Conveyancing searches (property searches)

What are conveyancing searches? All you need to know

Conducting conveyancing searches, also known as property searches, is a vital part of the process when purchasing a home.

A key part of your licensed conveyancers role is to gather information about the property before you finalise the purchase. This ensures that you are fully informed before you become legally obligated to complete the transaction. They will work diligently to gather as much information as possible, from a variety of different sources. ‘Searches’ form part of this information gathering and enquiry exercise and the search results will hopefully paint a picture about the property itself, the land it lays on and anything close by that is likely to affect its value going forward.

What’s more, if you’re buying with the assistance of a mortgage your lender will require that all prudent searches are carried out, to ensure there are no matters which might affect future marketability, in the event they needed to repossess.

What do your conveyancing searches include?

Local Authority searches

The main things you can expect to learn with this search are:

  • Planning history
  • Building control history together with any enforcement action
  • Highways information, such as which roads adjacent to the property are adopted
  • Whether the property is a listed building, or in a conservation area

Water and drainage searches

The main things you can expect to learn with this search are:

  • If the property is connected to a public water supply and sewer
  • Whether the water supply is metered or rateable
  • The location of the public sewer – if this is within the boundaries of the property you would need the water authority’s consent to build over it

Environmental searches

The main things you can expect to learn with this search are:

  • Flooding history and likelihood
  • Subsidence issues
  • Contaminated land issues

How long do conveyancing searches take to complete?

The time it takes to complete conveyancing searches varies and can take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks. The property searches need to be completed before you can exchange contracts so ordering these in a timely manner is important. Your conveyancer will usually require that searches are paid for upfront, so it is important that this payment is made without delay, once requested.

Local searches are managed and communicated differently by over 340 local authorities, either electronically or via post. As a result, the speed at which these searches are returned can vary greatly depending on the location and can be affected by things such as potential understaffing of these departments and holidays.

However, other searches like environmental and water and drainage are usually completed much faster.

Can I speed up my conveyancing searches?

Unfortunately, there is typically no way to expedite conveyancing searches that may be delayed by the issues mentioned earlier. However, there may be some local authorities who offer a fast-track service for an additional fee.

The best thing you can do is discuss timings with your conveyancer as they will be best placed to advise you on the conveyancing timeline you are likely to be facing.

Are there any other property searches I may need?

You may need additional searches depending on the area surrounding the property you’re purchasing, in addition to the standard searches. These searches could include:

  • Flood risk report
  • Chancel repair liability search
  • Canal & river search
  • Commons registration search
  • Coal mining & brine search

What happens if a problem is found in the conveyancing searches?

If your property searches highlight an issue your conveyancer will flag this to you.  The issues which could crop us are wide-ranging, but it is very unusual for an issue to be raised which is a complete “deal-breaker”. More commonly, your conveyancer will just need to ask for further information from the seller’s conveyancer.

How long after completing property searches do you exchange contracts?

This time period can vary wildly based on the  Individual circumstances of the case.  Property transactions are generally taking c16 weeks currently.

Can you purchase a property without doing conveyancing searches?

Conveyancing searches are compulsory if you are buying a property using a mortgage. If you are a cash buyer then property searches are not legally required, but it is highly recommended that they are obtained. Making sure you have full conveyancing searches completed will help to ensure you don’t have any nasty surprises once the property legally belongs to you

Whatever journey your search enquiries takes you, you should rest assured that your licensed conveyancer will do their best to keep you updated..

To find out more about the conveyancing process take a look at our guide to conveyancing.

Looking to move or sell your property? Get your free conveyancing quote here.

If you have any questions, or would like to instruct us to work on your behalf, we can be contacted 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5:30pm Saturday.

0344 244 2000

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