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How Long After Searches to Exchange?

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The gap between conveyancing searches and the exchange of contracts usually takes 1 to 3 weeks. Even though this may seem like a long time, you’re well on your way! Generally, things go off without a hitch, but certain things can cause delays. These include:

  • The extent and complexity of the pre-contract enquiries;
  • The results of the conveyancing searches;
  • Drawing down mortgage finance;
  • Delays in signing the property over;
  • The performance of your conveyancer.

To look at these issues one by one…

Table of Contents

Pre-Contract Enquiries

Pre-contract inquiries are raised by the buyer’s conveyancer after the property moves from being on the market to Under Offer and Sold STC. Usually, these are based on the Law Society forms completed by the seller at the start of the conveyancing process and relate to the title, rights, and obligations over the property and/or underlying land.

Common matters raised may include boundary checks and any previous disputes,

  1. Shared utility supply,
  2. Any limits on how the property can be used,
  3. Land restrictions/incumbrances,
  4. Shared access/rights of way,
  5. Constraints on altering the property,
  6. Historical building/development works,
  7. Building regulations and certifications,
  8. Information from the Energy Performance Certificate,
  9. Any associated costs with owning the property (usually with leasehold properties),
  10. Further information regarding specific terms for leasehold properties, and complex/non-standard elements.

The conveyancer also needs to raise further inquiries based on the conveyancing search results. A good buying conveyancer will be thorough to avoid any ‘toing and froing’.

When managing estate agency sales, we always ask conveyancers to start the inquiries once the Law Society forms are returned.

This means that any remainder inquiries resulting from the search results can be dealt with promptly before moving on to the exchange of contracts.

The buyer’s conveyancer will report back and deal with any concerns. When using mortgage finance, the lender also wants confirmation that there is nothing that will negatively affect the security of the property.

Note that the buyer’s conveyancer should not raise any questions regarding the physical condition of the property or anything that would normally appear in the survey.

If you’re buying, you should be aware of the term caveat emptor (‘buyer beware’). This essentially means that the purchaser is responsible for checking the property before committing. For example, any physical factors that could render the property unmortgageable could cause issues before the exchange.

Similarly, legal questions such as unfulfilled overage clauses, restrictive covenants, positive/negative easements, or other encumbrances need to be checked.

How Long After Searches To Exchange
To prevent delays to the exchange, the buyer must ensure that the application information is accurate.

Search Result Issues

Conveyancing searches can take between 3 and 8 weeks to complete, largely depending on the Local Authority search, which is the longest no matter where you are in the country. Once these are done, the buyer’s conveyancer will examine each search and deliver a detailed report. This report will outline any potential issues the buyer should be aware of, such as:

  • Any flood risks near the property,
  • Evidence of subsidence,
  • Landslips, mines,
  • Landfills and other hazardous activities,
  • Any compulsory purchase orders or enforcement notices,
  • Recent planning applications,
  • Infrastructure work by the local council that may affect the property,
  • Drainage and water supply matters,
  • Previous or ongoing boundary disputes.

If any of these issues arise, the conveyancer will need to have a conversation with the buyer about the implications of going ahead with the sale.

The buyer can legally back out or renegotiate the price at this point. If the seller decides to withdraw, they should check the conveyancing fees to make sure there are no abortive fees.

Generally, though, the majority of buyers are already aware of any risks before they move forward, as they have usually been accounted for in the price.

Drawing Down Mortgage Finance

In addition to the survey, the mortgage lender must also view the search report. They will also double-check with the buyer’s conveyancer that nothing of interest is revealed by the questions.

It’s important to note that lenders are taking a more rigorous approach to affordability checks and will analyse the buyer’s finances closely.

To prevent delays to the exchange, the buyer must ensure that the application information is accurate.

The buyer’s conveyancer will also examine the mortgage offer to make sure it hasn’t expired. If it has, unfortunately, an extra few days may be required to issue a new one.

The mortgage offer will include the term, interest rate, monthly payment and any other conditions. The buyer’s conveyancer will explain the implications of taking out the property loan and will liaise with the lender’s legal department if necessary.

The buyer may also wish to review the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and the fixtures and fittings agreed upon as part of the sale. With the conveyancer being proactive, there should be no unreasonable delays.

The buyer will also be sent a Mortgage Deed (usually along with the contract documents) to sign and the deposit funds will be transferred to the conveyancer’s client account. The seller will be provided with the TR1 contract to sign and witness.

If the buyer is selling a property with a mortgage, the conveyancer will be required to discharge the loan. This may cause additional delays.

Delays with Signing the Property Over

Once all the paperwork, checks, and contracts have been produced, both the buyer and seller must ensure that they sign and return everything promptly.

We’ve come across a few issues that can delay the exchange of contracts:  

  1. Delays in signing contracts and transfer deeds (TR1) and sending them back. These documents require ‘wet’ signatures (i.e. with a pen) and must be independently witnessed. If one or more of the parties take too long to organise this, it can delay the exchange;  
  2. Documents being sent back via regular mail. We always recommend Royal Mail 1st class Recorded, or better yet, Special Delivery;  
  3. Buyer delays in organising the building’s insurance (which the mortgage company requires before exchange). The buyer may also want to organise life insurance;  
  4. Buyer delays in transferring the deposit or cash input into the transaction. It is possible to transfer funds over £10,000 within minutes using CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System). However, because of the fee, some buyers make multiple payments into the conveyancer’s client bank account, which slows things down;  
  5. Buyer’s conveyancer delaying in issuing the Certificate of Title to the mortgage lender (required for funds to be released). This contains information on the property’s previous ownership, amongst other details;  Delays because of multiple parties in the chain;  
  6. Delays because someone is away or the exchange date is close to a public holiday;  Buyer deliberately delaying signing the contracts to potentially gazunder the sale, secure a better mortgage deal, or just have cold feet. In this case, we suggest contacting the estate agent or requesting clarification from the buyer’s conveyancer;  
  7. Either conveyancer delaying in discharging or transferring mortgage/deposit funds.
How long after searches can you exchange
The exchange of contracts usually happens during normal business hours, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

How Good the Conveyancer Is?

Between searches and exchanges, all the above factors will be affected by the performance of the conveyancer managing your sale.

If the firm is stretched too thin or has taken on too many cases, the time between searches and exchanges can be delayed. If you don’t receive a response to your emails, look up the conveyancer’s complaints procedure.

There is usually a senior staff member you can talk to who can help get things back on track. Many online conveyancers have tracking systems in place so you can always keep track of the progress. In the worst-case scenario, you may have to complain to the Legal Ombudsman.

But usually, it doesn’t have to come to that.

Can I speed up the time between searches and exchange?

Yes, the quickest way to get from searches to exchange is to find a cash buyer. These buyers don’t need to sell a house to purchase yours, so there’s no need to worry about them delaying the process. Plus, they don’t tend to get many (or any) searches done on the property.

All of this means less paperwork and a much quicker process. So if you’re asking yourself, “How long after searches to exchange?” the answer is, not long at all!

But where can you find a cash buyer? It can be hard to find one on the open market, as not everyone can afford to buy a house outright. That doesn’t mean there’s no hope – you can find a cash buyer instantly by selling to us!

Property Saviour is a cash buyer of homes, and we buy any property in any condition. You don’t have to worry about what might come up on the searches. And, we can complete it in a timescale of your choosing.

So you decide how long after searches to exchange or complete – a week, a month, it’s up to you!

What time of day does exchange of contracts happen?

The exchange of contracts usually happens during normal business hours, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. There is no set rule regarding the exact time, however, it is customary for this process to take place within these hours.

This gives solicitors, conveyancers and all parties involved the chance to answer any last-minute questions, complete the necessary paperwork and make sure the transition from exchange to completion is successful.

It is important to bear in mind that the timing can differ depending on the situation and the agreements between the parties involved in the transaction.

Can the sale exchange and complete on the same day
The amount of time a search takes will vary depending on a few factors. These include the location, the size of the house and land, and the condition of the property.

Can the sale exchange and complete on the same day?

The process of property transactions in the UK requires efficient coordination and completion of all the necessary tasks within a limited timeframe. This includes finalising any legal paperwork, transferring funds, and ensuring that all contractual conditions and obligations are fulfilled.

Due to the complexities of the process, there is usually some time that passes between exchange and completion. This gap, known as the completion period, can range from a few days to several weeks.

This period allows for various activities to take place, such as the transfer of funds, organising mortgages, coordinating removals, and completing any legal or administrative tasks.

The decision to exchange and complete on the same day or to have a period of completion is usually determined by the particular circumstances of the transaction and the preferences of the involved parties.

It is therefore essential to consult with a solicitor or conveyancer who can advise on the most suitable approach based on the individual case, thus ensuring a successful and legally compliant completion of the property sale.

How Long Do Searches Take?​

The amount of time a search takes will vary depending on a few factors. These include the location, the size of the house and land, and the condition of the property. To get a general idea, refer to the table below.

It is believed that a high-speed rail search will not take any longer than ten days. There is not much data available yet on the duration of this type of search, but it is expected to be relatively quick.

Type of search

Amount of time taken

Local Authority

Can take up to several months

Drainage and water

1 to 10 days

Environmental

1 to 10 days

Flood risk

1 to 10 days

Coal and general mining

1 to 10 days

Chancel repair

1 to 10 days

Land registry

1 to 10 days

How much do searches cost?

The cost of pre-contract conveyancing searches can vary depending on a few things: the type and quantity of searches needed, the location of the property, and the fees charged by the search providers.

It is advised to get in touch with a conveyancer or solicitor who can provide a comprehensive list of the estimated costs based on the searches that need to be done for the property transaction.

What enquiries do solicitors raise after search?

After the property searches have been conducted and the results obtained, solicitors will generally ask additional questions to gain more specific information about the property and address any worries that may have arisen.

These questions are known as ‘additional enquiries’ or ‘requisitions on title’ and serve to make sure that the buyer has a thorough understanding of the property’s condition, legal status, and any relevant issues before proceeding with the completion stage.

The questions can cover a wide range of topics, such as:

  • Boundaries and easements;
  • Planning and building regulations;
  • Restrictions and covenants; services and utilities;
  • Insurance and warranties;
  • Leasehold matters.

What happens at completion?

Completion marks the end of a property transaction in the UK. At this point, ownership is officially transferred from the seller to the buyer. Various activities take place on completion day, including:

  1. Transferring the funds: On completion, the buyer’s solicitor or conveyancer will move the agreed-upon purchase price to the seller’s solicitor or conveyancer. This includes the balance of the purchase price, apportionments (e.g. taxes or service charges), and fees for legal services.
  1. Handing over the keys: After the funds have been received, the seller’s solicitor or conveyancer will affirm completion and release the keys to the buyer.
  2. Registering with the Land Registry: The buyer’s solicitor or conveyancer will then register the change of ownership with the Land Registry, guaranteeing the buyer’s legal title is recorded and recognised.
  3. Settling obligations: At completion, any remaining financial obligations related to the property, such as mortgages or secured loans, will be addressed with the funds transferred. The buyer’s solicitor or conveyancer will ensure all required payments are made to fulfil these obligations.
  4. Distributing documents: The seller’s solicitor or conveyancer will deliver the buyer’s solicitor or conveyancer with the necessary legal documents, including the transfer deed (TR1), title deeds, and any other associated documents related to the property.

It’s noteworthy that the steps and procedures at completion can differ depending on the details of the transaction and the needs of the parties involved.

The buyer’s solicitor or conveyancer will direct the buyer through the completion process, making sure all relevant legal and administrative tasks are performed accurately and swiftly.

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