Conveyancing searches: everything you need to know

There are several searches available, if you do not know what searches to order; your conveyancer will be able to advise you accordingly.

If you have any questions about conveyancing searches, our conveyancing solicitors are able to help.

Topics to be answered in this article

What are conveyancing property searches?

Before you become committed to buying a property by exchanging contracts (LINK), you need to know as much as possible about it.

Searches will provide information about the property you are purchasing, including any past or potential issues which may affect the property. Searches are enquires made on your behalf by your solicitor / licensed conveyancer.

How many conveyancing searches are carried out?

There are several searches available, if you do not know what searches to order; your conveyancer will be able to advise you accordingly. They will also inform you of the fee payable, the fees will vary depending on which search pack you choose and the area.

What is a Local Authority search?

This will summarise the Local Authority/Council’s replies to standard enquiries. It will include (but not limited to) information in respect of planning permissions, Building Regulations, Land Charges affecting the property, whether the highway is maintained at the public’s expense and whether the property is listed.

As well as a Local Authority Search most people ought to have an Environmental and Water Search carried out too. If you require a mortgage then all three are compulsory.

What is an Environmental Search?

An Environmental Search will provide information in respect of (but not limited to) issues concerning flooding, ground subsidence and contamination. It will also highlight whether the property is in an area which was/is affected by coal mining.

What Is A Drainage and Water Search?

A Drainage and Water search will confirm whether the property is connected to mains water and drainage, if the water is currently metered at the property and if there are any public sewers within the boundaries.

What’s the difference between official searches and personal searches?

There are two different types of land authority searches- official and personal.

The ‘official’ method involves sending forms directly to the local authority where a search is conducted by a council staff member from the Local Land Charges Register. This is then signed and stamped by a council officer.

The ‘personal’ method is conducted by an external agency unaffiliated with the council and working ‘independently’ from the same Register. In many cases, these searches are quicker and cheaper than an official application and are covered by specific information accuracy insurance policies as well as employer error liability. Despite the protection, many mortgage companies prefer an official search, as information provided by the Council itself is always seen as more reliable.  Personal searches are most commonly used when the Council has a backlog and the search is urgent but will still need the approval of the mortgage company.

How Long Do Conveyancing Searches Take?

It’s difficult to give a specific timescale for conveyancing searches as the length of time they will take depends on the property. As a rough guide, searches typically take around two to three weeks to complete, but remember that the results from searches  may prompt your solicitor to make further enquiries on your behalf.

It can also depend on the search provider’s agents’ availability and the availability of the Local Authority. Many local authorities only have small teams working in the Land Charges departments, so during busy periods it could take longer for them to return your search results.  It used to be that you could expedite the searches by paying an additional fee, however, this is now rarely offered. Once carried out, the search provider will send the search results to your conveyancer.

Why should I have searches carried out?

One of the reasons for ordering these searches is that the sellers may only give little or limited information about the property you are purchasing. Even when they do, it may not be accurate and they may not even be aware of the issues that affect the property. If the information is limited or inaccurate, you may not find this out until you have bought the property, by which point you will have to rectify any problems yourself.

You don’t want to end up with a property that…

  • Is difficult to insure
  • You paid too much for / have to pay a lot of money to fix
  • Is unsaleable if the next buyer carries out the correct due diligence

Do I need conveyancing searches when buying a house for cash?

If you are a cash buyer you have the option of whether to order searches, however bear in mind if you do not order searches then your conveyancer will only be able to advise you on the paperwork provided by the sellers and, as above, this may not always be accurate or forthcoming.

Do I need conveyancing searches if I require a mortgage?

If you require a mortgage, your Lender will insist that searches are carried out on the property. Usually, Lenders accept personal searches; however, in some instances they will prefer official searches. 

The Lender will require that the searches include:

  • A Local Authority search
  • An Environmental search 
  • A Water and Drainage search.

How do I order the searches?

To order the searches, your conveyancer will contact their search provider, who will arrange for the searches to be carried out by one of its agents or an employee of the Local Authority.

How long are conveyancing searches valid for?

Conveyancing searches are valid for six months. If your purchase still hasn’t gone through, you may want to consider having new searches carried out, to ensure the information within them is fully accurate and up-to-date.

How to deal with problems found in the searches

Should there be a problem found when you search, then this is where you rely on your conveyancer or solicitor.

Your conveyancer will then report on the results to you and provide you with a summary of any issues affecting the property. They will also raise enquiries of the seller’s solicitors and try to resolve any problems that are revealed by the searches, before exchange of contracts.

You will need their expertise and they may even recommend that you do not buy the property if the problem is particularly acute.

How much will a search cost?

Fees are subject to a wide range of variables. Contact our conveyancing department for your no obligation quote.

Our conveyancing team are here for you…

If you do want searches but do not know what searches to order, contact one of our conveyancers today, who would be happy to give you further advice as to what searches are required and the fees payable.

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