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Stamp Duty Holiday - deals at risk because of slow searches

Thousands of sales are at risk because slow searches by councils may prevent deals completing by the next stamp duty deadline.

With just under eight weeks to go until the  June 30 deadline - beyond which the stamp duty holiday advantage reduces - a mortgage firm has identified the slowest councils.

Mojo Mortgages has looked at the current waiting times for local authority searches to be completed - a determining factor that’s having a major impact on the length of time between a memo of sale and completion.

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Search time varies from just five days up to more than six months for some councils.

After combining the latest local authority search data with the average remaining conveyancing time of nine weeks suggested by the consumer group HomeOwners Alliance, the research calculated the average total conveyancing time for each local authority. 

Those purchasing a property in Ashfield District in Nottinghamshire were least likely to be affected by delays in returning local authority searches, taking five days on average. 

A number of other local councils including Bassetlaw, East Devon and Norwich City Council also reported speedy searches taking six days. 

At the other end of the spectrum, transactions in Hackney - where the council is still recovering its IT system from a hack - could face local authority search delays of more than six months (180 working days), with Havering (90 working days) and Dorset Council (70 working days) also reporting some of the slowest responses in the country. 

Other local councils faring poorly in this research include Durham County Council, Newcastle City Council and Lewisham Council.

Mojo Mortgages chief executive Richard Hayes says: “The recent extension is good news for the many thousands of buyers still currently worried they would miss these savings, however with just eight weeks to go until the deadline there will be many wondering if they are going to complete on time, with conveyancers doing all they can to keep clients happy.

"Although these times are average and theoretical, they do help people realise how long things can take, and how tight it could be.”

And David Darlington, a partner at conveyancing firm Fieldings Porter, adds: “Even those [transactions] which start now do not have a guarantee that they will complete in time for the end of June, but there is still a chance. It will partly be down to the requirements of the lender and buyer in relation to searches and the lead times in the locality. 

“We have seen some searches coming back within a couple of days from one local authority and taking five to six weeks for a neighbouring one so buyers should discuss this with their solicitor or conveyancer as soon as they instruct them if the stamp duty deadline is important to them.”

The ten and equal councils with the fastest local authority searches and least likely to delay conveyancing ahead of Stamp Duty deadline on 30 June 2021

Local Authority

Working days delay in returning searches

How many weeks?

Total conveyancing time (weeks)

Ashfield District Council

5

1

10

Bassetlaw District Council

6

1.2

10.2

Cheshire East Council

6

1.2

10.2

Crawley Borough Council

6

1.2

10.2

East Devon District Council

6

1.2

10.2

Eastbourne Borough Council

6

1.2

10.2

Haringey Council

6

1.2

10.2

North Lincolnshire Council

6

1.2

10.2

Norwich City Council

6

1.2

10.2

South Gloucestershire Council

6

1.2

10.2

Stroud District Council

6

1.2

10.2

Uttlesford District Council

6

1.2

10.2

The councils with the slowest local authority searches and most likely to delay conveyancing ahead of Stamp Duty deadline on 30 June 2021

Local Authority

Working days delay in returning searches

How many weeks?

Total conveyancing time (weeks)

Hackney Council

180

36

45

London Borough of Havering

90

16

25

Dorset Council 

70

14

23

Durham County Council

65

13

22

Newcastle City Council

50

10

19

Lewisham Council

45

9

18

Lichfield District Council

40

8

17

Plymouth City Council

40

8

17

Salisbury City Council

35

7

16

South Staffordshire District Council

35

7

16

Wiltshire Council

35

7

16

Barnet Council

35

7

16

  • Paul Albone

    Hackney I agree with due to their system issues - but some of this other data is just not true, especially when you consider the use of the regulated COPSO SearchCode compliant searches as well. Havering and Dorset average are below 4 weeks, and so if the searches are ordered 'early' in the transaction, it won't be searches holding the transaction up. The title 'working day delays' as the heading for the column is also a little contentious - I think you mean 'average turnaround time'. Please contact one of the team if you want more accurate data - we'd love to help.

  • Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    At last, someone else has admitted that Searches can be a big issue in some areas. there are 45 regions where searches will not make it back in time of they have not already been ordered. Home Movers no longer need to rely on the conveyancer to place the order for them.
    The key is to get them ordered sooner, and no one can order them sooner than the vendor when going to market and, failing that, the buyer the day the deal is agreed. Anything else represents a delay in ordering.
    Property Searches Direct is there to help anyone needing to get search orders placed sooner.
    PSD also publish the timescales data on the website for all council areas for regulated and Council Sourced search turnaround times, so nothing should come as a shock as the data is freely available to anyone wishing to educate their marketplace.

  • Christian Woodhouse

    On the whole searches are currently ordered too late in the process and then perceived as causing a delay. However, overall turnaround times are reducing as Local Authorities adjust to COVID restrictions.

    An alternative solution is to use an instantly generated, data lead report and an insurance policy that covers for any missing information. This will satisfy the short-term requirement to get information on the property and allow the transaction to proceed without any delay.

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