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What searches do you need when buying a property?

When you buy a house, bungalow or a flat, your conveyancer will carry out a number of searches. The main purpose is to check ownership details and if there are any potential issues. So, what searches do you need when buying a property? We look at the most common ones to give you a clearer idea of what to expect when you are looking to purchase a new home.

Conveyancing searches are very important when you buy a property. You might learn, for example, that your property is at risk of floods or there are building works planned nearby. A new housing estate, wind farm or road could affect the property price. Other examples include the possibility of discovering the land is contaminated or at risk of collapsing due to a mineshaft. If you are purchasing a property with a mortgage, certain searches are a legal requirement.

Your mortgage lender will tell your conveyancer which ones are needed. Once the necessary investigations have been carried out, they will then release funds for your mortgage. For some properties, you might need additional searches on the building, land and surrounding areas.

Land Registry searches

Before a property can be sold, Land Registry searches are carried out to prove the seller owns the property. Otherwise, the sale cannot go ahead. This type of search checks the latest ‘title plan’ and ‘title register’ at the Land Registry, which is a government department.

  • Title plan – this shows the location and boundary of a registered property. Based on the Ordnance Survey map, the plan is a useful graphic representation of the property and land you are intending to buy. The plan might be produced by a computer mapping system or a scanned image of a paper plan. Larger plans may still be in paper form.

  • Title register – this is a legal document that shows the registered ownership and description of the property, and any easements or restrictions. This is a public document, which can be requested by anyone from the Land Registry for a small charge. Once the property has been sold, the new owner will need to be registered.

Checks of the Land Registry information happen at the start when purchasing a property. Once you have completed your purchase, Your property solicitor will register you as the owner of the property, ensuring you have exclusive rights of ownership.

Local Authority searches

Local Authority searches can show a variety of potential problems, which include:

  • Building control issues

  • Planning issues

  • Highways issues

  • Rail schemes

  • Pollution issues

  • Conservation area or a listed building

  • Tree preservation orders

These types of searches are invaluable as they could affect your decision to buy the property. If you find out that your building is listed or in a conservation area, for example, there are likely to be restrictions on how the property can be altered.

Water and drainage searches

Water and drainage searches are carried out in relation to the relevant water company covering the area. These searches are essential for locating the drainage system surrounding the property, as well as any public drains or sewers.

These types of searches will show the following:

  • Whether the property is connected to a public water supply and sewer and the location of any drainage pipes.

  • Who owns and maintains the sewers, drains and pipes around the property.

  • If you need permission for home extensions from the water company.

  • Whether the water supply has a Rateable Value or if it’s metered.

If you have plans to extend your property, it’s important to know if there are sewers and drainage pipes in the location of the potential foundations of your extension.

Environmental searches

Environmental searches are very important when you buy a house, especially as this could affect future insurance policies. If you don’t uncover issues before you take ownership of a house, bungalow or flat, you could end up with a property that is impossible to sell later on.

In most cases, your lender won’t provide your mortgage until environmental searches are conducted. These types of searches explore the following areas:

  • Flooding issues

  • Landslide issues

  • Subsidence issues

  • Contaminated land issues

When land has been previously used for industrial purposes, there is a risk of contamination from hazardous substances such as asbestos, solvents or arsenic. In addition to the above, environmental searches will show you whether there are any gas hazards or if the property was built on a landfill site.

Use a conveyancer for property searches

It’s important to use a conveyancer to carry out your property searches, as they have the right knowledge and expertise to perform these correctly. They will liaise with your mortgage lender and agree the number of searches required for the property you are looking to buy.

Sadly, there are many less experienced conveyancers around. Using a firm with qualified property solicitors will give you peace of mind that each search is carried out correctly. You can also tap into their expertise, should any complex matters arise during the property purchase.

Salusbury Harding & Barlow has a qualified and experienced team of property solicitors and conveyancers, who can help you buy and sell your property. We will carry out all the necessary searches, and we will keep you informed at every stage of the process.

If you are buying a new home and need a conveyancer, get in touch or email: to arrange a face-to-face or telephone appointment.



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