You can’t be too careful when buying a house.
Solicitors know this better than perhaps anybody else, which is why any house purchase overseen by a qualified conveyancer will be subject to multiple property searches.
Unlike surveys, these searches aren’t specifically concerned with just the property itself and are larger in scope. So what are these searches on a property, and why are they necessary?
What are property searches?
Property searches – also called conveyancing searches – are enquires made about the house you’re buying. They’re made before you commit fully to buying the property so that you’re making a said purchase with all available information and no hidden surprises.
Property searches cover an extensive amount of information and convey pretty much everything you need to know about the house, including the land it’s built on and the surrounding area. This information is helpful for you as the buyer, but it’s also necessary for others in the situation, especially if you’re buying with a mortgage.
What searches are done when buying a house?
The most common property searches fall into three categories: local authority, water and drainage, and environmental.
These searches are, fittingly enough, carried out with the help of the local authority relevant to the property. The local Land Charges department will hold information that affects any property in their administrative area and will share this data with the conveyancer when requested.
Local authority searches fall into two further categories: LLC1 and Con29.
LLC1 searches produce results from the Local Land Charges (LLC) Register, with each local authority maintaining its own. This provides information about all sorts of charges against property, including covenants (restrictions or obligations agreed upon in the past), planning permissions, whether the property is or is adjoined to a listed building, and more.
Con29 results inform the buyer of anything that could affect their purchase in the future, like planning decisions, contaminated land, and proposed roads and traffic schemes. The Con29 report is quite comprehensive and gives you a thorough overview of the property’s situation and any surrounding public footpaths.
Water and drainage
These searches will reveal the presence of water and sewerage-related infrastructure, including:
- Whether a sewer runs within the boundaries of the house
- The water supply to the property and whether it’s metered
- Who drains and supplies belong to and who has responsibility for maintenance
These searches will also let you know if you can extend the property without needing to ask the water provider or if you’ll need their permission.
Environmental searches can reveal important issues such as:
- Flood risks
- Issues with subsidence or landslides
- Contaminated land from waste or landfill
- The presence of radon nearby
The information yielded by an environmental search may not prove relevant for a long time, if ever, but knowing the risk associated with land surrounding property is vital for an informed purchase.
There may be extra searches requested depending on the property itself, such as mining searches for areas that have historically been used for coal mining. These searches bring up the locations of any former mines used within a certain distance of the property, as properties have been damaged by collapsing shafts before.
Who carries out property searches?
The searches will be done by your conveyancer, who contacts the necessary departments in local authorities and companies that specialise in carrying out the other searches.
If you’re buying your property with the help of a mortgage lender, then that lender has a vested interest in ensuring there are no issues attached to the property that could complicate matters in the event of something like repossession.
Therefore, your lender will inform your conveyancer what searches need to be carried out before they will release the funds for your mortgage. If you’re buying a property with cash, you’re normally under no obligation to have these searches, and you can take the risk to shirk them if you wish.
Be aware that by missing out on searches, you might save the costs involved for short-term gain, but you leave yourself unaware of any underlying problems with land or any future planning that might affect your property. If you’re buying a property to let, this affects more than just your money.
What do property searches cost?
The cost of having property searches done can vary between conveyancers, as well as being affected by factors like the amount of land involved in a search and the extent to which a mortgage lender wants searches done.
You, as the buyer, will be responsible for the cost of conveyancing searches, and your conveyancer should lay out these costs in addition to the fees you’re paying for their business.
The total cost of searches can range from around £250 to £500, depending on the local authorities and the companies helping with finding information. The most expensive portion of this normally falls under the local authority searches, with approximate cost ranges of each being:
- Local authority searches: £50 – £250
- Water and drainage searches: £50 – £100
- Environmental searches: £25 – £55
How long do house searches take?
Property searches have faced trouble in the past, particularly local authority searches that lack the investment or staff to undertake them swiftly. Some councils have come under fire for taking as long as several months to return searches, significantly delaying the process of moving for everybody involved.
The government is continuing to invest in digital conveyancing services, which will hopefully streamline the process much more than what homebuyers currently deal with (some local authorities still rely on post for this process).
Find out more about property searches If you have questions or queries regarding searches on a property and what they entail for the Cheadle area, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.