What are property searches?

Mon 22 Aug 2016 by Lorraine Imhoff

Written by Lorraine Imhoff

When you are buying a house or flat, your Conveyancing Solicitor will carry out various property searches and enquiries for you. 

These Conveyancing searches are important because they provide all sorts of information about the property. For instance you could find that your house is in the middle of a planned motorway, or that the council has served a noticed requiring an extension to be pulled down because it does not have planning permission. 

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The property searches which are usually made are listed below. While some of these are carried out in virtually all purchases, some will only be needed for homes in certain areas. Some searches are advisable but not essential – see our detailed explanations for when you might need them.

When you run a fixed fee conveyancing quote here, your legal fees, search fees and disbursements will be clearly shown.

What searches do I need when buying a house?

One of the reasons for making these searches is that sellers do not have to give you any information about the property being sold. Even when they do, it may not be accurate, and they won’t always know about things which might affect your decision to buy. 

If a seller tells you something which is wrong, and you don’t find put about it until you have bought the property, you may have no come-back. On the other hand, searches from official sources are backed by guarantees.

These are the property searches that are normally carried out:

  • Local search – to obtain a variety of information from the local council, such as whether the property is affected by plans for a new by-pass or a planning enforcement notice
  • Drainage and water search – does the property have mains water and drainage? The local water company will also provide other useful information, such as the position of pipes 
  • Environmental search – is the property affected by contamination which could involve costly removal?
  • Planning search – find out whether the neighbours have got planning consent for a large extension, or a planning application has just been lodged for a new superstore down the road. 
  • Flood risk report – check whether the property is at risk from flooding
  • Coal Mining, brine pumping, and other mining searches – to find out if the property could be affected by old mine workings, or a new opencast mine nearby
  • High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) – make sure that your new home will not be affected by this planned new rail line
  • Chancel liability search – check that you won’t be liable to pay for the maintenance of your local church
  • Land registry search – make sure that the seller still owns the property on completion

Do I have to have searches?

If you are a cash buyer and do not need a mortgage, then you could ask your Solicitor not to bother with any searches. Of course you would be taking a risk as a search might reveal some information which could seriously affect the property. 

(If you don’t want a local search done you can ask your Solicitor to take out search indemnity insurance – this gives you some protection if it later turns out that something does affect the property. See our separate page about indemnity insurance.)

If you do need a mortgage, your lender will usually insist that your Solicitor makes a local search and some other important searches. But you can still ask for some of the discretionary searches to be carried out in addition, if you are willing to pay for them.

Whether you should have some of these searches made may depend partly on the location of the property you want to buy. For instance you would not need a coal mining search in an area where there are no coal deposits, whereas for a house in an old industrial area both a coal mining search and an environmental search will often be advisable.

Your Conveyancing Solicitor will be able to arrange all these searches, and give you further advice as to when they are required and the fees payable. 

Are you looking for a conveyancing solicitor?

Get a free online quote for your purchase conveyancing or sale and purchase. Your instant, fixed fee quote will detail the legal fees as well as typical disbursements. Alternatively, you can get in touch with Homeward Legal on 0800 038 6699.

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