Are delays in local searches jeopardising your move?

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When you’re buying a home, local authority searches are an essential part of the process. Here we look at how long searches should take and recent reports of staggering delays.

Local searches are a vital part of the home buying process. They tell you about important local information relevant to the area the house you are buying is in. For example it will tell you whether you’re buying in a conservation area which could impact your planned renovations and whether a new housing development is planned in the field you thought you would have uninterrupted views over. Searches need to be completed before you can exchange.

Way off target

Last year, Housing Minister Heather Wheeler wrote to all local authorities – which conduct the vast majority of local searches – saying that extensive search delays were ‘unacceptable’ to the government.

She gave local authorities a target of a maximum of 10 working days within which to return the searches – and the government claims there has been significant improvement since.

But according to Property Industry Eye this week, Derby City Council is said to be taking 44 working days – nearly nine weeks – to issue searches, causing all kinds of complications and a massive spike in fall-throughs of house purchases. As a result, local businesses are due to meet in Derby this week in a bid to work together to push the council to improve.

Research into the length of time it took to get local searches back by Move iQ in October last year painted a similarly dire picture. Stratford District Council was named the worst offender at the time, with searches taking up to 95 days. Other poor performing councils included Wyre Forest which took 40 days, and Rochford, Herefordshire and Epping Forest taking 25 days to return local searches.

The HomeOwners Alliance say it’s a mixed bag out there. They have members in Sevenoaks, Kent being told they will have to wait 5 weeks to get local searches back while in Teignmouth, Devon, you can expect to wait just 2 days.

What’s being done about this postcode lottery?

Not an awful lot because according to the government, it’s all hunky-dory.

In January this year, Estate Agent Today quoted the Housing Minister saying she was: “… pleased to see that, based on the latest data, more than 80% of local authorities are hitting this [10 day] target. The quickest can turn searches around in under a day. Now that’s what I call progress.”

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