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Often when people are told by their conveyancer or solicitor that they require money on account of ‘searches’ they are not 100% sure why these are required or even what exactly they are.

So what are they?

Searches are questions or ’enquires’ asked to the relevant authorities to help find out as much information as possible about the property you intend to purchase.

Why is it needed?

Simply Caveat Emptor - let the buyer beware! Should any problems become apparent following completion there will be no recourse of the Seller and it is therefore important to ensure as much information is gathered from the relevant sources prior to completion. If you are getting a mortgage the standard searches detailed below will be compulsory:

  • Water and drainage searches

This will be a search carried out with the local Water Authority and will confirm whether the property is connected to mains water supply and/or foul and surface water drainage. The search also helpfully indicates the location of any public sewers within the boundaries of the property on a map. This is important to consider as it may impact any future development at the property. Also, if the sewers have already been built over it will mean a ‘Build Over Agreement’ with the Water Authority may have been required and your conveyancer will need to ask for evidence of this.

  • Environmental

This will identify issues such as flooding, subsidence, landfill and potentially contaminated sites within 500 meters of the property and is required by most lenders. It is important because if any ‘clean up’ works are required and the person who caused the contamination cannot be found, the liability falls on the owner of the property and in certain circumstances, the mortgage lender.The cost of dealing with contamination can be significant.

  • Local search

This is a list of questions asked of the Local Authority. It will provide information relating to the property, such as whether the road fronting the property is adopted, whether the property is in a conservation area, the planning history of the property, any tree preservation orders within the boundaries of the property, whether the property is a listed building, building control completion certificates, new railway schemes etc.

Some buyers are unconcerned about nearby planning applications/developments whereas, for some, it will affect their decision to purchase. It is important to note that the results of the local search will be confined only to the boundaries of the property. However, depending on the type of report obtained, nearby planning permissions may be revealed in the environmental search. If you are concerned about nearby developments you should ask your solicitor to ensure you obtain a planning search.

  • Location dependent searches

Coal Mining - If the property is in an area where past or present coal mining has been identified a Coal Mining search should be carried out. The result of the search will reveal whether the property is directly affected any past, present or future coal mining operations and, more importantly, will also provide information about the position of any mineshafts in the vicinity, subsidence risks and nearby subsidence claims in the surrounding area.

Depending on the location of the property, more specific searches may be required such as HS2, limestone, brine, tin or clay search. Your conveyancer will advise you if any of these are recommended.

How long do they take?

Often most of the searches will be back within a week or so. The Local Search will differ depending on the specific Local Authority and their current capacity/backlog. These are usually received within two weeks but can take up to four weeks.

What if the results raise an issue?

The search results may identify minor issues which will prompt your conveyancer to raise further enquiries with the Seller, for example, they would want to see planning permissions or tree preservation orders revealed in the Local search or may need to confirm drains within the boundaries have not been built over. Other, more major issues may affect your decision to purchase the property or your mortgage lender’s decision to lend.

How much do they cost?

This depends on which searches you need and which local authority the property is in. They are usually around £250-£350.

What if I don’t have a lender?

If you are a cash buyer, searches are optional. However, we would strongly recommend the basic searches are carried out in all instances to avoid any nasty surprises following completion or on a subsequent sale.

Contact us

Contact us today to find out how we can help, or to ask us about our conveyancing fees, by calling 0808 1685 643, fill out an online enquiry form, or email and we will be in touch.