Explaining Property Searches

When you have found your ideal home you will need to hire the services of a conveyancer. One of their first jobs will be to carry out property searches which are intended to highlight any potential problems with the home you are buying.

Searches are important, you definitely don’t want to exchange contracts and suddenly find out important information that may affect your decision to proceed with the purchase, information like if the property is built on a landfill site, there is a tree on the land which is protected under a preservation order, or if there is a problem with access rights. It is possible to do your own conveyancing and property searches, but it is strongly recommended  to engage a professional who will know what to look for and be able to advise you accordingly – especially if you want to avoid any nasty surprises further down the line.

Local Authority Searches

There are generally two parts to a local authority search and these are LLC1 and CON29.

LLC1 will give you information like:

·         If the property is a listed building

·         If the property is in a local conservation area

·         If the trees on the property are subject to a preservation order

·         If you are in a smoke controlled area.  

·         Financial charges registered against the property

·         Conditional planning permissions

The CON29 search is more about changes or potential problems to the property/land. Things like:

·         Compulsory Purchase Orders.

·         Proposed Tree Preservation Orders.

·         Property planning history

·         Informal notices under planning and highways laws not found on registers.

·         Road and rail proposals or schemes as well as who maintains the road the property is on

·         Proposed enforcement action or breach of conditions notices.

A local search is for the specific property only; it will not provide any information upon any nearby properties outside of its boundaries. If you have concerns about neighbouring property you can raise these separately with your conveyancer and they can advise what additional searches will be required.  Some mortgage lenders require these additional searches such as noise abatement orders or pollution notices so please ensure you check carefully.

Water Drainage Search (CON29DW)

This is a search done with the local water company that is responsible for your property and asks for details about the drainage and water connections to the property. The solicitor looks at, for example, how close the sewers are and whether there is a pipe running through the property boundary, something that could have consequences if there is a problem in the future.

You’ll also get details of whether you have a public or private water supply and how this is normally billed.

Environmental Search

This takes a closer look at any potential historic problems that may present themselves relating to your property. For example, if your house was built on old landfill, you will want to know because of potential contamination. If there is a potential for landslip or flooding, perhaps if you are close to a river or the coast (other areas are susceptible to flooding too), it could impact on your property at a later date and influence whether you can get your property insured for the risk.

Non-Routine Searches

Most properties only require the above three searches but, in some circumstances, your solicitor may advise additional ones. These can include:

·         Commons registration: This applies if you are buying a property with common land or in a rural area.

·         Mining search: If there is a history of mining in the area, this search looks at whether there are any restrictions in your land use.

·         Land charges: This is undertaken if you are buying unregistered land and makes sure the owner is not the subject, for example, of a bankruptcy proceeding.

·         Chancel repair liability: Some properties are liable for contributing to the repairs of the local church, particularly in rural areas.


Guiding You Through Unchartered Territory

As with all unfamiliar tasks, it pays to enlist the help of a professional. Property searches for most buyers will not uncover anything untoward, however they are a requirement if you hope to obtain a mortgage. The time it takes to get the results back from a search depend on the local authority, they can take just 48 hours, but they can also take up to several weeks, your conveyancer should be able to give you rough timescales. Once your searches are back your conveyancer will highlight any concerns and may recommend additional searches.

Did you know we have a team of conveyancers online? Not only are you assigned a dedicated conveyancer, we also have longer opening hours than traditional offices: Mon-Thurs 8am to 8pm and Fridays we close at 7pm. We operate a fixed fee policy and if your sale falls through completely, through no fault of your own, we won't charge you our lawyer costs. You can find out more about our conveyancing service here.
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