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How Long Do Conveyancing Searches Take?

There are several types of searches. Let us break them down for you:This is a question a lot of people ask when buying a house. The problem is, there is no exact time limit. In the UK, searches usually take between six and eight weeks but because they rely on other people this is like asking about the length of the metaphorical string. Some councils are very quick and others are notoriously slow. Your conveyancing solicitor should give you advice based on the area in which you are purchasing.

Property searches are one of the most vital tasks your conveyancer will undertake. These searches will provide you with the minutest of detail on the property you are buying and act like parts of a puzzle your solicitor will put together to build a complete picture of what the house or flat looks like. It also provides vital information about what the surrounding area looks like, too. The fees for most searches are fixed by the provider and your solicitor will not charge you anything on top of the levied charge.

What Are Conveyancing Searches?

Conveyancing searches, also known as property searches, are the checks solicitors will complete on your behalf to discover as much information about your property as possible. They are done to ensure that the property you are purchasing is fit for your needs in the future. It includes checking flooding and mining records, future planning permission and projects (you don’t want to buy a quiet house in the country only to have an airport runway in your backyard a year later), the quality of the ground the property is on and many other details that may impact your investment.

There are several types of searches. Let us break them down for you:

Local Authority Search (LAS)

If you are taking out a mortgage, your lender will most likely insist that a local authority search is carried out after you have made an offer on a property. This search actually involves submitting several forms that are then filled in by the council to provide a variety of information including:

  • If the property is a listed building
  • If it’s located in a conservation area
  • If it’s subject to a tree protection order
  • If an improvement or renovation grant is required
  • If it’s situated in a smoke-control zone
  • Any future developments
  • Building control and planning history
  • Contaminated land and radon gas-affected area
  • Nearby roads, motorways and rail schemes
  • Environmental and pollution notices
  • Common land, town and village greens nearby

Planning Search

A Planning Search reveals the details of any existing planning consents or applications within a 250-metre radius of a property.

Draining and Water Search

Drainage and Water Searches from the local water authority provide information on the water supply to the property. It will tell you if it is connected to mains water and sewerage and who is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the water and drainage supply. It will also pinpoint the nearest public sewer and whether there is one within the property’s boundaries.

This search is usually completed in about one or two weeks and the cost will range from £50 to £100, depending on the water authority.

Environmental Search

The Environmental Search explores the past uses of the land where your property sits. It will reveal any contamination or other environmental concerns that could affect the property.

This search usually only takes a few days, and costs from £50 to £80.

Flood Risk Report

A Flood Risk Report is essential if the property you intend to buy is near a river, coastline or reservoir. It will show whether there is a risk of flooding in the area and how high the risk is. A flood search usually only takes a few days to complete and costs about £25, depending on the supplier.

Coal Search

A Coal Search is required in historical coal mining areas or where coal mining is still taking place through opencast mining. This search also indicates if there is any proposal for coal mining in the future. Excavated tunnels underneath the property may present a risk of subsidence.

A coal mining search normally takes from a few days up to a week and costs about £45.

Brine Search

A Brine Search is required in parts of Cheshire and Greater Manchester where salt is extracted from underground and pumped up as brine. Like coal mining, brine extraction brings a risk of subsidence.

Clay and Tin Mining Searches

Clay and Tin Mining Searches are geographically limited to properties in and around Cornwall. This is where clay and tin mining has been carried out in the past.

High-Speed Rail (HS2)

The HS2 is a planned high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham and the north-west, and is a long-term project, expected to take around 20 years to complete. An HS2 search will reveal if the property you want to buy will be affected the extensive works that are to be carried out along the planned route.

Chancel Repair Liability Search

A Chancel Repair Liability Search is a standard part of conveyancing in England and Wales. It focuses on the historic standing of a property in relation to its local Church of England parish. Under chancel repair liability, homeowners whose property is within the parish of a church built before 1536 can be held responsible for repairs to the church’s altar or chancel.

Parishes must have registered their claim to have these repairs paid with the Land Registry before October 2013. There are thought to be around 5,300 affected parishes across England and Wales.

If the search reveals the property has a chancel repair liability, your solicitor may recommend you take out insurance to cover you for your share of any large bills due to the local parish church.

It’s worth noting that these searches (not including the local authority searches) such as mining searches, flood searches and energy and infrastructure searches are determined by the locality of the property.

How Quickly Can Searches Be Done?

For houses without chains that are unoccupied and without a mortgage, the whole conveyancing process could take as little as a week to complete. However, this situation is extremely rare and the more people in the chain, the longer the process can take. The searches themselves depend on the organisations and their processing time depends on demand. So you will find purchasing property at certain times of the year results in quicker searches than others. Depending on the local authority, some searches can be done in as little as 48 hours.

Why You Need A Good Conveyancer

A good conveyancer will have excellent ties with the relevant authorities and may be able to get your searches back in a timelier manner than other solicitors. This is why we always recommend doing your research and choosing a high-quality conveyancer. With our search tools at Conveyancing Supermarket, you can easily search for and compare conveyancers. Don’t forget, you can get free advice from any of our solicitors without any obligation to instruct them. Once you arrange for a quote to be sent to you, you can ask for a callback and they will be more than happy to assist you with any queries you may have about the conveyancing process.

How Much Will A Search Cost?

Fees are subject to a wide range of variables. A local authority search for example, could cost anywhere between £50 and £250 depending on the local authority. Additional charges also differ accordingly, so consult your local authority website beforehand. On average, drainage reports will cost between £30-40 plus VAT, whilst environmental reports cost between £30-35 plus VAT (for example).

Private search company fees range mainly between £75- £120 for a standard search.
Alternatively, you could purchase a search package from your conveyancing solicitor to cover the four main report criteria (Local Authority, Drainage and Water, Environmental and Chancel reports). These can cost around £200-260, and will cover local authority costs too, even if the combined total exceeds the paid fee.

Do I Need To Get A Search If I’m A Cash Buyer?

Cash buyers don’t have to conduct searches but most conveyancing solicitors will recommend that they do so. If you decide not to carry out local authority searches then the conveyancer will most likely recommend you take out “No Search Indemnity Insurance” as an alternative.

First time buyers should bear in mind that property searches, by their nature, will often show things about a property you might not have previously even thought about. It is very important to discuss the results of the searches with your conveyancer to make sure you understand fully what is going on and seek opinions from others with knowledge of the buying process and the local area. It is important to remember though that many of the aspects raised should not be of major concern.

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