Searches On A Property: What Are They?

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Buying a house can be a stressful experience and with lots of different stages and processes, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Especially when it comes to the conveyancing process of property searches.

In this blog post we will be looking at the different types of property searches when buying a property, where about in the conveyancing process they are completed and how it can affect you and your lender.

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What is a property search?

A property search is a key part of the conveyancing process and involves your solicitor performing checks that cover the local area of your property. These searches are carried out when you start the property purchase process in order to identify any historical issues or development problems that affect the house that you are planning to purchase and provide you with information about the property that may have otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Not only will they provide you with knowledge of the area such as whether any planning permission will be granted for future developments and about the quality of the land but will also provide you with information about things such as access rights and drainage.

A property search is conducted before the exchange of contracts in order to ensure that any possible issues with the property can be resolved by the vendor before you make a legal commitment to buying the property.

What are the types of property searches when buying a house?

When it comes to conveyancing searches there are numerous different kinds that you can have performed. If you are purchasing a home using a mortgage, then you will need the four following main searches before you can continue with the purchase:

Water and drainage search

A water and drainage search is a standard search that informs you of sewers and drainage in the vicinity of your potential property. It also informs you of any public sewers that are present in the property’s boundaries as well as whether or not the property is connected to a public mains water supply.

Environmental search

An environmental search is conducted to find out whether the property is situated on land that was used for industrial purposes. The history of the land, any risks that the usage may have created and the risk of flooding, subsidence, and landslips will be highlighted.

Local authority search

The local authority searches are important searches that are divided into two parts; the local land charges certificate (LCC1) and enquiries of the local authority (CON29). It is the job of the LCC1 to alert you to any charges or debts against the property, or if the property is in a conservation area, is a listed building, or is in a smoke control area. The CON29 will then let you know if the property is affected by planned or proposed road or rail schemes nearby, is in a radon affected area, is on the contaminated land register, or has breached planning permission.

Coal mining search

These searches are done if the area of land that your property is situated on was used for coal mining. This is because land that was used for coal mining has an increased risk of subsidence or landslips.

The following are additional searches are optional and are usually only carried out under specific circumstances:

Land Registry searches

This kind of search is only conducted when you are purchasing unregistered land. The aim is to uncover any bankruptcy proceedings against the owner of the land and will also shed light on any restrictions affecting the property.

High speed rail search

As far as conveyancing searches go, this type of search is fairly new. It looks at whether your home will be affected by planned high-speed railway works.

Commons registration

In the event that the property borders with common land then it will be recommended that you take a commons registration act (1965). Solicitors may also have recommended this search when purchasing agricultural land.

Chancel repair

Should the property that you wish to purchase be within the parishes of the church then there is a possibility that you will be liable to contribute towards the repair and maintenance of the church. By conducting a chancel repair search you will be able to quickly determine whether you are liable or not.

Do I need to have property searches performed?

Whether or not you need conveyancing searches depends upon your personal situation. If you are buying with a mortgage then you will be legally required to have the four searches mentioned above, as lenders will own the property until you have paid back your mortgage in full. It is for this reason that they need to ensure that there are no faults with the property in the event that they then have to repossess the property and sell it on.

If you are a cash buyer then you will not have to carry out any searches however it is strongly recommend by conveyancing solicitors that you do. This is because of the highly critical information that will be revealed and as potential owner of the property it may affect the value of the property further down the line.

How long do property searches take?

The amount of time that a property search will take depends upon a variety of factors such as your property location, type, size, type of search, and method of return. However, the factor that has the biggest impact in how much time it will take to complete the survey is local authority staffing levels and demand in your area.

Whilst the turnaround time for searches can be as quick as 48 hours, in other cases it can take as long as 155 days. The government target is 10 days, but according to Property Searches Direct the average turnaround time for searches was 15 days.

According to smooth sale, these are the 10 slowest local authorities in the UK.

Council  Council Turnaround (Working Days) 
 London Borough of Hackney (West Dorset District Council)  155
 Dorset Council (West Dorset District Council) 83
 Dorset Council (Weymouth Dorset District Council) 65
 Dorset Council (North Dorset District Council) 64
 Plymouth City Council (Purbeck District Council)  55
 Dorset Council 50
 Lichfield District Council 45
 Wiltshire Council 45
 Durham County Council 40
 Pembrokeshire County Council 40

There are ways that you can speed up the official searches:

  • Keep on top of the correspondence with your solicitor so that you are up to date with proceedings
  • Carry out only necessary searches, your solicitor will recommend which searches are necessary
  • Strike up a good relationship with the property vendor so they will respond to enquiries faster

How much do searches cost?

Much like the amount of time that searches take, the cost of the search will depend heavily upon the type of search and the local authority that you are purchasing the search in. The size of the land where you wish to conduct the search is also a big factor at play.

According to The Advisory, these are the average prices you can expect to pay for each search.

Type of search  Cost range 
 Local authority £60-£230
 Drainage and water  £50-£100
 Environmental £25-£60
 Flood risk £20-£50
 Coal and general mining £25 – £120
 Chancel repair £20 – £90
 Land registry – title repair £3 (online copy) £7 (official copy) 
 Land registry – title plan £3 (online copy) £7 (official copy)

What is the difference between official and personal searches?

Recently the terminology referring to the different types of searches has changed. Official searches are now referred to as Council searches and Personal searches are now called Regulated searches.

A council search is conducted by the Local Authority and the information is passed directly to the conveyancing solicitor. Regulated searches are conducted by property experts and are often quicker than the local authority searches are.

What happens next?

After you have completed all of the searches recommended searches and no underlying issues are raised, then you will be able to progress onto the exchange of contracts. However, be aware that it will not necessarily be a quick sale from here at this point in the buying process. Chances are there will be enquires raised about the information contained within the searches which can go on for weeks and more often than not, issues that are raised can be marked down as ‘unsolvable’. This can mean as a buyer you have to pull out, breaking the property chain if there is one in place.

This covers everything you need to know about searches on a property. If you have any questions, queries, or insight into the subject, please feel free to get in touch!

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photo of Alexandra Ventress

Alexandra is a junior content producer who enjoys writing articles and finding out more about the property market. Read more about Alexandra here.

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About Alexandra Ventress 91 Articles
Alexandra is a junior content producer who enjoys writing articles and finding out more about the property market. Read more about Alexandra here.

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