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In any residential property transaction, conveyancing searches play a crucial role to ensure that buyers know everything there is to know about the property they’re planning to buy. When property searches get delayed, so does the actual sale of the property—which is why it’s crucial to push through with it as soon as possible.

Here’s what you need to know about property searches and the current state it’s in.

What are conveyancing searches?

Property searches, also known as conveyancing searches, are enquiries made by your solicitor to help you uncover more information about a property that you’d like to purchase. It is a crucial step in the home-buying process that every residential property transaction is required to undergo.

While it is possible to do the searches yourself, it is advisable to hire a professional that provides fixed-fee conveyancing services to do it, ensuring that a thorough investigation is carried out. The primary searches being conducted when buying a property are:

Local Authority Search

Your solicitor usually submits a local authority search with a location plan, and it involves the local land charges register and other council records. The search itself is divided into two parts:

  • LLC1 (The official Certificate of Search Form)

  • CON29 (Enquiries of the Local Authority Form)

Both searches cover several points, including tree preservation orders, building control history, nearby road schemes, and other planning applications relevant to the party.

Water and Drainage Search

This is carried out to confirm whether the property in question is actively connected to a public sewer, septic tank, or disposal facility. This goes the same with the property’s connection with a public or private water supply.

This is important, especially if the property turned out to be not connected to the water mains and the public drainage system. You need to be aware of this and the extra costs involved in maintaining the property under such circumstances.

Environmental Search

An environmental search can vary from one search provider to another. This search involves examining past land use and determining whether or not the land is contaminated and suitable for housing. This is perhaps your only chance to know the history of that particular land and if it is safe for you to live there.

Environmental searches are one of the reasons why delays occur in conveyancing searches because of the nature of the investigation. Often, the initial findings lead to further queries that will require more time to resolve.

Other Searches

In some cases, your conveyancer may recommend further searches that are considered non-routine because of special circumstances. Some of these specialised searches include:

  • Commons Registration

  • Mining Search

  • Land Charges

  • Chancel Repair Liability

  • Flood Search

Conveyancing Process

The process starts with your solicitor ordering for a conveyancing search right after your offer to buy the property is accepted. The search itself should be completed and approved even before a contract is exchanged between you and the buyer. It is essential to do this before legally committing yourself to purchase a property in case some findings might affect the value of the property after the deal has been concluded.

Remember, there can be a time-lapse between a property receiving an offer and your solicitor finally ordering the searches. This is another cause for the many delays in the conveyancing process.

Causes of Delay in Property Searches

The entire duration of a conveyancing search is quite unpredictable due to a lot of factors. The time differences are also quite different throughout England and Wales. Expect the process to complete anywhere within a week to four months or even more for more particular cases.

Delays can occur because of the back and forth correspondence between the buyer and the solicitors. During such communications, delays are almost a guarantee! Most of the conveyancing firms are aware of the need to speed up the process of property searches, especially when the deadline for the stamp duty holiday is near.

Now that there’s a global pandemic going on, those delays just got far worse because of the lockdowns and quarantine procedures implemented everywhere. Most conveyancing firms are currently experiencing staff shortages, while some have decided to switch to remote working to keep up with the times. That begs the question, how can property searches continue to operate during a lockdown?

Conveyancing Operations Amid Lockdowns

A couple of conveyancing firms are still in operation to accommodate the number of residential property transactions that have been building up even during the pandemic. As mentioned above, no transaction can push through unless a conveyancing search has been completed.

Coordination with the local authorities has also been experiencing some delays because of all the strict regulations in certain parts of the country. Conveyancing firms have made adjustments for their process, shifting their focus to online conveyancing quotes and processing searches digitally. While the search supply chain itself has undergone a significant level of digitisation throughout the last decade or so, it still wasn’t enough to capture all suppliers. This has hindered conveyancing firms from having complete coordination and access to information digitally, resulting in failure to meet deadlines and service level agreements.

 

Many businesses and organisations in the industry were also forced to let go of some of their staff because of the significant drop in search volumes. Despite search volumes significantly dropping, the pending searches can still pile up and get stuck in limbo because of all the delays brought about by all the external factors surrounding the process. Some local authorities have even decided to halt the processing of new searches entirely. They are instead focusing on searches that are considered “urgent” due to all the backlogs.

Conveyancing Search Cost

Conveyancing costs cover the amount you’ll have to pay to ensure the legal side of a property for sale is handled correctly and within regulations. The cost of property searches varies depending on the agency you decide to work with. The size of the bill depends on the location of the property, especially if it’s near a river or a coal mine.

Depending on the search’s complexity, a standard property search usually costs around £350-£1500, plus the cost of disbursements. If you require non-routine searches, like mining or flood reports, then additional fees may apply as well. Some of the main disbursements that have cost are:

  • Anti-Money Laundering Checks

  • Title Deeds

  • Property Fraud

  • Transferring Ownership

  • Telegraphic Transfer or Bank Transfer Fee

  • Stamp Duty Land Tax

Your conveyancer will usually request payment for all the searches before actually proceeding. If, for some reason, the sale of the property falls through, you’re going to lose the money you’ve paid for the search. It’s best to look for a conveyancer that will perform the searches properly to ensure you get what you pay for.

Conclusion

Knowing the ins and outs of buying a property can save you a lot of time and money. Conveyancing searches are designed to help you assess your property’s actual value and everything that comes with it. Solicitors and conveyancers are there to help you thoroughly investigate and scrutinise every aspect of the property in question so you can make an informed decision regarding your investment.

If you’re planning to make a lifetime investment by buying a property, work with fully-regulated conveyancing professionals. We at Conveyancing Calculator can help you with that! We offer instant online conveyancing quotes in the UK. Contact us today to get a quote and find a solicitor you can trust!

 

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