What Searches are Done When Buying a House?

Estimated reading time 13 minutes

Property searches are also known as conveyancing searches and are carried out by your solicitor to find out more information about the property you are planning to purchase. The reason these searches are carried out is to ensure that before you exchange and commit to a legally binding contract to buy the property that you know everything there is to know about the property you are buying.

Mortgage companies will insist that searches are carried out prior to agreeing any lending facility. For cash house buyers like Gaffsy searches are optional.

A search is important as it will provide you with information on what improvements or alterations you can make to the house. The searches may bring to light some future development plans in the area that could affect how you feel about the property. They will also uncover potential restrictions, benefits and conditions which may affect the property and your experience living there.

If a search brings up something untoward then it will give you the ability to pull out of buying a house and/or renegotiate the offer.

How long do conveyancing searches take?

Searches usually take around 2 weeks but some can take up to eight weeks especially if the local authority is overloaded. Another potential setback can arise if the seller is unable to grant immediate access for a survey. Remember a cash buyer is not required to carry out searches and therefore the time it takes for them to buy a house for sale is much shorter.

How many searches are done when buying a house?

There are several different types of searches your solicitor or conveyancer will carry out when you buy a property.

Here is list of the most common searches, you can click each one to be taken directly to the detail alternatively just scroll through.

Remember not every home for sale will need all the searches, your solicitor and conveyancer will advise you which are necessary as will your mortgage company.  See solicitor fees for indication of total costs of these disbursements.

Local authority searches

This search is undertaken by the local council or authority where the house  is situated. It will reveal relevant information about the local area that could affect the houses value.

There are two parts to a local authority search:

  1. The first search is the LLC1 (Local Land Charge Register search) which covers any charges against the property or restrictions relating to land and house for sale.  The Local Land Charge Register contains details of matters, which, upon completion of the sale, will be binding and enforceable against you, the new owner.

The LLC1 provides information that includes

  • Financial charges (registered against the property by the Local Authority or County Council.
  • Listed building notification – proposed works to a listed building need to be discussed with and approved by the local authority before work commences.
  • Located in a conservation area and subject to conditional planning consents
  • Conservation area & tree preservation order – All trees within a conservation area are protected whether or not they are covered by a specific tree preservation order.
  • In need of an improvement or renovation grant
  • Situated in a smoke control zone – most of London is covered by a Smoke control Order.
  • Conditional Planning agreements – if a house has been extended or has a conservatory it is important to check the relevant permissions were obtained.
  • Enforcement notices including light obstruction

The second search is the CON29 form which contains 2 parts and provides information on any items that are in the pipeline/being considered, and/or awaiting approval surrounding the house, land and in some cases the area in which the property is situated.  Many solicitors and licensed conveyancers believe this to be one of the most comprehensive information documents used during the house- buying process.

Part 1 is the CON29 R whereby the Local Authority is required to provide and reveal issues such as:

  • who maintains the road the property is on
  • the planning history of the property
  • the building control history of the property
  • traffic schemes
  • compulsory purchase orders
  • proposed tree preservation orders
  • other notices that may affect the property
  • rail schemes and proposals

Part 2 is the CON29 O, which is a set of optional enquiries that can be requested by your conveyancing solicitors. Some mortgage lenders may require these additional searches as they can include information regarding:

  • road proposals
  • public footpaths
  • noise abatement orders
  • pollution notices
  • common land and village greens
  • gas pipelines
  • flood defences and land drainage consents

What are the solicitor fees for carrying out the local authority searches?

The fees are set by each local authority and vary between £50-£300.  However, since 2018 HM Land Registry has been working in partnership with local authorities in England and Wales to standardise and migrate local land charges and register information to one accessible place. Using their new service, you have the option of downloading a personal search for free or an official search for £15. 

Which Local Authority’s have signed up to HM Land Registry’s Local Land Charge digital service?

 
LOCAL AUTHORITY TRANSFER DATE
Babergh District Council 20-Jan-22
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council 28-Oct-21
Blackpool Council 20-Nov-18
Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council 23-Jan-23
Bromsgrove District Council 13-Oct-21
Bury Metropolitan Borough Council 14-Jul-22
Carlisle City Council 21-Apr-20
Cheltenham Borough Council 01-Sep-22
City and County of Swansea Council 27-Apr-22
City of Lincoln Council 20-Apr-22
City of London Corporation 08-Oct-18
City of Wolverhampton Council 18-Jan-23
Council of the Isles of Scilly 17-Jan-19
Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council 19-Jul-21
East Cambridgeshire District Council 05-Dec-22
East Lindsey District Council 26-Jun-20
Fenland District Council 06-Sep-22
Hambleton District Council 28-Oct-21
Harborough District Council 29-Apr-22
Haringey Council 20-Dec-21
Isle of Wight Council 27-Apr-22
Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council 12-Oct-22
Lambeth Council 01-Oct-19
Liverpool City Council 03-Sep-18
London Borough of Enfield 15-Aug-22
London Borough of Wandsworth 15-Nov-22
Malvern Hills District Council 12-Jan-23
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council 26-Jul-22
Mid Suffolk District Council 20-Jan-22
Mid Sussex District Council 21-Mar-22
Milton Keynes Council 27-Aug-20
Newark and Sherwood District Council 26-Oct-21
Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council 02-May-22
North Kesteven District Council 16-Dec-21
North West Leicestershire District Council 27-Jul-22
Norwich City Council 11-Jul-19
Pendle Borough Council 15-Nov-21
Peterborough City Council 31-Jan-20
Plymouth City Council 07-Jan-22
Portsmouth City Council 28-Apr-22
Redditch Borough Council 13-Oct-21
Richmondshire District Council 27-Oct-22
Rutland County Council 12-Dec-22
Scarborough Borough Council 29-Nov-21
Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council 16-Jan-23
Sevenoaks District Council 28-Apr-21
Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council 25-Apr-22
South Norfolk District Council 22-Jun-22
South Staffordshire Council 11-Aug-22
Spelthorne Borough Council 23-Apr-21
Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 26-Jan-23
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council 07-Apr-21
Stratford-on-Avon District Council 10-May-21
Sutton Council 07-Jan-22
Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council 18-Oct-21
Warwick District Council 11-Jul-18
Watford Borough Council 06-Feb-20
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council 26-May-21
West Suffolk Council 21-Jul-22

This search provides the legal evidence of the Title to the land that has been registered in England and Wales. It will also provide the Title Plan which shows (usually by red edging) the boundaries of the property registered under the title number.  Do note it does not normally show who owns the boundary features.

This search is important as it helps to lessen the risk of fraudulent activity around property ownership.

The Title Register contain the following 3 details relating to the property:

  1. Property Register A description of the property and any rights that may benefit the property.
  2. Proprietorship Register Who owns the property and restrictions upon their authority to deal with the property.
  3. Charges Register Information such as mortgages or rights that may affect the property

The Water companies of England and Wales offer specialist drainage and water searches as well as sewer flooding history. When obtaining this search you will find out whether the house to sell is connected to mains water, mains drainage and surface drainage. Knowing this will avoid a surprise for the person buying the house for sale as costs of maintaining a private drainage system is high.

Prices range from £63.48 -£108.18 for a residential drainage and water enquiry.

The Coal Authority Mining Reports Service provides a property-specific and cost-effective coal mining service report for any property in Scotland, England and Wales. A mining report (CON29M) lets you know whether a house for sale has been subject to a coal mining related subsidence damage notice or claim since 1984. It also gives information on:

  • mine entries within 20 metres of a property’s boundaries
  • gas emissions from coal mines
  • other coal mining hazards reported in the area
  • plans for future coal mining in the area

Past and current coal mining activity can affect property prices and therefore a mining search is essential in coal mining areas. Where mining work was common, these searches are essential; for example, Wales (coal), Cheshire (brine/salt), Cornwall (tin). 

Prices for a residential report start at £42.95(plus VAT). Further reports maybe necessary if this report has identified any risks. These extra reports are available from the Coal Authority

Utility searches locate any buried utilities on a proposed site such as electricity cables, gas pipes, water mains, fibre-optic cables and sewers.

National Grid search will provide details of existing or proposed overhead/underground electricity equipment, access agreements and whether or not the house for sale benefits from an electricity supply.

Gas search will reveal gas mains and works in close vicinity of the house for sale and whether a gas supply to the property is available.

Prices for utility searches vary as some utility companies provide plans for free and some charge up to £75.

Transport Searches

A conveyancer may choose to order a range of transport related searches if they believe the house for sale is or might be affected by existing and/or proposed transport plans. (These may already be covered by the local authority CON29, so care should be taken before running additional ones)

For example

  1. Railway searches and Transport for London searches for properties that could be affected by existing and proposed service as well as any schemes involving compulsory purchase powers.  
  2. A house for sale is in close proximity to running water particularly if it passes through the property boundary a British Waterways search should be made to reveal riverbank ownership drainage, fishing rights and licences.
  3. Port of London Authority regarding mooring licenes.
  4. The Highways Agency search will reveal if there are proposals for trunk road/motorway construction
  5. HS2 – search which will check if the property you are interested in is affected by the planned and extensive works which will cover 25 destinations linking London, Birmingham and the north west.

Chancel Repair

This search will reveal whether a property is liable to pay a contribution towards the repairs of the local parish church. The historic nature of chancel repairs means many liabilities are not recorded on title deeds, but they are still legally enforceable. A Chancel Check report will reveal whether a property is within a parish where a potential chancel repair liability exists. When there is no risk of any liability for chancel repairs, a Certificate will be issued to confirm this. If it does show the house for sale is located within a parish that could charge for repairs then  a Full Chancel search will be required to reveal whether the actual property is liable to contribute to the repairs..

Environmental Searches

An Environmental search offers an assessment of the environment surrounding the house for sale. It will provide information on:

Contaminated land – whether there are industrial sites, landfill and waste sites or petrol or fuel sites in the vicinity of the property which may lead to contamination of the property itself in the future.

Flooding – assess the risk of surface water flooding, groundwater flooding or river or coastal flooding. It will also indicate any historical floods and whether there are flood defences in place.

Subsidence – whether the area the house for sale is situated on has potential for ground subsidence.

Energy – whether energy infrastructures such as proposed wind farms, solar farms or power stations are located in the vicinity.

Common Land and Village Green

This search will reveal whether land adjoining or adjacent to the property being purchased is affected by any of the provisions of the Commons Registration Act that gives third parties rights of access as well as other rights to the property.

Specialist Searches

These may only affect a small area of the country. Your solicitor will be able to advise if one is necessary.

What do I do if the searches carried out when buying a house raise potential risks?

  • Should findings arise that make you change your mind about buying the house you are not legally required to go through with the purchase and can pull out of the sale of the house.
  • After your offer has been accepted if your mortgage company decides they will not lend on the property following the searches you do not have to proceed with buying the house.
  • Should you still wish to proceed with the purchase after the searches reveal a previously unknown risk you can ask the seller to lower the price and or ask them to take the necessary action to rectify the findings. It might add a few weeks or months to put the problems right but that will also mean the problem won’t come back again.
  • You can take out indemnity insurance to cover some unresolved issues the searches have uncovered and that may crop up in the future as well as if a legal defect affected the loss of the property’s value. The insurance may give you the reassurance you need to feel comfortable in purchasing the house and your solicitor/conveyancer will take into consideration all the circumstances before advising you to purchase it.

Gaffsy says … buying a home is probably the biggest purchase of your life and whilst property searches are not a legal requirement, they are a crucial part of the conveyancing process. When buying a house for sale with a mortgage, the mortgage lender will probably insist that a number of the searches are carried out before they will agree to lend on the property for sale.

Whilst the searches can take anywhere from 2-8 weeks to complete (if they turn up any problems that require further investigation that timeframe could extend further) they are important as they will help you to understand the risks attached to the home you about to buy and allow you to make an informed decision about how and whether to proceed with the purchase.

Do you own a house for sale, flat for sale and or land for sale and find buyers are either pulling out of the sale or reducing the price to an unacceptable level because of what searches were done when buying a house?

If you do then contact Gaffsy as we buy property in any condition and can guarantee a quick, no fee sale today, just fill in our form and hit make me an offer. Remember a cash buyer is not required to carry out searches and therefore the time it takes for them to buy a house for sale is much shorter.

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