In this brief guide, we will answer the question: how long do searches take when buying a house? The time taken can greatly affect how long it takes to complete.

How long do searches take when buying a house?

When buying a house, searches can take between 2 weeks and 4 weeks but this will usually depend on the third-party firms which data is being requested from.

It is therefore very hard to say exactly how long searches will take when buying a house as so much is dependent on third parties, the season in which you are buying, the professionalism and speed of the conveyancer you are using and the local council which you are buying in.

There are councils who reply very quickly to searches and others which take much longer, in the same way, there are government departments who reply quickly to searches and in the same way, there are Government bodies who take much longer to reply. 

All of these factors are difficult to measure as they differ based on your own circumstances, as mentioned above and they all affect how long searches take when buying a house.

You should also remember that the searches may all receive replies to the initial inquiry from your conveyancer but any further inquiries will no doubt increase the amount of time the searches may take when buying a house.

If you are in a chain when buying then you can expect the searches being carried out to take almost twice as long.

The best way to help reduce the time searches take is to keep in constant touch with your solicitor to ensure that your solicitor chases up any bodies which they have requested information from who appear to be taking longer to respond.

 You should remember your solicitor or conveyancer doesn’t only work for you. 

They work for whoever is paying them and this could mean that they have numerous searches taking place for numerous clients who are buying houses. You should, therefore, do your best to ensure you chase them up.

You should also ask your conveyancer how long the searches in the local area will usually take. This is one of the advantages of using conveyancers who have local experience.

Searches are one of the most vital parts of the buying process. 

They ensure you know exactly what you are about to buy and this gives you the confidence to then make a buying decision by providing you with all the vital details about a property which are essential. E.g Are there restrictive covenants? 

Are there plans to build a road nearby? Will your garden be reclaimed as a result? When carrying out a search, each data provider will likely have its fees which it charges in order for you to receive the information. 

Your conveyancer will usually not charge you above this point but will, of course, charge you for carrying out their work.

What are Conveyancing Searches?

Conveyancing searches are searches which are carried out on your behalf by your solicitor in order to find out key details about a property which may affect your buying decision. 

Your conveyancer will look to ensure that nothing they find will be a cause for concern for you in the future. 

This means carrying out various searches on public records to uncover past, present and future plans of the surrounding area a well as any legal covenants which may restrict you. 

The conveyance process itself is pretty daunting and hence it is advisable to use a conveyancer for this rather than doing it yourself.

Types of conveyancing searches

Below we will cover the main types of conveyancing searches, we will list them out below:

There are several types of searches. Let us break them down for you:

High-Speed Rail (HS2)

If you are buying through an area which is remotely close to the planned High-speed rail (HS2) then rightfully so a search will be carried out by your conveyancer to ensure there is no risk to your property.

Brine Search

A Brine Search is usually required in some parts of Cheshire and Greater Manchester where salt is extracted from the ground and pumped up as brine. Brine can lead to subsidence and hence this search is very important. A brine search can take up to 7 days and the cost is usually around £35.

Flood Search

A Flood risk report will look to see if the property you want to by is at risk of flood based on the past flood risk in the area and any future predictions. A flood search could take from a few minutes to a day to complete but will usually cost around £20.

Planning Search

A Planning Search will let you know if there any existing planning permissions and the past planing permission so you can check to ensure that the home has actually been built as per the council’s request. Your conveyancer will request completion certificates to verify this. A planning search will also let you know of any planned development within 250 metres of your property.

Clay And Tin Mining Searches

A Clay and Tin Mining Search is usually done for properties in the Cornwall region as these are areas where Clay and tin mining were previously carried out.

Draining And Water Search

Drainage and Water Searches are done from the local water authority provider who provides water to the property. This search will let you know how the water supply is connected if it is connected to any sewage and what entity is responsible for its maintenance and repair.

This search will also let you know what the distance is to the nearest sewer.

A draining and water search could be done within 2 weeks and will usually cost between £50 to £100.

This price is based on the water authority.

Environmental Search

An Environmental Search will look at what the land was used for in the past and look to ensure that there are no factors which could contaminate the land or that the land is not currently contaminated due to past use or external factors.

This search could take up to 5 days to complete and will cost from between £50 to £80.

Coal Search

If you are buying in an area that was previously used for coal mining then a coal search will be very vital to ensure that the bricks used for your house aren’t contaminated or the water running through your taps aren’t contaminated.  The coal search will also look to find out if your property is at risk of subsidence.

A Coal Search could take up to 7 days to complete and will usually cost around £50.

Local Authority Search (LAS)

Once you have been given a mortgage offer, most mortgage lenders will insist that you carry out a local authority check. To do this your conveyancer will submit a list of forms to the local authority who will then provide you information such as:

Are there any environmental and pollution notices

Is the property a listed building

Is the property situated in a smoke control zone

Are there any planned developments of the area

Are there any nearby railway schemes, new roads or bridges planned

The building control and panning history of the property

Are there any common land, town and village greens close to the property

Is the property subject to a tree protection order

Is the property located in a  conversation area

Will the property require an improvement or renovation grant

Chancel Repair Liability Search

A chancel repair liability search will let you know if you can be held liable to your local Church of England parish. If there are any churches built before 1536 then this may be the case.

If the search indicates that you may have some liability then your conveyancer may advise you to get adequate indemnity insurance to cover you.

FAQs: How long do searches take when buying a house?

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions in relation to the question “: How long do searches take when buying a house”

What are the searches for when buying a house?

When buying a house, searches are done for your own benefit to ensure there are no issues which may affect your decision to buy or bring you future liability in the future.

How long do conveyancing searches take?

Conveyancing searches can take as long as 4 weeks to be completed but this depends on the third parties replying to the requests.

How long do Enquiries take when buying a house?

When buying a house enquiries can take between 2 and 4 weeks but this depends on the third parties involved and how quickly they reply to requests.

Are searches necessary when buying a house?

Yes, searches are necessary because they help you understand your legal liability and future liability but they are not required by law although if you are buying with a mortgage then very few mortgage lenders will offer you a mortgage without a licensed conveyancer carrying out these searches.

Getting a mortgage when buying a house

You may want to consider using an independent mortgage broker to get a mortgage for your new house.

Mortgage brokers are important as they can access mortgage products from across the whole of the market in some cases. This could be over 11,000 mortgage products. This may have some advantages than going directly to a mortgage lender.

A mortgage broker will look to understand your financial circumstances and then provide recommendations on which mortgage products may be suitable for you.

After giving you these mortgage recommendations, most mortgage brokers will seek your consent to apply for a mortgage in principle. This will allow you to shop for your home easier as more estate agents and sellers may take you seriously or it will give you confidence that your remortgage is indeed a possibility before you make a full mortgage application. Once you have found a home you want to buy or are satisfied with the mortgage offer for your remortgage then the mortgage broker will then look to get you a mortgage offer.

This will come with a key facts illustration document which details out the features of your mortgage including how much you will pay per month if there are any limits such as early repayment fees, or annual overpayment limits.

If you are happy with everything you can then go on to secure your mortgage with the help of a conveyancer. Your conveyancer will manage the legal searches on the property to ensure there aren’t any issues with it, they will oversee the sales agreement to ensure it is in your best interest, they will manage the transfer of mortgage funds, exchange contracts with the seller or their conveyancer and set a completion date with the seller or their conveyancer.

In this brief guide, we answered the question: how long do searches take when buying a house? If you have any questions or comments please let us know.

John Bate

John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.