How Long Does it Take to Exchange Contracts After Searches?

Whenever buying or selling a property, you’ll be faced with the decision of hiring a solicitor or conveyancer to help you process all the legal work involved in the transaction. Your working relationship with the conveyancer will then start with you instructing them to initiate the conveyancing process. Only then can the conveyancing agent begin the search process, which is one of the most time-consuming aspects of buying or selling a property. 

Now, the question is, how long does it take for the search to be completed and for the exchange of contracts to begin? Let’s break down all the elements involved in the process of searching to determine just how long it would take for it to finish.

What are Pre-Contract Enquiries and Searches?

During the buying or selling process of a property, the actual sale is deemed subject to contract, which means anything that happens before that is called “pre-contract.” At this stage is where a majority of a conveyancer’s work is focused. This involves raising pre-contract enquiries relating to the title, rights and obligations over the property and the underlying land. Many of the enquiries are based on standard forms provided by the Law Society, which is the independent body that oversees all solicitors.

Types of Pre-Contract Enquiries

Pre-contract enquiries are a necessary step as it allows the buyer’s conveyancer to conduct a series of checks to uncover any underlying issues on the property. Some of the most common types of pre-contract enquiries include:

  • Land restrictions, such as shared access or rights of way
  • Historical building work and relevant planning permission
  • Boundary checks and allocated parking spaces
  • Energy Performance Certificate issues
  • Shared gas, electric, and water or drainage supplies
  • Building regulations and certifications

Types of Conveyancing Searches

Part of the pre-contract work that conveyancers do is to conduct searches. These searches vary depending on the kind of property. But they are mainly five types that conveyancers conduct:

  • Environmental Searches – An environmental search mainly focuses on how much the property is at risk for flooding, subsidence, or contamination. Conveyancers primarily coordinate with the local Environment Agency for this type of search.
  • Water and Drainage Searches – This report is mainly put together by the local water authority based on the property’s address. It mainly focuses on the property’s water supply and whether there’s a possibility for foul and surface water to go into the property.
  • Local Authority Searches – The local council where the property is located is mostly involved in a local authority search. They basically compile a report that includes all information about the planning history for the property. This is where conveyancers request for the property’s building control records for any work that was previously carried out.
  • Land Registry – Of course, the title register and title plan are some of the most important pieces of legal documentation for any property. Your conveyancer can check and confirm at the Land Registry if the current owner actually owns the property they’re selling.
  • Chancel Repair Liability – Chancel repairs relate to ancient laws about the liability to pay for the upkeep of the local church. The chancel is the easterly portion of a church where you’ll usually see the altar. If a chancel repair liability exists, you’ll need to get an indemnity insurance policy in case any claims are made.

The Bottom Line— Searches Take a Long Time to Complete

After all the searches and enquiries are done and no significant findings are discovered, only then can the exchanging of contracts begin. It usually takes about three to six weeks for all the results to be returned to your conveyancer, and that’s when everything goes smoothly. If the agencies and local authorities are backed up with requests, it may take longer.

Whenever you’re planning to buy a property in the UK, you’ll need a reliable conveyancing solicitor to work with you. Conveyancing Supermarket is here to help you find the right conveyancing solicitor within your budget. If you want to compare conveyance fees online, our conveyancing calculator can help you get only the most suitable solicitors and agents that fit your budget. Contact us today to get started!

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