You’ve found a house in the perfect location, it’s got the right number of bedrooms and it even has a nice garden.  In fact, as far as houses go, it looks like the best possible option – and so you make an offer.

What changes when you start the conveyancing process is that we don’t just focus on how your prospective new house looks.  There’s a lot more to finding out if it’s your perfect property, other than what it looks like from the inside or outside.

In addition to surveys, which look at the condition and structure of a property, we always carry out certain searches about the property’s history, its location and about the land that the property has been built upon.  These are carried out to ensure that you’re fully aware of anything that could have a detrimental effect on the property whilst you’re living there, or when it comes to re-selling it.

Without searches, you’re leaving yourself open to potential problems in the future – some of which could have the potential to amount to more than the value of a property!

What property searches do I need?

property searches buying houseThere are certain types of searches that should come as standard during your conveyancing process.  Depending on where in the UK your property is located and what’s nearby, there may also be further searches required.

In our guide below, we describe each of the most common searches and some of the more abstract ones, so that you’ll know what should have been carried out alongside the purchase of your property, when it comes to conveyancing.

Local authority searches

If you’re buying a house with a mortgage, then your mortgage lender will require this search.  Even if you’re buying a house without using a mortgage, it’s still strongly advisable to carry out this search.

The local authority search directly relates to information regarding the property that you are buying and includes checking the following:

  • Information on the planning history of the property
  • Information on any planned road works or schemes
  • Information on planning applications that have been approved or refused
  • Information about public rights of way
  • Whether development of the property is permitted or not
  • Whether nearby roads are adopted by the council or the responsibility of the users
  • Whether the property is a listed building and therefore subject to restrictions

Environmental searches

An environmental search looks specifically at the land the property has been built upon and any other environmental considerations that may negatively impact the property within 500 metres.  Again, this type of search is usually mandatory if you are purchasing a property with a mortgage.

This type of search is extremely important because, whilst it may seem unlikely that any issues will cause a lasting problem, the cost of the search is a drop in the ocean in comparison to what it could cost to fix problems caused by environmental factors such as flooding or natural ground subsidence.

The types of information gathered using an environmental search includes:

  • Flood risk
  • Subsidence risk
  • Contamination risk
  • Landfill sites nearby
  • Waste management sites nearby
  • Disposal of hazardous materials nearby

More enhanced searches can also look at whether there are any planning applications within 250 metres of the property and whether telecommunications masts or electrical transmission lines are situated within 500 metres of the property.

Flood reports are also available if you wish to move into a property that may be prone to flooding i.e. properties near rivers, lakes or the sea.

Water and drainage searches

This search will find out where your water comes from; how the drainage and sewerage systems work.  It will also identify where the mains supply for your property is and whether this presents any potential planning problems for the future, alongside how likely any these factors will be to risk your property’s safety and condition in the future.

Energy and infrastructure searches

If there are proposed infrastructure or energy developments due to take place near the location of the property you’re buying, this could impact on the value of the property.  The types of developments that a conveyancer would check for in this case include:

  • The HS2 high speed rail development
  • Fracking areas
  • Wind farms
  • Solar farms
  • Sewage works

Mining searches

If the property is situated in an area where mining has previously taken place, or where there are plans for mining to take place in the future, this search will be relevant.

The reason why mining searches are necessary is because in areas where mining has taken or is taking place, there may be resulting subsidence, gas emissions or hazardous contamination of water supplies.  There may also be excavated tunnels running beneath the property you wish to buy, which is obviously a potential stability risk for the property, the land it’s based on and any extensions or developments that you might wish to make in the future.

Types of mining which this applies to are: coal mining, clay mining and tin mining.  Fortunately, mining searches are not required for most areas of the UK.

Chancel repair liability searches

Chancel repair costs are where inhabitants of the local parish are responsible for paying towards the upkeep of the local church.  Properties that are located on ‘rectorial land’ can still be held responsible for numerous hefty repair costs, which can easily amount to more than the property you’re buying is worth.

If chancel repair liability does apply to a property that you still wish to buy, you can usually obtain insurance to cover any payments that you are liable to pay to the church.

Land registry searches

Usually the final searches that a conveyancer will carry out for you, the land registry searches will ensure that the owner of the property is indeed registered as the owner.  If anyone else has lodged an interest in the property before this point (indicative of an intent to purchase the property), then it will not be available for your conveyancer to register an interest in for 30 days from the date of the search.  This works the other way around too – so as soon as your conveyancer lodges your interest, the property can’t be put into someone else’s name until 30 days after your interest was registered.

This process ensures that as the buyer of the property, you will have exclusive ownership of the property, ready for the property’s title and deeds to be transferred into your name upon completion.

Advice about property searches

If you’re buying a house and want to make sure that all of the necessary searches are being carried out, then ask!  It would be unlikely that any conveyancer would reject a request for a search to be carried out, unless it was completely unnecessary and a waste of your time and money.

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