Agents and conveyancers unite over ‘devastating’ effects of search delays

Estate agents and conveyancers are to get together this week to voice their concerns about the turnaround time for local authority searches in one city.

Derby City Council is said to be taking 44 working days – almost nine weeks – to issue searches, with the time continuing to climb weekly.

One agent, Ben Brain, director of Hannells, told EYE: “While the turnaround time is not the worst in the country, it is having a devastating effect on transaction times leading to all kinds of complications and a massive spike in fall-throughs.

“It’s causing our customers to lose out on their dream homes, and to miss getting their kids in to school catchments.

“It’s costing them financially after spending money on surveys and conveyancing fees, and adding enormous amounts of stress to an ordinary stressful process.

“It is also starting to put local practices and agencies out of business.”

Brain said that members of his sales progression team have “relayed numerous stories about solicitors who won’t be getting paid anything this month due to no exchanges”.

He believed a number of agents would also be in serious trouble.

He said: “The council shows no intention of doing anything about it any time soon.

“It sounds extreme, but in truth it is single-handedly ruining the local housing market.”

Brain is organising a meeting this Thursday evening of local estate agency and conveyancing practice owners.

He said: “We need to put our differences aside for the sake of our teams and the families they support to work out a solution and force the council to get its act together.

“If it works, it will have significant positive consequences for everybody involved in the local property ‘ecosystem’ and would hopefully spark off similar events across the country as I know this is a massive issue for many regions.

“The council won’t listen to us as individual businesses, but as a collective of many local businesses and with a bit of press behind us, it will have no choice.”

So far nine Derby firms have said they will attend Thursday’s meeting, including the developer Redrow.

Brain is keen for as many agents and conveyancers affected to get in touch with him, with a view to attending the meeting.

He can be contacted on or 07917 443984.

Emily Feenan, interim director of Legal, Procurement and Democratic Services and monitoring officer for Derby City Council, said: “We acknowledge timescales for land searches are currently longer than they should be and the Council is committed to improving turnaround times as a priority for the coming year.

“The Land Charges team will always do their best to deal with very urgent requests out of order if necessary to prevent a sale being lost or delayed.

“Unfortunately tomorrow’s meeting falls on the day of the local election. All Land Charges colleagues also have responsibility for delivering elections and will have key duties from 7am until 3am on polling day.

“We would be happy to meet with Derby’s estate agency and conveyancing practice owners to discuss the matter further.”

*Note: Story updated with quote from Derby City Council on May 1


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  1. Rob Hailstone

    Subject to client and lender approval, submit your search and then take out search insurance. In reality how many searches come back revealing issues that stop a transaction proceeding?

    How bad are working relationships in Derby, “We need to put our differences aside!”

  2. TwitterSalisPropNews

    No house should go on the market in that region without a local search having been applied for.


    1. smile please

      What happens when they are outdated because the property does not sell?


      We had this 18 months ago in our region. The council were hopeless. Caused a world of misery and they did not have the slightest bit of sympathy, instead kept asking us to be patient.

      1. Rob Hailstone

        Again, subject to client and lender approval, there is search insurance available for searches that are ‘out of date.’ Although in reality, all searches are out of date the day they are received.

        1. smile please

          Who pays for the original searches? Who pays for insurance?
          You make it sound so simple yet in reality it’s far from it.
          I have a sale that has stalled at the moment over nothing. Two solicitors interpreting the lenders handbook in a different way. Been over a month. Neither are budging.
          No way you will get sellers their solicitors to agree to apply for searches when listing. Even less chance one side will pay for insurance. Does not work in the real world. 

          1. TwitterSalisPropNews

            one of them is wrong on the CML point – tell us the issue

        2. aSalesAgent

          Rob, do you know which part of a full official search causes these delays, or does a LLC1 and Con29R take just as long to produce as the other? I have a local authority in my region that takes 4 weeks to report; if I have a vendor that wants to sell without delay then they might be open to obtaining part of a search in advance (for the benefit of their eventual buyer).
          Thanks in advance.

        3. Rob Hailstone

          “No way you will get sellers their solicitors to agree to apply for searches when listing. Even less chance one side will pay for insurance. Does not work in the real world.”

          It is not the solicitors decision, it is the sllers/clients decision when to appy or who pays for insurance. The solicitor should only provide their advice.


      2. TwitterSalisPropNews

        We had this same issue in Wiltshire and upfront searches at the point of marketing saved a lot of time. They only cost £170 and the buyers reimbursed, like an auction pack. The Estate Aghemt explained the issue, and the benefit to the seller of doing the searches so they paid…but frankly we covered the fee (it’s our style) upfront.
        But it takes a proctive Agent and conveyancing firm to come together.
        So many lenders won’t accept insurance, so upfront searches are great – and combine that with realistic house pricing to sell, then you may have a workable solution.

  3. Ben Brain

    Good morning Ros and the PIE team – thank you for helping to raise awareness of this issue.

    There has been a fantastic response from a large number of local businesses who are all keen to work together, despite being in heavy competition with one another, to work out a solution for the good of our customers, our people and our businesses.

    If there are any other Derby property related businesses that would like to attend, the more business minds we have in one room the better, so please feel free to get in touch.

    Similarly, it is clear from the comments already that this is a problem across the country so if there is anybody reading this that has managed to find a solution that works for the whole chain, I would love to hear any suggestions and thank you in advance.

    Thanks again to Ros and the crew, I will be sure to keep you posted with any major breakthroughs so you can share them with the rest of your readers.

    And my best wishes to all agents out there who are focused on doing the best they can for their teams and their customers.

    These are challenging times for the property industry but with every cloud there is a silver lining if you look hard enough.

    Have a great day!

    Ben –


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