What Searches Do I Need When Buying a Property?
When buying a property, the basic searches you need are Land Registry searches, local authority searches, environmental searches and water authority searches. Your solicitor may also recommend some additional searches, depending on the property.
Types of property searches
When you buy a property, your conveyancing solicitor will announce that he/she is going to carry out the ‘searches’. This is an over-arching term, and you might wonder exactly what these searches are. At the very least, these searches usually include –
- Land Registry searches
- Local authority searches
- Environmental searches
- Water authority searches
Your solicitor may also perform other searches, depending on the property. These might include –
- Location specific searches, such as mining searches
- A commons search
- A chancel repair search
Land Registry searches
Land Registry searches verify that the vendor is the legal owner of the property – and so has the authority to sell it. This is established by checking the title plan and the title register.
Local authority searches
Local authority searches disclose information held by the local authority relating to the property and the surrounding area. For example, the searches highlight whether –
- The property is under any restrictions, perhaps because it is listed or sits within a conversation area
- The property has any attachments to it, such as rights of way or tree preservation orders
- There are any proposed buildings works nearby, such as roads, developments or other planning permissions
Environmental searches uncover whether there are any environmental hazards that could affect the property. This includes things such as contaminated land/water, gas hazards and the risk of flooding.
Water authority searches
Water authority searches confirm where the property’s water comes from – is it attached to the mains water supply or something else? It also reveals whether there are any public drains or sewers on the property, which could impact your ability to carry out building work.
Location specific searches
Location specific searches target issues that are known to affect the local area. For example, if mining was performed nearby, you will need a mining search to check whether the property is built on unstable ground.
A commons search checks whether the property borders common land, such as a village green. If so, building developments may be prohibited or restricted.
Chancel repair search
A chancel repair search checks whether the property is located near a church, and if so, whether the property owner must contribute towards the cost of church repairs.
Do I have to get searches done when buying a property?
If you are buying a property with a mortgage, your lender will almost certainly demand that searches are carried out. This is part of the lender’s risk assessment. It does not want to be stuck with an undesirable property if you default on the mortgage and face a repossession order.
If you a buying a property without a mortgage, there is no obligation to do these searches, with the exception of the Land Registry search. However, it is highly recommended that you do, as it ensures you identify any issues with the property before purchasing.
Why should I get searches when buying a property?
In England and Wales, property is sold on the basis of ‘caveat emptor’, which translates as ‘buyer beware’. In other words, the seller is not duty-bound to reveal any defects with the property or the surrounding area. As a buyer, it is up to you to uncover anything which could potentially deter you from the purchase.
That is the purpose of these searches – to ensure you know precisely what you are buying, and whether there are any problems you should know about. If you do not carry out these searches, you may have a nasty surprise later down the line – whether that’s a new road built outside your garden, subsidence or a chancel repair bill.
Such problems can prove very costly, and may even make it difficult to sell the property in the future. So, while you might be reluctant to spend a few hundred pounds on property searches, it is well worth it in the long-run.
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