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11:00 PM 3rd June 2024
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The Local Authorities Causing Biggest Delays For Homebuyers

 
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
New market insight from up-front information platform, Home Sale Pack, has revealed which local authorities (LAs) in England & Wales take the longest to return Local Authority Searches, in turn causing considerable delays for the nation’s homebuyers and sellers, as well as in which part of the county private search companies are most putting councils to shame by showing them how quickly it can be done.

The company has analysed Local Authority Search turnaround times* in all LA districts in England & Wales to gain insight into which authorities are slowest and fastest when it comes to completing the searches and helping homebuyers progress with their purchase.

What is a Local Authority Search?

A Local Authority Search is an essential part of the homebuying process and refers to the collection of vital information about a property and its surrounding area. Buyers require this information to make an informed decision about whether or not to purchase the property.

Included in the information gathered are tree preservation orders, Planning Enforcement Notices, listed building status, conditional planning permissions, and any existing proposals for new roads that may be built near the property.

Until all of the information has been returned, a property purchase cannot proceed to completion, so buyers have no choice but to wait, often anxiously, for the process to be finished.

The search is completed by the relevant local authority/council. But buyers can also choose to appoint a private company to complete the search instead.

How long does it take?

Home Sale Pack’s analysis reveals that the average time taken to return a Local Authority Search across all LA Districts of England & Wales is 11 working days.

A number of councils do an impressive job of returning searches quickly, with some managing it in less than 3 days.

Fastest councils

The fastest council is Southend-on-Sea Borough Council which returns LA Searches in an average of just 2 days.

North Devon District Council returns its searches in an average of 3 days, followed by Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (3 days), City of York Council (3 days), London Borough of Sutton (3 days), Leeds City Council (3 days), and Brighton & Hove City Council (4 days), Manchester City Council (4 days), the London Borough of Bromley (4 days), and Cardiff Council (4 days).

Slowest councils

Unfortunately, a large number of LAs take significantly more time to return their searches.

The slowest LAs are Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council and Canterbury City Council, both of which take an average of 62 days to complete and return searches.

The London Borough of Camden takes 47 days, followed by Salford City Council (42 days), Tamworth Borough Council (42 days), the London Borough of Redbridge (42 days), and the London Borough of Islington (42 days), Bridgend County Borough Council (37 days), the Royal Borough of Greenwich (37 days), and Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council (37 days).

Private search companies

Because LA Searches can take so long to complete, homebuyers who aren’t prepared to be held up that long can circumvent the local authority by instead hiring a private company to complete the process. In many cases, these companies complete the searches in a fraction of the time.

The average time taken by private companies to return LA searches in England & Wales is 8 days. This is 3 days, or 37.5% faster than the average time taken by local councils.

Because of their capacity for such rapid search turnaround times, these private search companies are highlighting just how inefficient local authorities can be.

Nowhere in England & Wales is this more true than in the Wirral Metropolitan Borough where the average search by the council takes 62, while private companies can complete the same searches in the same area 1,140% more quickly with an average of just 5 days.

Private firms work 766.7% more quickly than the local authority in East Lindsey, while private firms also significantly outperform local authorities in Sheffield City (766.7%), Tameside (766.7%), West Northamptonshire (700%), Salford City (600%), Cumberland (600%), Welwyn Hatfield (600%), Stockport (566.7%), and Pendle (550%).

Ruth Beeton, Co-Founder of Home Sale Pack, says:
“The Local Authority Search can be a real pain point for homebuyers because until it’s done, they can’t complete on their purchase. This puts them at the mercy of the local council and, as our analysis reveals, it's very much a lottery of location as to whether this happens quickly or agonisingly slowly.

"Private search firms can, in some cases, help expedite the process but come at an additional expense to the buyer. A far more efficient and reliable solution is for the seller to have the search completed when they first put the property on the market so that it can be given to all interested buyers straight away, rather than each prospective buyer having to go off and complete the process themselves. This saves the buyer an awful lot of time, speeds up the sale, and vastly reduces the chances of a fall-through.”


Data tables and sources

*Average local authority search turnaround times sourced from Property Searches Direct.

Full data tables and sources can be viewed online, here