House moves in Chelmsford delayed by more than a month by slow searches

Chelmsford City Council has one of the worst records in turning around the searches needed when buying a new house.

But the council says the delays have come about through high levels of enquiries.

Due to the current stamp duty holiday, lockdown “house fatigue”, and a reported race to move from the cities to the suburbs, there was unprecedented growth in house purchases in August, a usually quieter time for the housing market.

Insight from Freedom of Information (FOI) request responses show that across the country local land searches were up 18 per cent in August 2020, compared to August 2019.

Chelmsford City Council has the joint second longest delay, taking on average 35 days to process the local land searches that are required as part of the house-buying process.

Chelmsford City Council and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council in Greater Manchester both take an average of 35 days to process and complete the searches, followed by five councils which take 30 days, and a further eight that take over 20 days (out of the 228 councils that replied to the FOI request).

This is compared to four local authorities that take just 24 hours to turn around a land search, and a further 62 that take five days or less.

A spokesperson for Chelmsford City Council said: “We apologise searches are taking much longer to complete at the moment.

“We are experiencing high levels of enquiries and applications for local searches as a result of the stamp duty holiday. We are working hard to manage the increased demand and have secured additional staffing to assist in clearing the backlog.

“We are optimistic the service can be restored to our normal 10-day service and will do as soon as possible.”

Essex Live