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How Long Do Property Searches Take?

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This article will explore different types of searches, the time it takes for each search to be completed and an alternative option for searches to expedite the exchange of contracts.

Moving house is one of the most stressful experiences in life. With many things out of your control, you are at the mercy of your solicitors, a willing buyer and the local council officials responsible for conducting searches on your property.

If you’re looking to sell your house fast, you’d like to know how long a search might take, the next steps after a mortgage valuation, and how this impacts your overall selling time.

We will explain different types of searches and the steps between the exchange of contracts and completion. 

Table of Contents

How long do searches take?

The length of time taken for searches will differ depending on the property’s location and the efficiency of your local authority.  If the property is in a rural location, the chances are that it will have one officer responsible for searches. If he/she is on holiday or off ill, nobody is available to cover him/her.

This is why many companies offering search services can’t commit to a timeframe for a local authority search.  The delay can be frustrating as your buyer may wish to move quickly to get into a catchment school or move out of their rental accommodation and into their own home.

This frustration and uncertainty can put off most buyers, resulting in property chains collapsing and abortive sales.

Type of search

Time taken

Local authority

Up to three months

Drainage and water

Up to two weeks

Environmental search

Up to two weeks

Flood risk search

Up to two weeks

Coal and general mining

Up to two weeks

Chancel repair search

Up to two weeks

Land Registry search

Up to 10 days

High-speed rail search

Up to 10 days

What are pre-contract enquiries?

Contract enquiries take place between house sales being agreed to and an exchange of contracts.  These enquiries are raised by the buyer’s solicitors, and your solicitor must provide a satisfactory answer for the sale to proceed.

Often, these enquiries can’t be raised until the buyer’s solicitor receives searches.  The buyer solicitor will tell their client not to order searches until mortgage valuation has taken place, which adds to delay and uncertainty.

These pre-contract enquiries form part of the conveyancing process and can include queries relating to the title, rights and obligations over and or underlying land.  These pre-contract enquiries can relate to the following:

Solicitors tend to be very thorough with these enquiries, so once they are satisfied with the responses, the sale can progress towards exchanging contracts.  Until contracts are exchanged, the sale is not legally binding. 

This means both the buyer and the seller can change their mind and withdraw from the agreed sale.  Both parties will have to pay solicitors abortive fees. Delays will also cost the seller additional mortgage payments, council tax, insurance and utility costs.

How long do property searches take?
Encourage your buyer to get their searches ordered early to avoid any delays.

What are conveyancing searches?

Solicitors conduct conveyancing searches to ensure there’s nothing wrong with the property or its location before your buyer is financially committed to purchasing it. 

These are the main searches which solicitors carry out:

  • Local authority search – this looks for planning, pollution and building control issues. This tends to be one of the slowest searches as well.  Solicitors are advised to instruct searches as soon as possible.
  • Environmental search – this search checks whether the property is built on contaminated land or is near a waste or a landfill site. This search also checks for any subsidence issues or potential flooding issues. 
  • Flood risk search – as the name suggests, this search looks for the risk of flooding if the property is near water. Naturally, the risk is higher; therefore, it can be more difficult to insure.
  • Drainage and water search – this search checks for all the drainage systems around the property. This can be a very useful search for the buyer, particularly if he/she is considering extending the property, as they provide helpful information on where all your drains run.
  • Land Registry search – this search checks whether you, the seller, are the genuine owners of the property and if you have ever been made bankrupt. The title plan on the title registers is also checked to ensure they match with the Land Registry website.  The title register has details about who owns the property, the land, what they paid for it, and whether it is freehold or leasehold.  The title plan will show a map showing the property’s location and boundary.

How long after searches to exchange?

How long after searches to exchange will depend on the time taken for the search results to come back and what the search results show.

If any concerns are shown within searches, the buyer’s solicitor will raise queries as they require clarification.  He/she will then prepare a title report for the buyer and recommend whether he/she should buy the property. 

This report must provide assurances to the buyer’s mortgage lender to confirm that the property has a clean and clear title – with no issues. 

The buyer can use this report to renegotiate the price.  This doesn’t happen just on the open market.  In fact, within the ‘we buy any house’ industry, quite a few companies use this opportunity to chip away at the price.  This is an unethical practice. 

Property Saviour are known in our industry for honouring the minimum guaranteed offer, and we don’t reduce the price offered.

Contract exchange can’t occur until the buyer’s solicitors and their lender are satisfied with the response to their queries.

what is a memorandum of sale
Encourage your buyer to exchange contracts early. Don't blindly trust every word your solicitor says.

How much do property searches cost?

Individual searches start at £30 and the entire search pack can cost somewhere in region of £250 to £300.

How long are property searches valid for?

Searches are valid for 6 months. However, if your buyer is delaying their purchase, their mortgage offer usually expires within 3 months.

Unfortunately, this will mean the sale might collapse or the buyer will pull out.

How long should it take a solicitor to do searches?

In the UK, solicitors typically take 2-4 weeks to carry out property searches. However, this can vary based on factors like the local authority’s efficiency and the property type.

Row of Typical English Terraced Houses.
The complexity of the property and any unforeseen issues discovered during the search can also extend the process.

Why do solicitors searches take so long?

Solicitors’ searches can take a while due to several factors. They rely on external organisations, like local authorities or environmental agencies, which can have varying response times.

The complexity of the property and any unforeseen issues discovered during the search can also extend the process.

How long does it take to exchange after searches?

It would take buyer’s solicitor six to eight weeks however, there are no time limits and solicitors or the buyer can delay this process.

How long after searches to completion?

How long it might take from searches to completion largely depends on the efficiency of both sets of solicitors.  Sadly, solicitors aren’t renowned for their speed and efficiency. 

They will normally act very linearly, taking each step as it comes rather than focusing on closing a conveyancing matter. 

A typical solicitor will have up to 40 purchases or sales they act for.  Assuming that they work a 40-hour work week, as you can’t seem to get hold of them after Friday’s lunch.  This leaves them with just one hour per case.  It is no wonder buyers and sellers feel frustrated with sub-standards of service.

After accepting an offer, the buyer will apply for a mortgage.  The surveyor will then take place 3-4 weeks later.  Once the surveyor’s report is good, the buyer’s solicitors will conduct searches. 

Local searches almost always take the longest.  It may take up to two months for search results to return, and then the buyer’s solicitor will review and raise queries within a week or two.  It then depends on the seller’s solicitor to respond to them within a reasonable timeframe. 

Once the seller’s solicitor responds and it has been accepted, then the buyer’s solicitor can draw down funds from the mortgage lender and agree on a completion date.

Can I speed upthe time taken between searches & exchange?

The best way to sell your property quickly is to find a cash buyer who doesn’t need a mortgage.  Often, first-time buyers pitch themselves as cash buyers because they feel that because they don’t have a property to sell, it makes them cash buyers.  This is not true.

A genuine cash buyer has the cash – a bank statement showing a balance that can buy your house outright without bank finance or a bridging loan.  You can check if a company uses bridging loans by looking at their accounts on Companies House. 

These cash house-buying companies rely on third-party funding, so they can’t buy several types of properties, including commercial properties, tenanted properties, unmortgageable properties and so on.

As cash buyers, we will indemnify searches, meaning we will keep enquiries to a minimum.  Once we have viewed your property, we will proceed with the legals and complete the purchase quickly. 

As we are the decision makers not reliant on third-party funding such as a bridging loan ‘cash buyer’, we can move quickly and buy any property, whether residential, commercial, or semi-commercial property, in any condition anywhere in England or Wales.

We are trusted by sellers who understand that we can complete within two weeks or quicker.  No need to worry about ‘how long after searches to exchange’.

Finding a cash buyer who is ready, willing and able to purchase is easier than you think.

Here at Property Saviour, we are cash buyers of houses, and commercial properties in any condition.  No need to worry about searches because we will indemnify them.  We will pay your legal fees of up to £1,500.  There are no estate agent fees.  You decide when to sell in a week or a month.  It is up to you.

Give us a call or fill in the form below for a chat about how we can help you.

Sell with certainty & speed

auction hammer

Property Saviour Price Promise

  • The price we’ll offer is the price that you will receive with no hidden deductions.
  • Be careful with ‘cash buyers’ who require a valuation needed for a mortgage or bridging loan.
  • These valuations or surveys result in delays and price reductions later on.
  • We are cash buyers.  There are no surveys.
  • We always provide proof of funds with every formal offer issued.

We'll Pay £1,500 Towards Your Legal Fees

  • No long exclusivity agreement to sign because we are the buyers.
  • You are welcome to use your own solicitor. 
  • If you don’t have one, we can ask our solicitors for recommendations.
  • We share our solicitor’s details and issue a Memorandum of Sale. 

Sell With Certainty & Speed

  • Our approach is transparent and ethical, which is why sellers trust us.
  • 100% Discretion guaranteed. 
  • If you have another buyer, you can put us in a contracts race to see who completes first.
  • Complete in 10 days or at a timescale that works for you.  You are in control.
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