Personal Law

Conveyancing Searches: What You Need to Know

Estimated read time: 4 mins

Carrie Tennick, December 23, 2020

Conveyancing searches. Getting them done is one of the most important parts of the conveyancing process and you usually can’t – and shouldn’t – buy a home without them.

They help you learn more about the property you’re considering. The results they turn up could confirm your interest or mean you want to pull out.

Here’s what you need to know about searches.

What are conveyancing searches?

These searches are done by your solicitor or conveyancer. They are enquiries about the property, made to various authorities that have the information about it, the land its on and nearby land.

They are usually only compulsory when you’re buying with a mortgage. That’s because the lender will need to know they can sell the property on without issue if they have to repossess it. Your lender will tell your conveyancer what searches to order.

If you’re a cash buyer, you don’t need to have any searches carried out. But this is not usually recommended.

You wouldn’t want to save money on the searches and then discover that there’s a big problem with the land or property that could cost you a fortune to fix or reduce your enjoyment of the property.

What searches do I need?

The searches you need will depend on where your property is. That’s because some locations have issues that others don’t, such as a history with mining.

But there are certain searches that every property will need:

  • Environmental

These searches look at factors that affect the land the property is on. They look at flooding and subsidence risk, as well as whether the land has been contaminated in any way. Environmental searches typically look at the land within 500 metres of your prospective new home.

  • Local authority

These look at issues including planning, any new roads being planned, building regulations history, potential rights of way, whether the building is listed or if it’s in a conservation area. But it doesn’t reveal any planning or building regulations information for neighbouring properties, so if this is a concern, you might have to do some further research.

  • Title

This confirms with the Land Registry that the seller of your new home is the property’s legal owner. This search reveals who currently and previously owned the property, how much it was bought for and if there is debt attached to the home.

  • Water and drainage

These searches are made to the local water company and find out whether the house is connected to the water mains, as well as who owns and maintains the sewers and where the sewers are located.

How long do searches take?

When it comes to local authority searches, there can be a huge variation in how long it takes. Some councils can return search results in just 24 hours, while others can take more than 40 days.

So there’s no common timeframe for a local authority search request.

Your local authority searches will be valid for six months, so completion will have to be reached within that period or another search has to be ordered.

Meanwhile, the other searches will usually take up to 10 days. If your searches are taking longer than this, it’s usually advisable to get in touch with your solicitor to find out what the delay is.

Post-exchange searches

After you’ve exchanged contracts, your conveyancer will need to carry out some more searches to make sure nothing has changed with the property or with your ability to go ahead with the purchase.

They will be ordered from the Land Registry.

These include:

  • Bankruptcy search
  • Land charges search
  • Official search with priority: whole title
  • Official search with priority: part of the title
  • Official search without priority

How much do searches cost?

You’ll usually pay around £250-350 for your conveyancing searches, but this will rise if you require any deeper searches covering more complex areas, such as mining reports or if a chancel repair search is necessary.

Environmental searches will typically cost around £50, but could go up to £180 if there is a lot of land to examine. Meanwhile, local authority searches vary by council, but usually cost between £60 and £230. Water and drainage searches will usually cost you up to £100.

Your conveyancer will usually request payment for the searches before going ahead with the work. Unfortunately, if the purchase falls through, you’ll usually lose the money you paid for the searches.

To give yourself the best chance of getting to completion, you’ll need the best conveyancing team driving the transaction forward. To find out how First4Lawyers and our property experts can help during your home purchase – or sale – just get in touch.

Give us a call, request a call back or try our quick and simple online conveyancing calculator to get an idea of what your home move could cost.

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