Why do I need searches carried out on the property I am buying?
It is a legal requirement to undertake searches on a property if you need a mortgage. For buyers who don’t have to borrow money, they are optional, although we would always advise they are carried out.
Searches cost a fraction of the price of a property and may reveal issues that impact on its value, saleability and mortgage ability, should you decide to sell in the future. They may also help you decide whether an independent survey is required.
What exactly are you searching for?
There are four types of search we carry out on every single residential property purchased in England and Wales. They are:
A local authority search: This contains all sorts of information, for example, the adoption of public highways, details of planning applications made on the property, outstanding charges that are due to the local authority and any work carried out. It is essential this search is clear before you proceed with the purchase. If something adverse is revealed, your solicitor will obtain the relevant information and ensure remedial payments are made at your sellers’ cost
Water and drainage search: We want to ensure the foul and surface water from your property drains into the public sewers and it is connected to the water supply. This search will also reveal who is responsible for the water supply and if there are any mains drains within your boundaries. If this is the case, you will receive a plan showing their location, which may be useful if you wish to extend or carry out any works, as you can see the area of land the water board may need to access.
Mining search: If your property is within an area where there has been mining (and this includes many places where it isn’t obvious), it is important to find out what exactly was carried out and how it may affect the ground stability. The search will also reveal if there are any mine shafts located within your boundaries. If there is one less than 20 metres from the house, you will need an additional report carried out. This is something your solicitor will request at the sellers’ expense before you proceed further with the purchase.
Environmental search: If you buy a property that is built on polluted land, you may be inheriting a liability to carry out costly remediation, even if the contamination occurred a long time ago. An environmental search confirms the level of risk you face and highlights problems such as flooding and natural subsidence. Due to the technical nature of this report, your solicitor will send you a copy so you can discuss it with a surveyor, as you may need specialist advice.
What happens when the searches are complete?
Each time a search comes back, you will receive a report from your solicitor outlining the result and any issues. If you have any queries, you can then discuss them together.
Most searches are completed in 21 days. The local authority one takes the longest to complete, but unfortunately, councils don’t allow it to be prioritised. Therefore, from a practical point of view, it is essential to start the ball rolling as soon as possible.
It is standard practise for most solicitors to ask for payment on account to cover the cost of searches. The other funds needed from you will be requested at some later point in the transaction.
If you are a first-time buyer with a question about moving home, our residential property expert, Sarah Gaunt, would love to hear from you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org