Written by Tim Grainger, Director of DOMVS estate agents in Dorset
When my wife and I moved from Hertfordshire to Dorset, I remember having a conversation with the selling estate agent and it was a shock to hear that the local authority searches for my new home would take approximately 12-16 weeks. Fast forward six years, and I am now the one on the other end of the phone, explaining the same thing to buyers and estate agents in the home counties. The reasons for the delays are not my concern, and although changes in the council structure will no doubt play a part, it has been a delay that I as an agent in Dorset have been advising clients on for as long as I have worked in the county.
What is a Local Authority Search?
A Local Authority search provides information about the use of the property you are intending to purchase as well as the responsibility for footpaths and highways etc nearby. If you are intending to purchase a property, you will naturally want to know if there are any plans to build a wind farm, or a supermarket near to where you are intending to purchase. A Local Authority search is just one of the searches which solicitors will most likely instruct, and shouldn’t be confused with others that can be received much faster, such as environmental searches and water searches.
Why is receiving a Local Authority Search taking so long?
Since the start of the pandemic, huge numbers of buyers from the counties that surround London have been looking to buy property in Dorset where, according to website “Searchflow.co.uk”, the current local search wait time in Dorset is 13 weeks. A delay of this magnitude is frustrating, naturally, but the issue is exacerbated when you consider that a delay of this length is only topped by that of the London Borough of Hackney, in the whole of the UK. Given that buyers are often selling in areas within Surrey, Sussex or Hampshire, where local authority searches are taking as little as one week to be completed, it can be made all the more frustrating. Such different expectations from seller to seller, can have a huge influence on whether a transaction completes successfully and with buyers of properties in the home counties, in chains that end in Dorset, there can be a perceived lack of progress.
What can be done to speed up the Local Authority Search process?
So what can be done to remedy a situation that shows no sign of improving? Here are some ideas:
- Search Indemnity Policies
A search indemnity policy is often mentioned by agents as a way around the issues of long delays. Indemnity insurance means you are insured, should an order that would have been identified in local searches, cause you to sell your property for a price lower than you paid for it. For a property that could be considered “low risk”, indemnities are often a great way to avoid the delay, but identifying which properties fit the low risk criteria isn’t an easy assessment. What’s more, many mortgage providers will not allow the buyer to use an indemnity.
- Pre-Apply for a Local Authority Search
Another way avoid disappointment, is to plan ahead. At DOMVS, we discuss the possibility of applying for local searches at the time of instruction, rather than sale. In other words, once we know a property will be marketed, the vendor will be spoken to about applying for local searches on their own property, prior to it hitting the market. But, timing is key, as searches are only considered “valid” for 6 months upon their arrival. It also means there is an additional outlay for the vendor, as the local authority search application will cost roughly £200; a cost that is reimbursed upon finding a buyer. But in a situation when local search turnaround can be the difference between achieving a sale, or not, such an outlay could be considered minimal, regardless of the reimbursement.
Both of these options, as well as others, have their merits, and seeking advice before marketing a property for sale is advised.
How can DOMVS estate agents in Dorset help?
At DOMVS, we are well versed in finding the right solution for each unique scenario we are presented with. If you are thinking of selling in 2022, having a plan for how to attract buyers from the home counties and London, whilst adhering to what they may consider reasonable timescales, will be crucial.
Our experienced valuers and dedicated sales progression teams can advise so please don’t hesitate to call us, even if moving is only a consideration at this point, we are always delighted to help.
In the meantime, there is some further useful information available on the Dorset Council Website.