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  1. Blog
  2. Conveyancing searches - What are they and which do you need?
Conveyancing help and guides
26 January 2022

Conveyancing searches - What are they and which do you need?

Sam Edwards
Writer
Lawyer viewing papers next to a set of scales.

Table of contents

  1. 1. What are conveyancing searches?
  2. 2. Are property searches important?
  3. 3. At what stage in the home buying process do you order property searches?
  4. 4. Types of conveyancing searches
  5. 5. How much do conveyancing searches cost?
  6. 6. House surveys
  7. 7. How long are local searches taking at the moment?
  8. 8. What happens if there are problems discovered in the searches?
  9. 9. Summary
  10. 10. FAQs

If you're in the process of buying a house, you will have heard the terms 'searches', ‘conveyancing searches’ or 'property searches'. These all refer to a set of searches that are crucial to the home buying process. They're completed by your conveyancer (solicitor), who works with local authorities and environmental agencies on your behalf.

What are conveyancing searches?

Searches are investigations carried out in order to verify the integrity of the property and lands before you, the homebuyer, complete the purchase. They provide detailed information on aspects of the property you might not have considered - development limitations and contamination risks are just some of the things evaluated within these reports. The searches carried out are usually

  1. Local authority searches
  2. Planning searches
  3. Water and property searches
  4. Environmental searches

Are property searches important?

Yes property searches are important in order to uncover any potential issues. If you're buying a house with a mortgage, property searches are mandatory. Mortgage lenders won't lend to buyers who are found to be buying a home with high risks, and searches investigate a property’s risk factor.

However, their importance to lenders isn't the only reason searches are useful. A lender may still be willing to lend you money based on the findings of a search report, whereas you the buyer might have second thoughts. Searches can reveal things about a house you might not be happy with, like a higher risk of flooding, or reduced potential for future developments.

Five reasons you should care about property searches:

  1. They can save you thousands of pounds in future repairs.
  2. They show you how much room you have for development.
  3. Their results could impact your decision to purchase.
  4. The seller might reduce the property's final selling price.
  5. Ultimately, your mortgage lender will insist on searches being carried out.

At what stage in the home buying process do you order property searches?

Once your offer has been accepted and you’ve instructed a conveyancing solicitor, property searches will be the next thing you do in the home buying process.

It's important that searches are carried out early in the transaction. You don’t want to exchange contracts on a property you’re unsure of. When contracts are exchanged, the sale becomes legally binding, and you’re obligated to complete the transaction.

Types of conveyancing searches

There are over nine possible searches that your conveyancer can carry out on your behalf. Working with both private bodies and local authorities, these searches determine whether the house purchase is safe to progress to the next step.

There are several searches included in the ‘Core search pack’. Other searches are optional extras. Your conveyancer can help you decide whether to proceed with these additional searches.

1 - Local authority searches

Local authority searches examine nearby planning works, road schemes and contaminations. There are two parts to local searches - LLC1 and CON29.

  • A LLC1 search examines the register of local land charges. Conveyancers locate financial charges, which indicate if money is owed to the council for developments, or if planning permission has been granted for developments.
  • A CON29 search covers property planning history, road works, building regulations, and conservation areas. They also indicate whether the property has been served a Section 215 Maintenance Notice. These ‘land maintenance notices’ are served when the condition of the land or building directly affects the utility and safety of the local area.

Priority: Core

2 - Planning searches

Planning searches examine the local area for planning applications and consents. The search covers properties and areas within a 250-metre radius of the prospective property.

Priority: Extra

3 - Draining and water searches

Drainage and water searches determine:

  • Whether the property is connected to a public mains supply.
  • Who the supplier of the property's water supply is.
  • Whether the house is connected to public sewers.
  • Whether there are any water mains or waste sites located on the property itself.

Ultimately, the search reveals who is responsible for the property's water and waste, as well as whether any on-site mains or sewers affect repairs or developments.

Priority: Core

4 - Environmental searches

Environmental searches are carried out by environmental agencies. They reveal:

  • The past uses of land.
  • The past uses of the land in the vicinity of the property.
  • Whether these past uses have caused potential contamination.

These searches also evaluate the risks of:

  • Flooding.
  • Subsidence (Sinking of the property).

Environmental reports are an important part of the property searching process. If the land is found to have a risk of contamination, the local authority will charge the property owner the costs of cleaning up and removing said risks.

Priority: Core

5 - Flood risk searches

Flood risk searches are specifically designed for properties located near bodies of water, like rivers or the coast. They reveal how likely the area is to flood as a result of its proximity to the body of water.

Priority: Core

6 - Coal mining and mining searches

If the property and land are located in an area previously used for mining, there is an increased likelihood of tunnels running below the property. Mining searches determine whether there are any tunnels, and whether or not they will cause any long-term damage to the property. Tunnels can increase the likelihood of subsidence, so it's important to know exactly what's below your property.

Priority: Extra

7 - Chancel repair searches

Some properties have a historic liability to the local parish for church repairs - this search clarifies whether the property in question owes money to the local parish. If the property does owe the parish, you can buy insurance to cover these bills.

Priority: Extra

8 - Land Registry pre-completion

This Land Registry search confirms whether the owner is in fact the real owner of the property. It also checks whether the owner has filed for bankruptcy, ensuring the property is legally safe to buy.

Priority: Core

9 - HS2 high-speed rail

The new HS2 high-speed rail will link London, Birmingham and the north-west with a new series of trains travelling up to 225mph. This search will determine whether or not your property will be impacted by the development of HS2.

Priority: Extra

How much do conveyancing searches cost?

Conveyancing search costs range from £9-£250 but will depend on the search and the local authority.

Conveyancing SearchCost
Local authority£40 - £250
Planning search£30
Drainage£35 - £50
Environmental report£36 - £42
Flood risk£9
Mining report£35.79
Chancel repair£12
Land charges£6 - £10
HS2£15

House surveys

As your conveyancer organises property searches, your mortgage provider organises additional searches, known as house surveys. The most basic house survey is a standard mortgage valuation survey (basic drive-by valuation of the property). However, homebuyers can choose to have a further, more informative survey if they’re inclined.

What types of house surveys are there?

There are five types of house surveys available. The type of survey you need depends on the type of property you are purchasing.

  1. Valuation survey
  2. Condition report
  3. Homebuyer report
  4. Structural survey
  5. Snagging survey

You can learn more about these types of surveys over in our blog.

What's the difference between house surveys and property searches?

The main difference is that:

  • House surveys investigate the structural integrity of the property.
  • Property searches investigate the site of the property, its history, and the nearby area.

If you're a homebuyer, a house survey might show that you can benefit from a renovation grant. House survey grants are available under strict conditions, namely:

  1. That the property is seriously neglected.
  2. That critical repairs are needed.
  3. That you, and other occupiers, are vulnerable.
  4. That there are no other means for paying for repairs.
  5. That you are intending to live in the house.

You can find out more about surveys in our complete guide to house surveys and their costs.

How long are local searches taking at the moment?

Local authority searches are meant to take two to three weeks, but on average in 2022 they are currently taking up to six weeks. This depends on your local area, and the backlog of your local authority.

You can check how long conveyancing is taking right now using our tool below

What happens if there are problems discovered in the searches?

If problems are discovered in any of the searches, ultimately, your conveyancer will advise whether problems discovered in the searches indicate that the property is a bad investment. Some results are subjective - for example, you may still decide to buy a property if a search report indicates certain types of extension are impossible. Other results, like severe flood risks, might lead your conveyancer to advise against the property purchase.

Summary

The home moving process is stressful enough without unwelcome surprises further down the line. Property searches ensure that you aren't blindsided after you complete the purchase of your new home. It's better to be safe than sorry, especially when you have your mortgage application to think about.

FAQs

How many searches are carried out?

Usually your conveyancer will offer a core pack of searches which will carry out 4 or 5 searches, but this number could be higher depending on the property type and local area.

What are they looking for in conveyancing searches?

Conveyancing searches are looking for problems with the property and the surrounding area. Some searches examine the risk of the flooding in the area, while others determine whether the land is contaminated by radon.

How long are searches valid for?

Conveyancing searches are valid for six months. If the purchase has still not been completed after six months, it’s advised that you order new searches to be carried out.

Do I need to do searches if I'm a cash buyer?

If you're a cash buyer and there isn’t a mortgage lender involved, you don’t have to order any searches - but we recommend that you do.

Conveyancing searches can reveal problems with your property that may make you rethink your purchase. Japanese knotweed, increased risk of flooding, and planning developments in the surrounding area, are just some of the things conveyancing searches uncover. Ordering a few searches could save you a lot of money in the long run.

How do I check which council I need to do searches with?

To find your local council, type your postcode into the search box on the Gov.UK’s ‘Find your local council’ page.

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