Property searches are an essential part of buying a home. They can help to minimise the chance of there being a potentially costly problem with a property before you legally commit to buying it. Property searches are usually instructed by your conveyancer, who will contact several external authorities to carry out searches on your behalf. For most people, buying a home is the biggest investment they will ever make, so you want peace of mind that everything is all right before you proceed to purchase.
What are the main property searches?
There are four main searches normally ordered by conveyancing solicitors, such as Sam Conveyancing. The first is a Local Authority search, which comes in two parts. The Local Land Charges Register Search discovers whether there are any charges or restrictions on the property or land. This covers things such as listed building status, a tree preservation order or whether the property sits in a conservation or smoke control area. Planning agreements and conditional planning agreements are also covered under this part of the search. The second part is known as Enquiries of the Local Authority, and this offers information on external issues such as planning decisions which could affect the property, plans for new roads or rail lines or public highways information.
An environmental search is also carried out to look at the quality of the land on which the property stands. It investigates past uses of the site to determine whether there could be any contamination of the land. This is important, as some toxins can pose a serious health risk. The environmental report also covers the ground stability, landslips and proximity of overhead power lines or phone masts. It usually takes around two to three weeks to obtain the results.
A water and drainage search is carried out to ascertain where the property’s water supply comes from, how the property will be charged for its water supply, how water drains away and the location of nearby drains and sewers.
The final property search is a title search. This looks at public records on a property to confirm who the property’s rightful legal owner is. The Land Registry will be able to confirm that a seller is the legal owner of a property and has the right to sell it.
These searches should be carried out alongside a home buyers survey in Watford, Windsor, Wolverhampton or wherever your potential new property is located.
Are there any other property searches that should be carried out?
Your conveyancer will be able to decide, based on the area you are buying in, whether some other searches are needed too. For example, if your potential new home is in a mining area, then a mining search should be ordered to discover the possibility of mineshaft related subsidence.
A flood risk report can find out if an area is particularly susceptible to flooding.
In some cases, a chancel risk search should be carried out. Around half a million properties in England and Wales may be affected by this ancient law, which sees the owners of certain properties obliged to fund the upkeep of the parish church. In 2009, a couple was forced to sell their farmhouse to pay the £230,000 repair bill for St John the Baptist Church in Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire
The length of time taken to carry out property searches varies between agencies, with some local authority searches taking anywhere from a few days to a few months. Once completed, surveys must be approved before completion of the property sale can take place.