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As a prospective property buyer, you'll need to be aware of conveyancing searches. These are a key part of the buying process and they can seem confusing, especially if you're new to purchasing property. 

At Homeward Legal, we want to make sure you know about the conveyancing searches involved when you buy your property. We'll provide you with a conveyancing solicitor who knows the searches you'll need for the house you're buying. They will explain why any additional searches are required and let you know the results as soon as they are complete. 

To help you understand the searches process, we've created a guide. This answers key questions, such as what exactly local search conveyancing is and how long conveyancing searches take. By getting an idea of what the searches involve, you're better placed to understand why they're necessary and why there might be hold ups along the way. 

What are property conveyancing searches?

Conveyancing searches are one of the key tasks that your conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor will do as part of the conveyancing process. They are enquiries that your conveyancer or solicitor will make to local authorities and other providers that have information about the property you're buying. 

You solicitor does this on your behalf. Conveyancing searches are designed to tell you, the buyer, as much as possible about the property before you commit to buying. 

Usually, the searches will begin once your offer has been accepted by the seller. It's worth following the recommendations for searches that your conveyancer or solicitor make. This is because the information that they provide can lead to you renegotiating your offer or even causing you to decide not to go ahead with the purchase.

Are conveyancing searches necessary?

If you're buying a property with a mortgage, conveyancing searches are a requirement. If you are a cash buyer, you don't have to carry out any searches, but it's likely that you'll be recommended to do so by your conveyancing solicitor. 

The reason they are so important, whether you're buying with a mortgage or cash, is that they paint a picture about the property. They are designed to flag any issues and help you to decide if you want to proceed with your purchase. 

What happens without the searches? 

Without the conveyancing searches, there are several issues that can happen with the property you've bought. These include: 

  • Debts

Without carrying out conveyancing searches, you could end up footing the bill for any debts that are attached to the property. If your solicitor carries out the relevant searches, these debts can be resolved before you complete the purchase.  

  • Flooding

In recent years, we've seen the impact of floods on properties across the UK. If the house you're buying is in an area that's a flood risk, you might find it difficult to get it insured. The searches will reveal whether it's likely to flood or not and what risks are associated with it. 

  • Hidden problems

Searches will also show up issues, such as if there's a covered mineshaft in the garden. By getting this information early on, you can avoid having a hole in your garden. 

  • Planning permission issues

Your new house could be in the perfect location that suits your lifestyle. However, planning permission is often granted for anything from a block of new flats that could obscure your view to a new trainline that could make commuting into town easier for you. These changes to the local area could impact on the price of the property or make you think twice about the purchase. 

  • Contaminated Land

It may be that the property has been built close to a chemical works, which means there's a risk of pollution that you need to account for. It could even be that the property is built on potentially contaminated land. Without the necessary searches, you won't be aware of this and you could find, for example, that your water supply is polluted but not know the cause. 

What's included in property conveyancing searches? 

The type of searches that your solicitor will carry out will depend on where the property you're buying is located. The conveyancing solicitors that we will put you in contact with have experience in the different searches that will be needed for the area you're buying in. This is because they'll have a thorough knowledge of the region and will know, for instance, the locations that are a flood risk and where the nearest chemical plant is located. 

You'll be advised on the conveyancing searches that are required early on in the buying process. However, there's a chance that additional searches are needed as the conveyancing tasks get underway.

Local Authority searches

Local Authority search conveyancing is the basic search that's usually carried out first. There are two parts to the Local Authority search: 

  • Part one: Local Land Charge Register search (LLC1)

This covers charges or restrictions that relate to the land or property you're buying. It includes factors such as whether the property is a listed building, if it's in an area that has a tree order, whether it's in an area of conservation, and if it's needs a renovation grant. It also covers any planning agreements or permissions. 

Anything that falls under the Local Land Charge Register is legally binding. Due to this, it's important that this part of the local search conveyancing is thoroughly carried out before you exchange contract on the property. 

  • Part two: The CON29 

This part of the Local Authority search gives you information about the public highways, along with proposals relating to transport, such as new roads or rail schemes. It also includes any planning decisions that have been made that could impact on the property and environmental issues, such as whether the land may be contaminated. 

Additional searches

There are additional conveyancing searches that don't form part of the standard Local Authority search and they come at an additional cost. Your solicitor will decide if these searches are necessary, however some mortgage lenders might not proceed unless you carry some of these additional searches out. 

These include: 

  • Environmental searches

These cover a series of issues concerning the environment that the property is located in. they gather information on any history of flooding, landslide, or subsidence. They also flag the property's proximity to any waste sites or contaminated land. contaminated land. 

  • Water searches

This is a search that highlights the water and drainage issues that the property might be at risk of. It includes information on who owns and maintains the sewers, pipes, and drains; if the water supply is on a meter or rates; if the property is connected to a public water supply and sewer and where the public sewer and pipes are located. 

Plus, if you've got plans to extend the property, this search tells you if you need to get permission from the water company that supplies the area.  

  • Bankruptcy search

If you've ever wondered what a bankruptcy search is, it's part of conveyancing where the buyer's solicitor will conduct a search to prove that the buyer is free from bankruptcy. 

This is something that's done for the lender, as a mortgage is a significant loan to provide. If your solicitor carries out the bankruptcy search, everything from conveyancing to the survey will come to a halt as the lender will decline the loan and you won't be able to continue with your purchase.  

What's the difference between conveyancing searches and a survey? 

During the buying process, you'll also need a survey. It can be confusing, especially if you're new to property purchases, to tell the difference between conveyancing searches and the survey

As we've discussed, searches are carried out by your conveyancing solicitor or licensed conveyancer. They will put enquiries to various organisations, such as the local council, to gather key information about the property you're buying. 

The survey is carried out by a surveyor and is used by both you, the buyer, and your mortgage lender to find out what condition the property's in and any defects it has. This will tell you if the house is worth the money that you're spending on it. 

It's worth having this clear distinction between the searches carried out by your conveyancer and the survey carried out by the surveyor in mind as the buying process gets underway. While both are designed to tell you as much as possible about the property, they cover this in different ways and answer different questions before you finalise your purchase.

How long do property searches take? 

Typically, property conveyancing searches can take around two to three weeks. However, they can be as quick as 48 hours or take as much as 10 weeks. The timescales depend on whether the initial searches lead to your solicitor making additional enquiries and the individual local authority. 

However, in April 2018, then Housing Minister Heather Wheeler, set a target for all local authorities. She expected conveyancing searches to take no more than 10 working days. This saw some success and slightly faster turnaround times. However, due to the complex nature of some searches, it's not always possible to meet this target, so it's important that you're aware that this is a process that could take some time.

Can I do anything to speed up the searches process?

While a lot of the conveyancing searches process is out of your hands, there are a couple of ways you can get the ball rolling quickly. First, be sure to instruct your solicitor to start searches as soon as your offer is accepted. 

Also, be sure to let your solicitor know as much as possible about the area. While they'll know the area well, if you've heard that there are plans for a new road to be built, for example, you're likely to provide them with useful information to help with the searches process.

How much do conveyancing searches cost? 

The cost of the searches that are carried out depend on how many your conveyancing solicitor needs to do and whether your lender requests any. The standard Local Authority searches can cost anything from £50 to £250 and they vary by council, so it's worth looking into the average cost in the area you're buying in. Additional searches, such as environmental can depend on how much land you're buying.  

It's worth speaking to your solicitor about the fees that come with these property conveyancing searches so that you have an idea of how much to budget. If you have any questions before you appoint your solicitor, get in touch with our team by calling and we'll be happy to help.

If you want to instruct a specialist solicitor, get an instant online quote for your conveyancing needs with Homeward Legal. Alternatively, call us on to help find out more about the solicitor we'll match you with and how they'll go about the searches process. Our team are available to help until 6pm on weekdays, and 4pm on Saturdays.

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