How long do property searches take?

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 to exchange of contracts.

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

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

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

How long do searches take?

The length of time taken for searches will differ depending on location of the property 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 and if he/she is on holiday or off ill nobody is available to cover him/her.

This is the main reason 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 they maybe in a rental accommodation and wish to move into their own home.

It is this frustration and uncertainty that 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 sale being agreed to exchange of contracts.  These enquiries are raised by buyer’s solicitors, and your solicitor must provide satisfactory answer for the sale to proceed.

Often these enquiries can’t be raised until the buyer’s solicitor is in receipt of 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 inquiries relating to the title, rights and obligations over and or underlying land.  These pre-contract enquiries can relate to:

  • allocated parking spaces
  • boundary checks
  • land restrictions
  • easements and or rights of way
  • issues relating to EPC
  • terms of leasehold – if applicable
  • building regulations certificates including any warranties or certificates relating to electrics, windows, and gas
  • any constraints on altering the building such as if it is a listed building
  • details of any planning permission
  • any non-standard elements such as if it’s a probate sale and the property is unregistered.

Solicitors tend to be very thorough with these enquiries so once they are satisfied with the responses the sale can progress towards exchange of contracts.  Until contracts are exchanged, the sale is not legally binding.  This means that both the buyer and the seller can change their mind and pull out of the agreed sale.  Both parties will have to pay solicitors abortive fees, delays will also cost the seller with 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?

Conveyancing searches are carried out by solicitors to ensure that 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 are carried out by solicitors:

  • Local authorities 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 for flooding issues. 
  • Flood risk search – as the name suggests this search looks for 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 very useful search for the buyer particularly if he/she is thinking of extending the property as they provide useful 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, whether it is freehold or leasehold.  The title plan will show a map that shows the location and the boundary of the property.

How long after searches to exchange?

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

If there are any concerns shown within searches, then the buyer’s solicitor will raise queries as they require clarification.  He/she will then prepare a title report for the buyer and making recommendations as to whether he/she should buy the property.  This report needs to provide assurances to the buyer’s mortgage lender to confirm that 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 ‘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.

Exchange of contracts can’t take place until the buyer’s solicitors and their lender are satisfied with the response to buyer’s queries.

How long after searches to completion?

How long it might take from searches to completion largely depending on efficiency of both sets of solicitors.  Sadly, solicitors aren’t renowned for their speed and efficiency.  They will normal act in a very linear fashion, taking each step as it comes rather than focussing on closing a conveyancing matter, they are busy touting for more work. 

A typical solicitor will have up to 40 purchases or sales that they acting for.  Assuming that they work 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 both buyers and sellers feel frustrated with sub-standards of service.

To give you an idea from acceptance of an offer, the buyer will apply for a mortgage.  The surveyor will then take place 3-4 weeks later.  Once surveyor’s report is all good then buyer’s solicitors will instruct searches.  Local searches almost always take the longest.  It may take up to two months for searches results to return then the buyer’s solicitor will review and raise queries within a week or two.  It then depends on seller’s solicitor to respond to them within a reasonable timeframe. 

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

Can I speed up the time taken between searches & exchange?

The best way to selling 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 a cash buyer.  This is not true.

A true cash buyer has the cash – a bank statement showing balance that can buy your house outright without bank finance or a bridging loan.  You can check if a company is using bridging loan by looking at their accounts on Companies House.  These types of cash house buying companies are reliant on third-party funding and that’s why 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 that we will keep enquiries to a minimum.  Once we have viewed your property, we will proceed with 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 type of property whether it is residential, a commercial property or a 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, ready willing and able to purchase is easier than you think.

Here at Property Saviour, we are cash buyers of houses, 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 you’d like to sell – whether it is a week or a month.  It is up to you.

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

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