In the property industry, we all know how crucial Property Searches are to purchase a property. Yet, they are often the part of the transaction that is forgotten, or not much is known about.
We spent some time with Nick Dyoss from the Landmark Information Group to learn more about this vital ingredient to the property industry mix.
1) Hi Nick, thanks for taking the time out to sit down with Sort Move today. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and how long have you been in the Search Industry?
I’ve spent my entire 23-year career in the search industry. I’ve worked for the Landmark Information Group (twice), spent over 10 years at TM Group in various roles and worked at SearchFlow.
I’ve noticed many changes in the industry over the years, but the biggest change is the availability of information to help people decide about buying a house. I still believe there is room for improvement, and maybe one day, we will get to the point where the search information is available digitally and on-demand. I don’t know if I will be around for this!
2) How is a personal Local Property Search pulled together?
Most people would assume that the personal local search is compiled from a single source, the land charges department at the Local Authority. However, all local searches are compiled using different sources from the Local Authority, County Council and Land Registry. The local search often takes the longest to be returned compared to the environmental or drainage search, but most are still returned in 15-20 working days. The information included in a local search includes information from highways, building regulations, planning, land charges, environmental health and other departments. The data is provided back to us in different formats where we check it for quality and accuracy. Only then can it be compiled into a Search Report and provided to the Conveyancer.
3) Property Searches are a crucial part of a property purchase, and 2020 – 2021 was particularly tough due to the increase in demand bought on by the Stamp Duty Holiday. How did you navigate your way through these challenging times?
First, there should be many positive recognition for the whole industry and what has been achieved. I, for one, want to give thanks to everyone who produced searches during these challenging times. Although there have been challenges, I would say that the vast majority of searches (95%) have turned up on time or before their expected delivery date. This includes property searches of all types – Local, Drainage and Water, Mining, Environmental etc. It’s worked well in the given circumstances and with the increased transaction levels.
For us, the most important thing is the relationship with every Local Authority. We found it important to understand how each Local Authority was coping and working through the lockdown. Once we understood that, we could work with them to deliver a great service. Without those good working relationships, it makes solving problem cases is much more difficult. It also helps us manage expectations and provides useful information about potential delays ahead of time.
Working together is a common theme – we pride ourselves on working constructively with all parties in every transaction – Conveyancers, Panel managers, Local Authorities, Coal authorities, to name but a few, so we understand where the challenges may be, and we work together to solve them.
4) For many consumers, especially First-Time buyers, there is a distinct lack of knowledge about Property Searches and why they’re so important. What can be done in our industry to help raise awareness?
This topic comes up a lot, but I think it’s often difficult to educate house buyers when they may only go through the house buying process once every ten years. What we do know is the importance of maintaining forward momentum throughout the transaction. We can use this as an educational topic to ensure customers are filling in and sending back their Conveyancing paperwork as soon as possible so that searches are ordered at the earliest possible point. That way, the conveyancing process can be ticking along in the background. It’s not just the search order that’s important but also the search results. Sometimes, searches require further investigation, and these answers cannot be produced from a top hat. Conveyancers need time to resolve these matters to the satisfaction of all parties in the transaction.
5) As you know, the nil rate band Stamp Duty Holiday has just come to an end, yet we still have another deadline to navigate at the end of September. How long do you think it will take our industry to return to a ‘normal level of capacity, with property transactions returning to pre-pandemic levels?
How long is a piece of string? The number of properties that are SSTC would suggest that it’s going to keep us busy until the next stamp duty deadline at the end of September. What happens after is yet to be known. However, if we look at the Scotland property market as an example – their Stamp Duty Equivalent deadline (Land and Buildings Transaction Tax) finished before England’s, and their market has continued well.
We must remember that a lot has changed in the last 18 months – the economy, affordability has changed with jobs and furlough rules. Also, people’s habits and ways of life have changed, so we will not necessarily go back to pre-Covid life.
This period has taught us some lessons, including the importance of working together collectively as an industry and streamlining our processes.
6) If you could promote one change in our industry following the last year and a half, what would it be and why?
I would love for the whole industry to understand more about searches and what is involved in producing them so we can manage client expectations and, in turn, help the overall process; after all, no one wants any more stress and hassle when buying a house than is absolutely necessary.
7) Finally, how many Search reports are there and what is the most random or interesting you’ve come across?
There are the standard Search reports that are requested on each property purchase. However, there are well over 100 different types of unique or special searches. These are often found only in a specific geographical region, and many of them date back many years.
The Verderers Search is one the most interesting I’ve come across. This search is unique to The New Forest and checks for specific rights attached to land and properties in this National Park. These ancient rights date back to medieval times, and one example can include rights to graze pigs on acorns. We don’t sell many of these!
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