If you’re in the process of buying you might wonder, what are searches when buying a property?
When you buy a property in the UK, the transaction – where ownership is transferred from one individual or entity to another – is called conveyancing.
That process of conveyancing invariably includes a number of searches.
Here we answer some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the meaning of those property searches and what they involve.
What do searches on a property mean?
Before you complete what is likely to be a substantial financial commitment to purchase a property, you clearly need as much information about it as possible.
That information is gathered by way of searches. As the term suggests, searches can be directed towards discovering practically any type of information about a property, its past, and its previous ownership.
If you are getting a mortgage on the proposed property, the lender will also need relevant information to be satisfied that the property is mortgageable.
How long do house searches take?
Just as every property is different, so the searches that may need to be carried out will also vary from one property to another – and there is no standard time limit on how long this might take.
Nevertheless, the consensus amongst lawyers and conveyancers is that the typical list of relevant searches will be completed within two and a half to six weeks.
More time may be required if initial searches reveal the need for further enquiries, for example, with requests involving local authorities potentially taking a longer time.
What happens after searches come back?
Once the searches are complete, your solicitor or conveyancer will prepare a report for you that details the results of those investigations.
Based on the information revealed in the searches, you may have the material you need to negotiate a variation in the price of the property you are thinking of buying, a delay to the completion date for the transaction, or a request for any other conditions you choose to attach to the purchase.
How long does it take to exchange after searches?
Everything depends on the contents of the report prepared by your solicitor or conveyancer on the search results.
Provided no serious or significant obstacles have been detected and your mortgage provider is also satisfied with the results, it may be possible to move directly to an exchange within one to three weeks.
Can you buy a house without doing searches?
You are under no legal obligation to conduct any searches before buying a property in the UK.
Since searches are designed to reveal important information about the property in which you are about to invest a significant sum, however, it is clearly in your own interests to gather as much information about the property as possible.
Because searches may reveal potentially critical information about the value and integrity of a property, any mortgage lender will certainly insist on a minimum range of searches to be completed.
How much do property searches cost?
The cost of the searches naturally depends on the nature and extent of those made. The price will increase if more – and more complex – searches are required.
Typically, you will need to budget somewhere between £200 and £500 for the searches themselves – a sum that will be reflected in the disbursements billed by your solicitor or conveyancer.
What are the different types of property searches?
We have explained that your searches are designed to gather all the information you need about any property you intend to buy. Of course, as every property is different, so are the searches that might be necessary. Typically, however, the searches fall under several defined headings.
Land Registry searches
A search of the Land Registry records will reveal the ownership of the property, its boundaries and any rights of way, and any official action such as planning enforcement notices, tree preservation orders, compulsory purchase orders, and outstanding financial charges on the property.
Local authority searches
These let you discover what plans and policies passed by the local authority may have on the property you intend to buy.
If planning permission has been given for the development of a large housing estate or plans are passed for major road works, these will significantly impact your enjoyment of the home you plan to buy.
Water and drainage searches
These will tell you about the ownership of the pipes, sewers, and drainage for the property – including whether you have exclusive rights or shared rights of way with neighbours and whether, for example, you will need to get the water supply company’s permission if you intend to extend or refurbish the property.
The principal objective in many of these searches is to establish whether there is a history of flooding in and around the property, but environmental searches may also reveal historic problems arising from past contamination of the land.
As we have mentioned, searches can be performed to reveal practically any information likely to impact the property.
Some issues may be specific to the particular area in which the property is located, or they might relate to historical quirks of English law.
It will be important to know, for example, whether the property sits atop an area previously subject to mining.
Not only might this increase the risk of subsidence or instability in the foundations of the building, but you may also qualify for remedies such as repairs or compensation payments under the 1991 Coal Mining Subsidence Act.
The government’s official guide to property searches also refers to two peculiar English quirks of history that might nevertheless impact your enjoyment of a property you decide to buy.
The first relates to liabilities that fall upon the property owner to contribute to repairs to the local parish church – and the advisability of a Personal Chancel Liability search if you are at risk of any such claim.
The second relates to the Commons Registration Act of 1965 and the need to search the relevant registers to discover the location and ownership of common land and village greens – since long-established law may grant rights of way to third parties across the land you plan to buy.
Property searches help to provide vital information about the past and present situation of the property and any future plans or developments that might affect your enjoyment of it.
The searches may be limited in scope or wide-ranging. Whether they are one or the other will determine the time taken to complete the searches and their cost.
Property market guidance from experts
When buyers are navigating a competitive market, having an expert UK Property Finder to not only find but secure, your next home is invaluable.
To discuss your search in greater detail and learn more about how a buying agent could help, please do get in touch, without obligation.