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In the past year, the coronavirus pandemic has upended life as we know it. Most of the world is still struggling to cope with the virus, but life must go on, and people cannot delay processes and life plans indefinitely. One of these long-term life plans is buying a house. Even before the pandemic, conveyancing property has been an involved, rigorous process with many phases and parts.

One of the most important parts of residential transactions is the property search, and delays with the return of these searches are why sales take longer to complete. Here is a closer look at property searches, what delays occur in them and how to speed up the entire process.

What Is a Property Search?

When you make an offer on a property, the conveyancing solicitor orders several enquiries or searches designed to find more information about the home or property you want to buy. This is part of the home-buying process. The solicitor will have to speak with the local authorities, observe and make notes on environmental factors and drainage, and speak to other relevant parties.

This process would typically include a local authority search, drainage and water search, and an environmental search. The searcher will determine whether future developments would negatively impact your property or if the government is likely to grant permissions for developments like these. They also look at the ground on which the house is built and check for access rights and details of common drains. They will also check your risk of getting affected by floods and other natural disasters.

What Is a Local Authority Search?

Typically, solicitors submit this together with a location plan, and there will be two of these authority searches. The first is a search of local land charges registers. This search shows if the property is in a conservation, a smoke control zone, or on land with conditional planning consent.

The second kind details obligations and restrictions to the land where you can find the property, including conditions on planning permissions, preservation orders, and conservation areas.

What Is a Drainage and Water Search?

This is a search that confirms whether a property links to a septic tank, public sewer, or another type of disposal facility. It also details whether the property receives its water from a public or private water supply, how it receives billing for water and its water disposal system. The property also confirms if it is close to or affected by public sewers or water mains.

What Are Environmental Searches?

An environmental search involves examining previous land use, including checks on land contamination, as detailed by the Environmental Protection Act 1990. A specialist company carries it out, but this search doesn't involve site inspections.

Often, search results lead to further queries or detailed analyses. There is also the chance that region-specific reports would be necessary. All of these can cause delays in the buying process and change the total cost of conveyancing.

What Else Can You Expect From the Process?

Usually, the buyer's solicitor is the one who orders the property searches after they accept the offer. There could be a significant time lapse between an offer on a property and the solicitor being able to order searches. This situation is one of the main causes of delays in conveyancing, so make sure you enquire about how long property searches take when comparing solicitors.

Property Search During COVID-19: What to Know

A property search supplier uses various sources to compile information on a specific property. Today, because of lockdowns and restrictions, many solicitors do this digitally. Search providers return details through their search platforms or via email. Hold-ups, which were frequent pre-pandemic, might not take as long because of these digital measures.

However, the opposite might hold in some instances. Some local authorities still use 100 per cent paper-based systems. Since the stamp-duty holiday has increased the paperwork to process, it could result in more time necessary for property searches during the lockdown.

How Much Do Property Searches Cost?

A property search can take anywhere from £200 to £350. The total cost depends on the property's location and the risks it poses to residents. For instance, if the property is in a heavily mined area, the solicitor would request additional reports on how safe the ground is from erosion or flash flooding. These additional documents mean the buyer will have to pay more.

What Are Other Delays to the Process?

A property search can take as much as four months to return results. The duration varies throughout Wales and England, and providers rely on local authorities. These offices operate on different timelines. What's more, additional delays happen during peak holiday periods. If you are purchasing a house, it will help to consult conveyancing solicitors on how long it would take to coordinate with the local authorities in an area. You can compare solicitors' estimates and see the trends.

Besides local rules, the time it takes to respond to buyers' queries can also cause further delays on search results. For example, buyers could be concerned about flood risks, local landfill issues, or right of way and subsidence disputes. Still, people who work in the residential property sector know that they must speed up transactions and reduce fall throughs, especially with the looming stamp duty holiday.

Buyers could order searches upfront to make the process faster and reduce the likelihood of an agreement falling through. It also alerts buyers to issues that could hinder the transaction much later.

Are There Ways to Make the Process Quicker?

When the seller or other party accepts a homebuyer's offer, they should compare conveyancing solicitors and pay for searches as soon as possible. They could even compare and select a conveyancing solicitor before they make an offer, so the solicitor is in a position to act quickly once the seller accepts.

When looking for a conveyancing solicitor, you can ask for referrals from people who had bought properties near yours. This practice is a good way of discovering who provides efficient service.

It is on conveyancers to deploy the fastest possible solution and take a flexible approach to the search products and providers. They have to know how to use search delay insurance products, usually available when placing the order for searches. Delay insurance comes with a small additional charge.


Whether you're buying, remortgaging, or selling a home, you will need a conveyancing solicitor to organise the process and formalise the transfer. A conveyancing calculator can greatly help; it provides estimates based on solicitors' legal fees. Using a conveyancing calculator is convenient; you do not have to pay for things like referrals or commission fees, price comparisons, or other hidden charges.

Save money on your property conveyancing when you use Conveyancing Calculator. We provide accurate and fully transparent conveyancing quotes directly from UK-based solicitors online for a fixed fee with no hidden charges. Get a quote today!


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