Delays with the legal process – the conveyancing – are the second common cause of property deals falling apart.

Here’s how to improve your chances of success.


A good, experienced solicitor/conveyancer can make all the difference to achieving a swift purchase.  Other advisers you employ, such as surveyors, are only involved for a relatively short period of time. The solicitor is with you all the way and has the potential to hamper or enhance each and every stage.

But there are some areas where you, the client, can help speed things along:

*           Instruct early

Until your offer’s been accepted there’s not a great deal the buyer’s solicitor can do. But having your ‘legal team’ already appointed and raring to go when you do find the right property can save a week or so in wasted time, which could prove crucial later on.

*           Local authority searches

Obtaining the local authority search (or the ‘local land search’ as it is officially known) is a key stage in the house-purchase process. So it may come as something of a surprise to learn that local searches aren’t comprehensive.

They only relate to the actual piece of land you searched, covering the property itself and roads within 200m. They don’t check the surrounding area. So if your neighbour has just been granted planning consent for an enormous extension or is selling his garden for development, you may be none the wiser.

Even if a waste-disposal plant is planned on adjoining land, you may not get to hear about it. Nor do all councils keep detailed records showing whether your house was built on contaminated land. So as a precaution it’s always worth checking the Council’s website to see if any planning applications have been made in the vicinity.

If you have particular suspicions about scheduled development in the area, you can ask your solicitor to make additional specific searches of nearby buildings, adjoining land or vacant plots close to the property.

Local searches have an unenviable reputation for being a major bottleneck that holds everything up. In a busy market, fingers are frequently pointed at Councils for the time taken to turn round searches. A late search could be especially galling when potential concerns are uncovered, such as proposed road-widening schemes, or illegally built extensions.

Such unwelcome revelations could result in a last-minute panic, in some cases becoming a deal-breaker. But the blame for delays can’t always be laid at the Council’s door. Submitting and paying for searches was traditionally sometimes left until fairly late in the process so that fees wouldn’t be wasted should the purchase fall through.

Problems sometime also arise where a purchase drags on for a long time and the searches become out of date. Searches are generally accepted where they will be no more than six months old at the date of completion, although some firms will consider them invalid if more than three months old when read. Should your solicitor or mortgage lender for whatever reason insist on a fresh search it’s likely to set you back around £350.

Depending on which council you’re dealing with and how busy they are, this can take anything from just over a week to almost a month. To prevent unnecessary delays it’s essential that the correct forms are submitted, as incomplete applications occasionally have to be returned and then resubmitted, wasting valuable time. The local search is submitted in two parts, each with their own standard form.

Form ‘LLC1’ covers the search of the ‘local land charges register’, showing any financial charges and restrictions affecting the property.

This should turn up any improvement or renovation grants secured on the property (which may need to be partially repaid), as well as any tree preservation orders, conservation orders, smoke control restrictions and planning conditions. Form ‘Con 29’ covers enquiries of a broader nature relating to local planning, highways and environmental services.

*           Other searches

As well as a local authority search, a drainage search may also be sent to the relevant Water Authority. Amongst other things, this will reveal whether the building’s waste water goes into a public sewer or a private sewer or simply into a septic tank or cesspit in the garden. Environmental searches are becoming more common (but may only provide inconclusive results).

As well as searches about the property you’re buying, you need to know that the person you’ve just agreed to buy from is actually the true owner and isn’t bankrupt. But perhaps most revealing of all is the Land Registry search (see next blog to follow shortly).

Our next blog – coming soon …….

More on the law –  and what you can do to help move things along.


Consider all of the above and your chances of success will get a huge boost.  

Check out our Rightsurvey blog page for more industry tips and secrets written by property professionals to help put you in control.