Are Searches Necessary When Buying A House?

Are Searches Necessary When Buying A House?
While you may resent paying for them, the question ‘Are searches necessary when buying a house?’ needs a definitive answer. That answer is ‘Yes’ and here we explain why.

Property searches are a crucial and necessary part of the conveyancing process – even though they are not a legal requirement for anyone buying a property.

A conveyancing solicitor will recommend that you carry out searches because you will then find out essential information about the land and property you are wanting to buy.

It’s also worth noting:

  • As a cash buyer: It’s still an important part of the process to carry out searches;
  • Buying a property with a mortgage: You may not want to, but your lender will probably insist that searches are carried out.

What are property searches when conveyancing?

For those who may not know, before you commit yourself to buy a property, it’s important that you find out as much about it as possible.

That is sensible because you will need this information before you exchange contracts.

That’s because searches may highlight an issue that will affect your potential enjoyment of your property and, more importantly, may well affect the property’s future value.

Searches will be carried out by a licenced conveyancer or solicitor, and they will ask various authorities that hold information about the property, as well as the land it is on, to see if anything will have an undesirable effect.

Do I need to carry out searches when buying a property?

It is always a good idea to carry out searches to assess in what conditions is the property you are going to buy.

Rather than explain what searches are – we do this later in the article – it’s best to explain why searches are so important.

We have explained that it’s a good idea to carry out searches, so you need to consider:

  • As a cash buyer: You can order as many searches as you want to without a mortgage lender telling you what to do.

Don’t be tempted that because you have money to pay for a property, that you will save money by not carrying out a full search – this will be a false economy should a search highlight a serious issue.

This means that should your lender need to repossess your home with a view to selling it on, they want to be reassured that they can do this easily without any potential issues affecting the property’s value.

It’s this element that will lead the lender to inform a conveyancer on which searches should be carried out before mortgage funds are released.

It’s also essential to appreciate that you are not just buying a property but that you will have a large debt secured against it – so you really do need to know whether there will be a problem with it.

Property issues

Without carrying out relevant searches, your property issues could include:

  • Mineworks: If your home is in a former mining area, you will want to know about the potential of a mineshaft collapsing;
  • Your home may be demolished to make way for a new road, or there could be plans for a pylon or a wind farm next door which could affect the property’s price;
  • Being liable to flooding regularly so you may struggle to find home insurance;
  • Your property may have been built on contaminated land – such as industrial waste including asbestos.

What searches do I need?

There are many searches you can carry out, being the local authority searches one of them.

The searches that you need when buying property will depend on its location.

That’s because most searches will be specific to that location and a well-informed local solicitor or conveyancer will tell you which searches are required for these purposes.

Essentially, there are three main searches that are carried out for anyone buying a house. They are:

Local authority searches

These are the most important and will highlight:

  • Building control issues;
  • Highways issues;
  • Any planning issues;
  • Pollution problems.

Environmental searches

These are worthwhile for highlighting:

  • Contaminated land issues;
  • Potential subsidence problems;
  • Flooding problems;
  • Landslide issues.

Water and drainage searches

Finally, these are also important to reveal:

  • Where public sewer and drainage pipes are located;
  • Whether your water supply is rateable or metered;
  • Whether your home is connected to a public water supply;
  • Who is responsible for and who owns the drains, sewers and piping;
  • Whether permission is needed for extending the property from a water company.

When do I order property searches?

You need to order searches for a solicitor or conveyancer as soon as your offer on a property has been formally accepted.

Usually, you will need to pay a deposit to cover some of their expenses and some of these do vary depending on where you live and what type of search is carried out.

How much will a property search cost?

A property search will have some costs associated, so account for them in your budget.

The cost of searches will vary, so there is no fixed answer but here we give a good idea of how much you should be expecting to pay.

Local authority search £60-£400

These can take from one week and up to six weeks, and in some cases several months, and cost up to £400 depending on the authority.

Water and drainage search £50-£100

The water and drainage authority search will pinpoint where your water is coming from, and whether there are drains on your property. The location of these drains may affect potential future building work.

Environmental search £25-£60

Environmental searches will establish whether the property you want to buy is either built on or near to, contaminated water and land – or is even an old landfill site. The search is important to highlight whether there’s the potential for toxic substances to be remaining in the ground.

Flooding search £20-£50

Knowing whether your home is liable to flooding from rivers or the sea is important.

Mining search £20-£120

This will be part of a location-specific search to determine, for example, whether the area was used for mining, and whether there is a risk of subsidence.

Chancel search £20-£100

A quick search to find whether you will be responsible for paying for Parish church repairs.

Searches when buying a property

Other searches when buying a property include:

  • Bankruptcy search £2 per name;
  • Indemnity insurance £30-£300;

A general indemnity insurance policy will cover you against a specific risk that is associated with your property including contaminated land, leasehold issues and chancel repair.

  • Land Registry £3;

A Land Registry search is simply proving that the property seller is the actual legal owner of that property.

  • Title plan £2.50 plus VAT;
  • Flood risk indicator copy £9 plus VAT;
  • Title register copy £7;
  • Title plan copy £7.

It’s also worth noting that if your property has lots of land, the environmental search and the mining search will cost substantially more to cover this.

Also, the chancel search does sound unusual but this will reveal whether your property is located within a parish boundary so they could levy a charge for repairs of the chancel or church.

The bottom line is that you should budget for your searches to cost between £100 and £400.

How long do searches take?

It depends on many different factors but searches can take between two and three weeks to complete.

There is no set timescale for how long a property search will take to complete, most of them will be done quickly but the obstacle maybe with local authority searches.

On average, it can take between two and three weeks to complete, though your conveyancer will be relying on how long an external body will take to produce information.

It’s always a good idea when hiring a conveyancing solicitor to keep in regular touch to ensure they have put in the relevant requests and you can chase them up for answers if there is a delay.

How to deal with problems found in searches

Should there be a problem found when you search, then this is where you rely on your conveyancer or solicitor.

You will need their expertise and they may even recommend that you do not buy the property if the problem is particularly acute.

Are searches necessary when buying a house?

As we have seen, a search will either highlight a potential problem that may save you money in the long term or reveal there are no issues to worry about.

It’s also important to appreciate that one of the main legal points here is ‘buyer beware’ – so you need to understand all of the risks and potential problems that might be associated when buying your property.

Also, a search may throw up an issue that you can take back to the seller so you can ask them to lower the price or undertake remedial action.

Indemnity insurance is also a good idea so you can proceed with purchasing the property without having to worry about possible claims being made against you at some point in the future.

The final point is that you should have a RICS surveyor undertake the full survey they offer, and not opt for the cheaper surveys that are available to bring peace of mind when buying a property.

More information

Your estate agent will probably recommend a conveyancer but a good place to check and find a reputable conveyancing solicitor is to use our handy comparison tool.

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