Property searches are one of the most common causes of delays in the home buying process. And recent research shows that many local authorities aren’t meeting national targets for speed.
What are property searches?
As part of the conveyancing process when buying a property, your conveyancer will ask for a search to be done in the Local Land Charges Register. The result will show, for instance, the planning history of the property and its surroundings, whether or not the road frontages and drains and sewers are adopted and maintained by the local authority, whether it is affected by any existing or planned rail or highways schemes and whether there are any specific environmental issues affecting the property.
These issues can have serious implications and may affect your decision whether to go ahead with your purchase. So property searches are a very important part of the home buying process.
How long does a property search take?
The Government has set national targets for searches to be completed within 10 days. However, the reality is that in many areas these targets are not being met. In fact, research by Move iQ found that one in seven councils take longer than 10 days.
The worst offender was Stratford on Avon District Council which takes on average 95 days to complete a search. Wyre Forest takes an average of 40 days and Rochford, Herefordshire and Epping Forest all take 25 days. Compare that to Wakefield Council where searches take just one day!
Who does the property search?
There are two kinds of searches – official and personal:
- An official search is done by an employee at the council who will check the Local Land Charges Register. Your conveyancer will contact the council directly to order this.
- A personal search is carried out by an external agent who will visit the Council offices in person. Your conveyancer will arrange this through a specialist search provider.
The search itself takes just minutes, but lack of council staff/resources may affect the time taken to action an official search request. Personal searches can be faster and cheaper, but some mortgage lenders will only accept official searches. Your conveyancer will decide which kind of search is best for each specific transaction.
How much does a property search cost?
The costs sets by Local Authorities vary wildly. Some 78% of councils charge more than £100 for a standard residential search and 25% charge more than £150.
Most expensive was Hammersmith and Fulham which charges £333.50 – and then takes 20 days to complete a search. At Brent Council, a search costs £320 and takes 10 days.
Wakefield Council again comes out on top when it comes to cost – charging just £44 for a search. Telford, Hillingdon, Kings Lynn/West Norfolk all charge between £62 and £68 for a search.
So is there any hope of improvement if you aren’t lucky enough to be buying in Wakefield?
The Digital Local Land Charges Register
In July of this year the Land Registry launched a new digital Local Land Charges Register. Warwick District Council was the first to migrate all their data to the Land Registry and from July, anyone requiring searches now requests them from the Land Registry rather than the council.
This has speeded up searches considerably and also means consistency in the information provided by a search. Local authorities will continue to provide the responses to CON29 searches which include things such as rail and road scheme proposals, public footpaths and building control regulations.
Three more councils have now transferred their data to the Land Registry:
- * Liverpool City Council
- * City of London Corporation
- * Blackpool Council
The Land Registry is currently working in partnership with up to 26 local authorities in England in 2018 to integrate their data to a central, digital register. This could be a major boon to the Government’s stated intention of speeding up the conveyancing process.
There is more information on searches and what they can reveal about a property on the PM Property Lawyers YouTube channel.
If you have any questions about searches, please give us a call – 0114 249 6926 or email email@example.com.