Buying a property is a big investment. You want to be sure that your purchase is in good condition before you buy. That’s what searches are for. But how long do conveyancing searches take?
The short answer is several weeks – and it’ll be a few weeks after they’re finished before you can go on to complete your purchase.
But, while it’s never good news to hear that the conveyancing process is going to take longer than you might have thought, property searches are absolutely vital.
At least, they are if you want to protect yourself during the buying process and ensure you aren’t going to come up against unpleasant surprises later on.
Here are the facts about conveyancing searches, how long they take, and why they are so important:
What Are Solicitor Searches When Buying A House?
Solicitor searches – more commonly called “conveyancing searches” or “property searches” – is the name given to the investigation of a property usually undertaken by your conveyancers.
The aim of these searches is to reveal any issues or problems with the property that you should be aware of that wouldn’t be noticeable to a visual inspection.
If you are purchasing a property via a mortgage, your lender will insist that you have conveyancing searches carried out and that you use a professional – a licensed conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor – to do them.
This is because no mortgage lender likes to lend money without knowing the level of risk they are exposing themselves to.
If you are lucky enough to be able to make a cash purchase, you aren’t legally required to have conveyancing searches carried out. But for the sake of the comparatively minimal additional cost, it’s needlessly risky to avoid commissioning property searches before you buy.
What Are The Main Searches When Buying A House?
In approximate order of priority, the most common and important property searches that are worth investing in before buying a property are:
1) Local Authority Search
The Local Authority covering the area is probably the most important organisation to contact. This kind of conveyancing search will return information such as:
- Applications for planning permissions for new nearby developments and the like
- Planning permission for major work conducted on the property itself
- Whether you will have building regulations consent (required for many alterations)
2) Water And Drainage Search
A water and drainage search involves reaching out to the local water authority in order to make sure that:
- The property is connected to a public water supply
- The property is connected to the main drainage and sewerage system
- You know who is responsible for water supply and drainage and who maintains them
- You know where the drains and sewers the property uses are located
- You know if any mains drains or sewers are on the property itself (this may affect permissions for future alterations you might want to make)
3) Environmental Search
Just as it sounds, an environmental search determines risks associated with the local environment and the land that the property you are buying rests on. They can help determine if the property is:
- At risk of flooding
- In a coal mining area (you may then need an additional mining search)
- On land that is contaminated in some way (perhaps the site was used for industrial purposes or as a landfill in the past)
4) Land Registry Searches
This confirms that the seller is the legal owner of the property in question. The Land Registry charges only a very minor fee (typically £3 each) to check their records and confirm that the title deed and title plan are in the right name.
Unlike some of the other searches listed here, these are a legal requirement.
5) Location Specific Searches
These are the kinds of searches that are specific to a given local region. They’re the reason why it’s often a good idea to use a conveyancing solicitor near you rather than someone not familiar with the local area.
For instance, knowledge that the local area was used for coal mining means your solicitor can immediately start performing mining checks to make sure your property is not at risk of subsidence instead of waiting for environmental checks to be completed.
How Long Do Conveyancing Searches Take?
Most estimates say that you should expect searches to take two to three weeks but Local Authority searches can run up to six weeks or even longer.
This is also the best-case scenario. If red flags are raised by initial searches, your conveyancing solicitor might need to request more information or order further searches to make sure you’re not at risk.
How Long Does It Take To Exchange After Searches?
It’s not uncommon for the exchange of contracts to take place around two months or eight weeks after your solicitor starts working on the searches.
Get Those Searches Started
Don’t let choosing the right solicitor to handle your conveyancing add to the timeframe your property searches will take.
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