An unprecedented rise in council property searches poses a real threat that a significantly high number of homebuyers will miss out on saving as much as £15,000 on stamp duty, according to Index West Midlands Property Information.
Residential property searches by local councils have surged, fuelled by house hunters racing to buy and beat the end of the stamp duty holiday, fresh figures show.
Kate Bould, a managing director of Index West Midlands Property Information, described the current situation as being “without doubt, unprecedented”, but fears the increasing backlog and growing wait times for councils to process searches and information requests, poses a “real threat” that a high number of homebuyers will miss out on benefitting from the stamp duty holiday.
She said: “Some councils had already positioned themselves very well and consequently have coped with the huge upturn in the market. Typically, those that have not digitised and rely on older paper-based processes are the councils that are struggling to cope, and this is causing major delays for the home-buying process.”
Research shows that it is currently taking up to 42-days to return local searches on properties, but some are blaming intermediaries for the delays, which Bould says is simply untrue.
“They [intermediaries] deliver a good customer service, that capitalises on their hard-earned good working relationships with councils.
“They also have the knowledge and expertise to anticipate and navigate the current issues – this is key to the processing.”
Index West Midlands has pivoted its working patterns and resources to support the record workload.
Bould added: “Our team is working literally around the clock to process and complete all the work and instructions, so we can continue to efficiently and effectively support our clients at this exceptionally busy and demanding time.
“We have taken on new people and introduced a ‘night shift’, so are operating an average 17-hour day to get through new instructions and review status of those already in the council system.
“We know of some councils that usually have an average of two requests for searches each week, but are now having as many as 30 search requests to process each week as sales volumes in the residential property market continue to rise.
“Our strong and long relationships with councils are helping our team get searches completed as quickly as possible.”