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Conveyancing searches, also known as property searches, are enquiries with public authorities to give you more information about the property you plan to buy. For example, searches might tell you about flood risk, details of access rights or whether the property is affected by any planned future developments.
Sellers are not obliged to give you this kind of information about the property before the sale and even if they do, it might be inaccurate or out-of-date. A conveyancing search is the only way to reliably enter the transaction with all the correct information that might impact your decision to buy the property.
It is important to carry out the searches before exchange of contracts so that you can raise enquiries with the seller if needed. After exchange of contracts, you will have no come-back if something comes to your attention. Searches from official sources are also backed by guarantees.
Cash buyers are not legally required to conduct searches even though it is a good idea to do so. If you are buying with a mortgage, however, your lender will almost certainly insist that you carry out certain searches.
The three most common conveyancing searches are those required by mortgage lenders:
This search covers a number of issues, such as planning and building regulations; whether the road immediately outside your property is adopted or not; whether there are any nearby roadwork or railway schemes; and whether the property is listed or in a conversation area.
This search will reveal whether the property is connected to the main water supply; whether foul water and surface drainage are connected to the public sewer; the location of the water mains; and whether there is a public sewer within the boundaries of the property (which may affect your ability to extend the property).
This search will give you information about the contamination risk to the property from any nearby landfill sites; former or nearby current industrial uses; radon gas hazard; ground stability; and a flood risk rating. The search will give a certificate saying whether the search has passed or, if not, what further action should be taken.
Other searches that you might need depend on the location of the location of the property. For example, properties in areas with a mining history require a mining search.
These additional searches might also be carried out if one of the first 3 searches highlights an issue. An environmental search might highlight a flood risk, in which case a flood search is needed to provide more detailed information. You may also have specific concerns about a property that you would like to be checked.
Examples of other conveyancing searches include:
This search reveals the planning history of the property and the surrounding neighbourhood. The Local Authority search only deals with the planning history of the specific property address and does not reveal anything about the neighbouring properties.
This is a medieval liability on certain properties which can be raised to help pay for the cost of church repairs. The law changed in October 2013 so that any liability should now appear on the title deeds for the property but there are still situations where this is not the case.
There are a great number of searches available and these lists are not all-inclusive. Your conveyancer will discuss the searches that they think are best for your property.
The costs of the searches can vary depending on where the property is located - particularly the Local Authority search result.
The approximate costs of some of the more common searches undertaken are as follows:
We usually recommend budgeting approximately £350-£400 to cover the cost of the searches., but please note that these can vary significantly depending on the location and nature of the property.
We will carry out the searches necessary for us to advise you (and any lender) properly as to any potential risks that we are aware of. If the costs are likely to materially exceed the estimated figure we will let you know, and if you wish us to carry out any specific searches, particularly if they are non-standard searches, you should let us know.
Our expert conveyancing solicitors have the knowledge and expertise to help with conveyancing searches or any other part of the property-buying process. Call us today on 0370 1500 100 to speak to one of our friendly team and find out more.
All Scottish cases will be handled by the Scottish law firm with which we are associated, Irwin Mitchell Scotland LLP. The law relating to conveyancing and property is different in Scotland and you will receive separate advice about what that means. Please visit our Scottish Conveyancing page for more information.
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