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What Are Searches when buying a house

how much are solicitors fees when buying a house

Find out why your conveyancing solicitor will carry out searches on your behalf when buying a property

What are searches

A ‘search’ is when your conveyancer requests information from the local authority to confirm details about any planned developments, disputes or roadworks that may affect the property. They will also ask the local authority to confirm whether the property is likely to have been built on land previously used for mining or has a history of flooding.

Searches are carried out to discover additional information about a property that often isn’t obvious. They include things such as where planning permission may be granted for a future development that would negatively impact your property in the future, whether the property is liable to Chancel charges from a local church, the quality of the ground on which your house is built or details of common drains and access rights. It is important to get the expert knowledge of a conveyancing solicitor to ensure you're aware of such information about your potential property before going through with the purchase.

It is the responsibility of you, as a first time buyer, to arrange and pay for conveyancing searches when buying a house. There are two standard searches that should be carried out by your property lawyer during the conveyancing process. These should be completed and approved before you legally commit yourself to purchasing the property as they may highlight planning or structural issues that could cost significant sums of money to put right.

Local Authority Search

Your property lawyer will send enquiries to the local authority, giving you a perspective on a variety of issues regarding the property – ranging from planning permission issues and proximity of rail/tube lines to road works, conservation areas and more.

Your property lawyer should also enquire about nearby buildings and empty land. You will want to know if there is major planning permission for further buildings or developments as this could greatly affect your quality of life in your first home.

An extensive list of preliminary enquiries will also be sent by your solicitor to the seller’s solicitor requesting:

  • Disputes
  • Boundaries
  • Planning constraints/permission
  • Rights of way
  • Utilities providers
  • Home contents
  • Guarantees
  • Any additional restrictive agreements

Water and Drainage

It is also highly recommended for first time buyers to apply to the local water company responsible for the property asking for confirmation that the sewers, drains and piping are maintained by them. A water and drainage search carried out by your property lawyer will also highlight the proximity of the property to public sewers and whether the property has a sewer running through the boundaries of the property.

In certain scenarios your property lawyer may advise you to undertake one of the following non-routine searches depending on the location of the property:

  • Commons Registration – recommended if the property borders common land or a village green. This search should always be carried out when purchasing agricultural land.
  • Environmental Search – identifies whether the previous land use of the property creates an environmental risk. It will also inform you of any issues with flooding, landslip or subsidence.
  • Mining Search – required if the property is situated in an area of previous or current mining history. This search is largely carried out for the benefit of the mortgage lender.
  • Land Charges – a search that should be taken when dealing with unregistered land, detailing any bankruptcy proceedings attributed to the owner of the land.
  • Chancel Repair Liability – recommended for property in close proximity to churches. Your property lawyer will investigate the deeds to discover whether you will be liable to contribute towards church repairs.

First time buyers should be mindful that home searches, by their nature, will flag up a lot of things about a property you might not have previously considered. It’s therefore very important to discuss the results with your property lawyer. and to seek other opinions from people with knowledge of the buying process and the local area.

Employing a conveyancing solicitor for your house purchase is a vital aspect of moving home, so be sure to compare quotes from quality conveyancing solicitors in your area.

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