Conveyancing searches, also sometimes referred to as property searches, are public authority enquiries that help you get more information about a property you intend to buy. For example, searches may inform you about flood risk, details surrounding access rights, or whether the house will be affected by any planned future developments. In most cases, professional conveyancing solicitors can help you carry out a conveyancing search.
Why do you need a conveyancing search?
Sellers are not required to provide you with this kind of information about a property before a sale, and even if they do, it could be inaccurate or outdated. The only way to reliably enter a transaction with all the right information that could affect your decision prior to buying the property is to carry out a conveyancing search.
It is important to conduct the searches before you exchange contracts with the seller so that you can raise any issues or enquiries with them if needed. This is because after the exchange of contracts, you won’t have any come-back if you notice something wrong. Also, searches from official sources will be backed by guarantees so you can feel assured that the information you’re getting is accurate.
Cash buyers don’t have a legal obligation to do conveyancing searches, although it is still a good idea to do so. If you are buying with a mortgage though, it is almost guaranteed that your lender will want you to carry out specific searches.
Which conveyancing searches do you need?
The three most common types of conveyancing searches are the ones required by mortgage lenders:
Local authority search
This search will cover a range of issues including planning and building regulations, whether the road outside your property is adopted or not, if there are any roadwork or railway schemes close by, and whether the house is listed or in a conservation area.
Water and drainage search
A water and drainage search will tell you whether the property is linked to the main water supply, if foul water and surface drainage are connected to the public sewer, the location of the water mains, and if there is a public sewer within the borders of the property (which might impact your ability to extend the house).
This search will provide you with information about the contamination risk to the home from any nearby landfill sites, former or close by current industrial uses, radon gas hazard, ground stability, and a flood risk rating. The search will provide a certificate stating whether the search has passed, or if not, what steps need to be taken to fix the issues.
Other searches you may need will depend on the location of the property. For example, homes in areas with a mining history need a mining search. These extra searches might also be completed if one of the first three searches finds a problem. An environmental search may identify a flood risk, which means a flood search would be needed to provide more detailed information. You might also have particular worries about a property that you would like to be checked by experienced conveyancing solicitors in Newcastle. Some examples of other conveyancing searches include:
- Planning search – this search finds the planning history of the house and surrounding neighbourhood. The local authority search only looks at the planning history of the property address and doesn’t tell you anything about neighbouring houses.
- Chancel liability search – this is a very old-fashioned liability on certain properties which can be raised to help cover the cost of church repairs. In October 2013 the law was changed so that any liability should be shown on the title deeds of a property, but there are still some cases where this hasn’t happened.
- Flood search
- Energy and infrastructure search
- Commons registration
How long do conveyancing searches take?
The official local authority search is typically the most time-consuming. There are more than 340 local authorities across the UK and searches are manage differently in each one, meaning turnaround time could take anything from 48 hours to multiple weeks.
Local searches can vary widely due to the method in which your local authority return search results. For example, if you get your search results electronically through an online portal or by email, this will be a lot quicker than by post. A lot of local authorities only have small teams working in the Land Charges departments, so when they are busy it can take longer to return your search results.
We hope this guide has been helpful in giving you a better understanding of conveyancing searches. If you need help with fixed fee conveyancing in Newcastle, our expert team of solicitors are on hand to help. We can help ensure your conveyancing process is completed accurately, timely, and efficiently. Contact us today to discuss your specific property needs.