Searches are essential when buying a property because it removes all the doubt about the house you want to buy. You can exchange contracts with the seller knowing that there are no underlying issues on the property you buy.
You want to ensure that there is no throughway in the property according to the local authority plans and that your property is not built on the drainage system. There is a lot that searches help you with.
In this article, you are about to learn more about searches, the different types of searches, and what makes each of them significant in the conveyancing process.
What are searches when buying a home?
A search in the conveyancing process is the checks conducted on the local area of the property that you want to buy. Once you instruct your conveyancing solicitor, he will begin doing the local authority search on your buying property.
Searches are done on a property to check if any future planning developments or historical problems may affect the property you buy. If you are buying property on a cash basis, searching for property may be optional, but when buying on a mortgage, doing searches on the property is compulsory.
However, regardless of your buying situation, it is always important to thoroughly search the property before exchanging the contracts.
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What are the major searches involved in conveyancing?
When buying a property, there are some searches that your conveyancing solicitor will undertake. Here are some of the searches you are likely to undertake when buying a home in the UK:
1 – Local authority searches
A local authority search is one of the most significant searches that your conveyancing solicitor will do on your behalf. With this search, a conveyancing solicitor can determine if the property’s authority holds any underlying issues and information. Here are some of the issues covered under the local authority search:
- Planning: Local authority search helps the solicitor to check for restrictions and planning permissions on the property.
- Highway issues: Local authority search will help to establish who is in charge of maintaining the paths and roads that connect the property. This search is important for finding out if any works on improving the property have met the standards or were done legally.
- Restrictions on development: Other essential issues that may arise during the local authority search may include whether the property you intend to buy is found in an area with restrictions on development or on cutting down trees which you may have opted to do.
Under local authority search, you find the records of installation of a boiler, electrical rewire, and many other things. Also, the search should reveal all the available records. It should check if the property you are buying has been extended or altered and if these alterations require the attention of a council.
Other issues covered under this search include rail schemes, pollution, and building control issues.
Remember that the local authority search findings may change your view of the property. That is why it is essential to instruct your solicitor to do this search as soon as possible.
It takes from 1-6 weeks to complete a local authority search. It will cost you between £70 and £400, depending on the location of your property.
2 – Environmental searches
Environmental search is another crucial search you should carry out when buying property in the UK. Under this search, you can establish whether the property is located under contaminated water, land, or a landfill site.
An environmental search will look into issues like:
- Contaminated land
In most cases, a mortgage lender will ask that you conduct an environmental search before they can provide you with a mortgage. Most mortgage lenders insist on doing an environmental search because most homes in the UK are built on land previously used for industrial purposes.
Some toxic substances can remain on the ground; if these are not uncovered, you may find yourself living in a home you cannot resell. Environmental search should also show if the property is located with a risk of flooding or a gas and health hazard.
When environmental issues remain uncovered before you take ownership of the property, you can find yourself with a property that you may not be able to sell to another party. Therefore environmental search is mandatory if you want to invest big in the property.
3 – Water and drainage search
Water and drainage is another search you should do if you want to buy property in the UK. Some of the issues you are likely to find out in this search include:
- If the property you buy is connected to a sewer line or public water supply system
- Where the drainage pipes are located, and the public sewer is in location to your home
- If you can get permission from the water company to extend the home you are buying.
- How the drainage system works and which water company is involved.
Apart from revealing the company responsible for the drainage, it shows the public drains or sewers run below or through the property. This is important if you are planning to dig any foundations for extensions in the future. The search can also reveal if the water supply is metered or retainable.
There are a lot of questions you will ask when doing this search. You can also find out if there are issues with low water pressure. Water pressure is a significant concern if you look forward to enjoying your home; it’s not easy waiting for long to shower just because of the limited water pressure in your bathroom.
4 – Land registry search
When buying property, it is vital to do a land registry search. When a property is registered with the land registry in the UK, it draws a title plan. A title plan outlines the boundaries of the land where the property you buy is located.
This search is also important if you want to find out that the current owner of the property is the valid owner of the property, according to the Land Registry. If you’re buying property, the transaction cannot continue until this search is done. Usually, it takes less than 2 days to go through a land registry search in the UK.
Your conveyancing solicitor will register you as the property’s rightful owner, giving you exclusive ownership rights on completion.
Additional property searches when buying property in the UK
1 – Location-specific search
There are other searches that your conveyancing solicitor may ask you to carry out depending on the location you’re buying property.
For instance, if the property you are buying is located in a coal mining zone, the solicitor may ask that you arrange for a mining search from the local authority. Those buying property in places like Cornwall must do a tin mining search before engaging in any contracts.
This search is helpful in establishing whether the land you want to buy has been located on unstable land with a risk of subsidence.
2 – Flood risk search
If the property you intend to buy is located in a flood-prone area or close to a water body, you may have to arrange a flood risk search.
If the property is close to a river, lake, or coastline, a flood search will reveal the high risk of flooding in the area. This will significantly impact how you bargain for the property price with the seller.
3 – Chancel repair search
When buying a property, you should do a chancel repair search. This search helps you check if you will be liable for the cost of repairs to a parish church. In the past, property owners were made responsible for repairing church chancels, a practice still in effect today. Therefore, when you plan to buy property, you must check if you will still be liable for this responsibility.
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As of October 2013, the church must establish and lodge liability with the Land Registry; it can also insist that the property owner is liable for the repairs even when the liability is not registered. This is an important issue you should find out before engaging in contracts with a seller.
4 – Commons registration
This search is carried out if the property you want to buy borders a common land. The search has been recommended per the Commons Registration Act of 1965. Your property solicitor may also ask that you do this kind of search when buying agricultural land.
5 – High-speed rail
A high-speed rail search is a new search that you should also carry out when buying property in the UK. The HS2 is a high-speed railway that is set to open soon. It will be linking London, Birmingham, and the North West trains, which travel at 225mph.
In this search, you will find out if the property you are buying will be affected by this project that is set to cover at least 25 destinations in the UK.
6 – Energy and infrastructure
The energy and infrastructure report is supposed to highlight if the property you buy is located in areas within the HS2 project, wind farms, track areas, cross rail, wind turbines, and solar farms.
This report is crucial, especially if you are planning to buy virgin land in most London and Birmingham locations.
7 – Subsidence report
The subsidence report is a type of report that confirms if the property you look forward to buying is in a place affected by subsidence. This is an optional report, and you can choose whether to go for it or not. If you are happy with the offer, you can proceed to buy without getting a subsidence report.
“Charlotte at AVRillo has been amazing! She’s been very hands on and has been great at communicating with us. The open communication has been such a highlight for us as it makes the process of selling/buying so much easier – we’re not having to chase for answers or updates, and Charlotte has been so clear with explaining things. Highly recommend AVRillo.” – Ellis, a satisfied AVRillo client.
How long does it take to do searches in the UK?
How long it will take you to do a property search in the UK depends on the number of searches you want. While some searches can take less than 48 hours, others will take weeks.
Therefore, it is vital to beware of the relevant searches required and what is essential for your case.
You should also begin with top priority searches like local authority and environmental searches. Most primary searches like flood risk, land registry, drainage, and water will take less than ten days.
The high-speed raid search is a new one you may be required to do. Since this is a new search, it is still unclear how long it may take. However, you should expect to spend between 1 and 10 days on this search.
Also See: Are Conveyancing Fees Tax Deductible?
How can I speed up searches?
How fast you do searches depends on three things:
- The location of the property you are buying and the relevant searches you have to carry out
- The speed at which the property solicitor is handling the search
- The speed at which third parties are responding to queries and how fast the council is handling the search
To speed up the searches, you should keep in touch with your solicitor. Make sure you are responding to all inquiries from your solicitor and that you have all the funds ready.
Exercise some patience when buying property. Remember, your solicitor should do due diligence to ensure there are no underlying issues that may cost you in the future once you take over the property.
Is it compulsory to do searches when buying a property?
If you are buying a property on a cash basis, a search may be optional. However, when buying on a mortgage, your mortgage lender may recommend that you do all relevant searches before they issue a mortgage.
Before you exchange contracts with the property seller, you want to ensure there are no underlying issues on the property. Doing searches gives you the confidence to get into an agreement or contract with the seller, knowing that no issues will arise in the future.
Also See: When Do I have To Pay Conveyancing Fees
If you decide to buy property without doing all the required searches, you should expect issues such as:
- A new road or railway line is built close to the house. This is most likely to affect the price of your property.
- Regular flooding in your home which makes it challenging to qualify for a flooding insurance
- A hole in your garden brought by mineshaft collapsing
- Land under your home sinking, which causes the property to sink with it.
- The property you buy has a debt attached to it, which you may have to sort out before taking over.
Not doing searches for the property you want to buy can cost you a lot. It will make it difficult to get house insurance and make it hard to sell to a new buyer who doesn’t want to take over a house with many issues to be sorted out.
“I was so happy that I chose AVRillo as my solicitor to sell and puchase my new home. Very professional. prompt with resopnding to any queries that came up and delt with swifty. Meltem and her team particularly Francesca made the whole experience less stressful. I would highly recommend their services to anyone.” – Mavis, a satisfied AVRillo client.
What happens when I am done with searches?
Once you are done with the searches, and there are no significant issues arising in the course, the property solicitor will proceed to exchange contracts.
However, you should expect the buyer’s solicitor to raise some questions concerning the information contained in the searches. This can slow down the exchange.
If the issues in the search remain unsolvable, the buyer may drop out of the transaction, and the property chain breaks. This means the transaction cannot continue.
What if I don’t understand the results of the searches?
When the results of the searches are finally out, your solicitor should explain all the details to you. Make sure you ask about the search results. You must know what each of the details means in the search results.
Remember, the solicitors must explain all the issues arising from the search. It is your decision whether you should proceed with the purchase or not.
When buying property in the UK, it is vital to do all the necessary searches before you can make any move. Hire a conveyancing solicitor to take you through the conveyancing process to speed up the completion and avoid any costly mistakes.