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What are the searches when buying a house?

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If you are buying a house, it is important to obtain as much information as possible to ensure that you are making a sound investment. This is where conveyancing searches factor into the process of completing a property transaction.

No matter how perfect a house may seem on the surface, there is always a chance that there are underlying issues or complications which a seller would not have been obliged to disclose.

Here, we discuss what conveyancing searches will typically be carried out when you are buying a house, as well as various other important issues, such as the time it takes to complete searches, and how long they will be valid for.

What searches are done when buying a house?

Whenever you are buying a house, your conveyancing solicitors will usually look to carry out a range of searches before contracts are exchanged. This will be to ensure that you have the opportunity to raise enquiries with the seller if any information is likely to impact your decision to buy the property.

Common conveyancing searches that may take place when you are buying a property include:

Local authority checks

Local authority checks are divided into two separate reports that assess whether there are any restrictions related to the property itself, as well as whether there are any wider planning decisions which would have an impact on the property’s value.

The first part of a local authority check is an LLC1 (Local Land Charge Register search). This covers any restrictions relating to the property or the land it sits on, including whether the property:

  • Is a listed building
  • Is subject to an enforcement notice
  • Is located in a conservation area
  • Is subject to a tree protection order
  • Requires a renovation/improvement grant

The second part of a local authority check is a CON29, which supplies information relating to public highways, proposals for new roads, rail schemes and planning decisions that are likely to affect the property.

Information provided in a CON29 check includes:

  • The planning and building control history
  • Existing traffic schemes
  • Outstanding statutory notices
  • Compulsory purchase orders
  • Contaminated land

Environmental searches

Environmental searches will be conducted to assess any issues such as flooding, land contamination or the past use of the land the property is built on.

These types of conveyancing property searches will often cover matters such as:

  • Contamination to the land
  • Flood risks
  • Subsidence risks
  • Energy and infrastructure
  • Landslips
  • Ground stability
  • Radon gas

Water and drainage searches

Water and drainage searches will be mandatory, targeting a property’s access to adequate water and drainage facilities.

These types of house buying searches will cover issues such as:

  • Mains water access
  • Foul water
  • Surface water sewer
  • Sewer and water pipes within the property boundary

Mining searches

The house you intend to purchase may be located in a former coal mining area, which could present its own set of risks.

Mining searches and reports can be ordered to provide information on:

  • Mine entries that are within 20 metres of the house boundaries
  • Gas emissions from coal mines
  • Coal mining hazards reported in the area
  • Plans for future coal mining

Land Registry searches

A Land Registry search will be conducted to identify the true owner of a piece of land or property you are planning to purchase.

A small percentage of property in the UK is unregistered, which may be because it was inherited or handed down through multiple generations of the same family. If a property is not registered, this does not present an immediate problem, it will just indicate that there has not been a transaction to trigger registration since this was mandatory.

A Land Registry search will show both the title register and title plan for the property.

Chancel repair liability

Chancel repair liability is a very specific type of property search that may need to be carried out for older homes. Chancel repair relates to ancient laws concerning a liability to pay for the upkeep up a local church.

If chancel repair liability exists, you will need to take out indemnity insurance to protect both yourself and your lender. This will usually be enough to cover any costs if a claim is made in the future.

Are searches necessary when buying a house?

Yes, house buying searches are always essential. Sellers are not obligated to provide you with certain information related to the house before a sale reaches completion. Even where they do provide this information, there is a chance that it will be outdated or inaccurate.

Once contracts have been signed and exchanged, a property transaction is considered to be legally binding. This means that neither party will be able to back out of the deal without incurring a penalty.

Conveyancing searches ensure that you are able to enter into a transaction with confidence, knowing that you have reliable and up to date information about the true state of the property.

When do property searches take place?

As already discussed above, it is important that conveyancing property searches are completed after an offer has been made and before contracts are signed and exchanged.

Often, the results of a solicitors’ search will influence your decision to proceed with a transaction. While it may be possible for some issues to be addressed by the seller, there may be others which convince you to pull out of the transaction altogether. Pulling out before contracts have been exchanged will not lead to any penalties on your part.

On a similar note, you may be able to use the results from a house search as a basis for further negotiations about the sale price. While you may have already had an offer accepted, you would be within your rights to submit a lower offer if the results of the searches throw up any unexpected issues.

How long do house searches take?

When buying a house, searches do not usually take too long to complete. While the general process has the potential to take months, especially where there is a complex property chain that needs to unravel, conveyancing searches can usually be completed in a matter of 3-8 weeks.

Of course, the exact time it takes to complete property searches will largely depend on the number and complexity of the searches that need to be carried out.

If issues are uncovered and need to be investigated further, this will also mean that process takes longer than expected.

How long are property searches valid for?

After they have been completed, conveyancing searches will typically be valid for six months. This means, if you are buying with a mortgage, your lender will only allow you to proceed with the purchase if the searches are in date.

If for any reason you are unable to complete a transaction within six months, you will need to apply for new searches to be carried out.

Can I do my own property searches?

Technically, yes you can do your own property searches. However, this would be an ill-advised decision.

Completing your own conveyancing searches is unlikely to save as much money or time as you might think. That, coupled with the fact that the results from a conveyancing search can be particularly difficult to understand, mean that expert support should always be taken.

What’s more, there are plenty of additional risks to conducting your own property searches that could be avoided by working with an experienced conveyancing solicitor. These potential risks include:

  • Not being able to get a mortgage
  • Mistakes being made which lead to further searches being carried out
  • Not being able to act on the results of a search
  • Being liable for losses without insurance
  • Buying a property that cannot be sold or registered after completion

How our conveyancing solicitors can help you with property searches

At Bird & Co, our conveyancing solicitors have the expertise and experience required to support you with your property transaction.

As a firm, we have been recognised with the Conveyancing Quality Scheme and Lexcel accreditation, demonstrating our ability to provide high quality advice that allows you to complete your transaction as efficiently as possible.

When instructed, our team can carry out the property searches that are necessary for your property without any delays. Once collated, we can provide straightforward advice about the implications of the searches and whether any actions need to be taken before you proceed to sign and exchange contracts.

In every case, we will make sure to carefully tailor our service to each individual transaction and the area a property sits within, providing you with the assurance that searches are as comprehensive as possible.

We will always make sure to keep the process as straightforward as possible, so you clearly understand the processes that are underway, and feel at ease throughout.

Contact our conveyancing solicitors today

To discuss your property transaction and conveyancing search requirements with our expert conveyancing solicitors today, please contact us at Bird & Co.

You can call us on 01476 372 038, our specialist team will be happy to answer any queries that you have.