If you’re thinking about, or in the process of buying a house, you will no doubt have heard the terms, ‘property searches’ or ‘conveyancing searches’.

But what are conveyancing searches and why do they matter? This article explains all.


Key Takeaways

  • Conveyancing searches are an important part of due diligence when buying a house.
  • They are a series of searches that can uncover potential problems with a property before you commit to buying.
  • Most mortgage lenders insist on property searches before they will lend.
  • Property searches can influence whether you buy a property or not or how much you’re willing to offer.
  • The three most common types of conveyancing searches are local authority, water and drainage, and environmental searches.
  • There is a range of other searches available. Which ones you have done will depend on the type and location of the property.


What Are Conveyancing Searches?

Conveyancing searches are an important part of due diligence in property transactions. They are enquiries your solicitor makes to public authorities about a property you’re planning to buy.

They uncover any issues that might affect a property’s value, legality, or usability.

For example, searches might tell you about future planning developments or flood risks.


Why Do We Need Property Searches?

The seller of the property you plan to buy has no obligation to provide the type of information a property search will uncover. Even if they did, it might be wrong, inaccurate, or out of date.

The only way to get all the information you need to make a buying decision is through a property search.

It’s also important to do these searches before you exchange contracts. You can then raise any issues with the seller before committing to the purchase. When you exchange contracts, you commit to buying the property. If you uncover a problem, there’s nothing you can do about it.

If you’re a cash buyer you’re not legally required to carry out property searches. However, most mortgage lenders insist that you carry out certain searches.

Ultimately, property searches can:

  • Save you £1,000’s in future repairs bills.
  • Tell you how much room you have to develop or extend the property.
  • Provide leverage with which to negotiate a lower price with the seller.
  • Inform you as to whether a property is a good investment.


Which Property Searches Do You Need?

The most common searches required by mortgages lenders are:

  1. Local Authority searches
  2. Environmental searches
  3. Water and Drainage searches

Local Authority Searches

Local Authority searches provide information about the property and surrounding areas.

There are two parts to a Local Authority search;

  1. LLC1
  2. CON29

The LLC1 will let you know if the property you plan to buy;

  • Is a listed building
  • Is in a conservation area
  • Is in a tree preservation area
  • Is in a smoke control area
  • Needs an improvement or renovation grant

The CON29 will uncover;

  • Future planning decisions
  • Building regulations
  • Proposals for new roads and/or traffic schemes
  • Contaminated land
  • If the property is in an area affected by Radon

Environmental Searches

Environmental searches tell you about the previous use of the land your property is built on. They will highlight any potential environmental risks, including;

  • Subsidence
  • Flood risks
  • Land contamination
  • Land slides

Water and Drainage Searches

Water and drainage searches reveal;

  • Whether the property connects to the main water supply
  • The location of the mains
  • Foul water and surface drainage connects to the sewer
  • If there is a public sewer within the boundaries of the property as this could affect your ability to extend


Other Types of Property Searches

There are a lot of searches available depending on the property you want to buy. Your solicitor or conveyancer might advise other searches if the Local authority, Water and Drainage or Environmental searches uncover a problem.

Examples of other conveyancing searches include but isn’t limited to:

  • Planning search – reveals the planning history of the property and surrounding area. The Local Authority search only covers the planning history of the property, not the local area.
  • Flood risk search – for properties near water bodies like rivers and coastal area.
  • Mining searches – for properties in areas with a history of mining. They determine if there are any mining tunnels and what risks they pose.
  • Chancel repair searches – a medieval liability on some properties in which the owners can be forced to contribute to the cost of church repairs.
  • Land Registry pre-completion searches – confirms whether the said owner of the property is the real owner. It also checks if the owner has filed for bankruptcy to make sure the property is legally safe to purchase.
  • HS2 high speed rail searches – will determine if the development of HS2 will impact your property.


How Long Do Conveyancing Searches Take?

In England alone, there are 317 local authorities, and each manages searches differently.

For example, some local authorities have small teams in the Land Charges departments. Some return results via post and others use online portals.

As a result, turnaround times can vary from as little as 48 hours to several weeks.


What Happens if the Searches Uncover Problems?

If a search uncovers problems, your conveyancing solicitor will offer advice. It’s then up to you to decide whether to proceed with the purchase or not.

Also, what you deem as a problem is subjective. For example, the presence of a public sewer within your boundary might prevent you from extending. But if you have no plans to extend, then that might not be an issue for you.

However, a potential flood risk might put you off buying the property altogether.

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