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What are Property Searches?

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Property Searches – you might already be aware that these are part of the conveyancing process, but perhaps find that you have questions about what they are, or what they entail?

After all, they’re usually not something you encounter until you come to buy a property. Many assume a property search is to analyse simply the building itself, but in fact, property searches exist to investigate a wide variety of external factors. This blog runs through a few of the things you can expect from this part of the process.

What is it?

Property searches serve one key purpose: to find out everything about the past, present and future of the property, the area it’s in and the ground it stands on. The goal is to unearth anything that you might have reason to be concerned about before you have committed to buying it, and therefore prevent running into trouble in the future.

Why do I need one?

A property search will identify issues that would require maintenance or repairs, local plans that could reduce the value of the property or your quality of life in the property, or just about anything you might want to know about. You’ll also find out what you can and can’t do to change the property once it’s yours. It’s therefore an essential step in the process of buying a property – the kind of discoveries these searches make can be hugely significant in deciding whether you (or your mortgage lender) really want to go through with the transaction. When you’re making such a significant investment, you really need to know what you’re buying from top to bottom.

The outcome of property searches may also affect your ability to take out a mortgage. Many lenders are not happy to deal with properties that are deemed as high risk, e.g. if the property is in an area with a history of flooding. For this reason, searches are often a mandatory requirement.

Who does it?

There are two ways your solicitor or conveyancer might obtain the information from a property search. Either they will make contact with the relevant authorities themselves and gather the necessary information directly, or they will hire specialist property search companies to carry out this type of work independently. The latter is often the case when some aspects are out of the ordinary and therefore require more specialist investigation to be carried out. Either way, your solicitor or conveyancer will coordinate these searches and will be the point of contact for you during this process.

What to expect

To make sure the property you’re buying is all it’s cracked up to be and you’re not going to be hit with any unexpected troubles, it’s important that no stone is left unturned. The person carrying out the property search will contact certain authorities in order to gather a range of information. There are some searches that will need to be carried out for almost any property. These are:

  • Local authority
    The local authority holds the key to a lot of the basic facts you’ll need. They’ll be able to tell you about any future plans for the area such as proposed building works nearby, local infrastructure and roadworks, information about flooding or contamination, planning restrictions, and more.
  • Water and Drainage
    This is the other essential search, for obvious reasons – water and drainage are absolute necessities but can be pricey to fix if they are not already sound.
  • Environmental search
    This involves searching the local area to see what it has previously, or is currently, being used for that could be cause for concern in terms of contamination or other environmental factors.

There are many other additional searches that can be done on a property, but the searches that actually need to be carried out will depend largely on its location. Your conveyancer will advise on what is required. Examples of these additional property searches include:

  • Mining searches (for various different materials – the most common is a coal mining report)
  • Commons registration search
  • Flood search
  • Chancel repair liability search
  • British Waterways search
  • Index Map Search
  • Tube line search
  • HS2 search

When all necessary searches have been completed, your solicitor or conveyancer will review the results carefully and make sure there are no issues you need to worry about, or notify you of potential red flags (if there are any). Once you’re satisfied, you’re done and dusted with another step in your conveyancing journey – and another step closer to completion!

At Bird & Co, our solicitors and licensed conveyancers are the property experts. We have years of experience helping clients through all aspects of the conveyancing process, with customer service at the heart of what we do. If you’re buying or selling a property, you need the experts at your side. Get in touch with us today on 01636 600 656.