divided into two separate parts: A Local Land Charges Register (commonly referred to as LLC1) and a CON29 questionnaire.
The LLC1 ranges from enquiries such as whether or not the property is listed through to conditional planning permissions, and much more besides.
Equally, the CON29 questionnaire is quite broad in scope, too. This takes into account things such as proposed railway schemes, building regs, planning history, public footpaths, and more.
Drainage and Water
Fairly self-explanatory, this covers where the property’s water comes from and whether or not it has any public drains within its boundaries.
Utility searches are equally straightforward in what they look for. Details of proposed underground or overhead electricity hardware will be unearthed and existing access agreements outlined. Same applies for gas mains and works nearby.
Searches may be carried out by your conveyancer if they believe the property may be affected by various transportation needs. These include, but are not limited to, canal and river searches, road and motorway construction, railway proposals, and more.
Probably the most infrequently used, especially in urban settings, are search enquiries made to the Coal Authority. Other mining searches are made, too, if the property demands it. These include limestone and China clay (aka Kaolin).
As one would expect, this category catches the rest. Searches such as chancel repair fall under this umbrella.
Am I legally required to have property searches conducted?
Property searches aren’t required by law, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need them. Many lenders will simply refuse to issue a mortgage without searches being conducted first, so they really are an important part of the house buying process.
Also, as we alluded to in our intro, you’ll naturally want to gather as much information as you possibly can about the property before you buy it. Property searches give you a valuable insight into how sound your investment will be.
That said, some searches are simply irrelevant and many can be easily duplicated, so that’s something to bear in mind. No one wants to pay twice for something, after all. Your conveyancer should only carry out specific searches if greater detail is required than that already provided within the aforementioned CON29 questionnaire, for example.
How long do conveyancing searches take?
Below are some of the most common conveyancing searches with timeframes for each:
Local authority searches
2 to 4 weeks, but can be longer
Land Registry title searches
2 to 4 weeks, but can be as long as 6 weeks if requisitions are made. New entries may take as long as 11 months or more!
Drainage and water
14 days, max
14 days, max
14 days, max
14 days, max
Canal and river
14 days, max
Should be returned within 14 days, but can, in some instances, take months to complete
14 days, max
14 days, max
Will all of the above property searches be carried out?
That depends. Some will only be necessary for certain properties, while others will be fairly universal. Location plays a huge part in determining which searches are necessary and which aren’t. Buying a property in central London isn’t going to require mining searches, but transport searches will likely be necessary, for example.
Your conveyancer will know which ones to order, so don’t fret this too much.
What slows property searches down?
Good question! Unfortunately, however, there isn’t a definitive answer.
Sometimes backlogs are to blame, such as when the recent stamp duty holiday saw property demand go through the roof, and other times it can be as simple as poor communication. Naturally, the latter should be avoided wherever possible, so make sure you do your homework before choosing a conveyancer to handle your purchase.
How much do property searches cost?
Individually, and when taken in relative terms to other costs you’ll be incurring during the home buying process, property searches aren’t that expensive. That being said, you’re going to need more than one - sometimes a lot more - so disbursement fees can quickly mount up.
To give you an idea of the variance involved, a bankruptcy search will cost you less than a tenner, while at the other end of the scale local authority searches can set you back as much as £450.
What happens if property searches unearth problems?
This really depends upon the problem at hand and what the recommended course of action will be from your solicitor. Some can be as drastic as unlicensed and unlawful extensions that require rectification, while others may not be quite as serious and allow you to proceed with your purchase.
One thing to bear in mind here is to listen to your conveyancer. Yes, it can be incredibly difficult to give up on what you perceive to be a dream home, but some underlying issues simply aren’t worth the hassles they bring.
Are indemnity insurance policies worth considering?
They certainly can be, but as with everything in the property market, a lot will depend upon your own personal circumstances. In some instances, you may find that getting the problem attended to immediately would be the best course of action to take.
Other situations, such as if you’re part of a fragile property chain, may benefit from getting the deal done first and then fixing the issue at a later date. If this is the case, indemnity insurance can be a godsend, as you’ll be covered should the worst happen before you make good.
It’s also worth bearing in mind the role your lender plays in all this. Indemnity insurance covers them as well as you, so you may find yourself with no other option but to take an indemnity policy out before you purchase the property in question.
It’s also worth remembering that such policies are tied to the property, not the person who takes it out, so they can, in effect, last indefinitely. Should you move before the issue has been addressed, you will be able to pass the policy on to the new owners (providing there hasn’t been a radical increase in the value of the home in the meantime).
Seek expert advice before you decide to take out an indemnity insurance policy. Speak to both your conveyancing solicitor and mortgage broker, if you have one. Between them, they will be able to not only guide your decision on whether or not it’s worth having, but also help find you the best deal for your particular set of issues.
If you are looking to get the ball rolling on your property sale or purchase, give one of our friendly members of staff a call to discuss your options. We’ve been serving London’s East End and beyond for over 100 years, so you know you’re in safe hands with Petty Son and Prestwich.
Kinga has been in sales since she was 17 and she already has both Negotiator and Sales Progression qualifications under her belt. She is bilingual, has a weakness for chocolate, and cites Robins Pie & Mash and The Cuckfield as her favourite Wanstead haunts.020 8530 9920 / Email Directly