Searches are an integral and extremely important part of the conveyancing process. Basically, they comprise a series of checks made by the buyer’s solicitor to ensure that everything about the property is as it should be.
Broadly speaking, searches fall into 3 main categories:
- Local searches. These are commissioned from the local authority and are concerned with things like planning issues and major changes to the infrastructure of the area.
- Specialised and environmental searches. These often tend to be more important in particular parts of the country – for example, in areas liable to flooding, or where there are old mine workings.
- Land Registry searches. These not only provide all the necessary ownership information about a property, but also reveal whether there are any debts outstanding on it or anything else of concern.
Solicitors will normally handle these enquiries directly, except in the case of local searches, where they may employ the services of a specialist personal search company.
Generally speaking, searches have to be paid for upfront as they are an expense. If the sale falls through for any reason, the buyer will still have to reimburse the solicitor for this outlay – even where the actual conveyancing work is offered on a ‘no sale-no fee’ basis.
As for delays, these can occur for any number of reasons. For example, even in this day and age, local authority searches can’t be conducted at the click of a mouse. They require the attention of council staff so at any given time, some local authorities may simply be too short-staffed to handle search enquiries quickly - as a result, local search times can vary enormously from one area to another, from less than a week to well over a month. With some solicitors, it is also general practice to hold off commissioning searches until their client has received a firm mortgage offer – just in case the whole deal falls at the first hurdle.
So, if you want to minimise the risk of any delay, get your mortgage offer sorted out as soon as possible and instruct your solicitor to order the searches right away.