Order your property searches today
Are you worried that a property you're interested in could be affected by hidden problems in the neighbourhood? Property searches can give you all the information you need about the local area.

Lenders require the main searches before granting you a mortgage, but they can be useful for cash buyers too.

Conveyancing Searches

18/05/2022
(Last Updated: 17/05/2024)
998
14 min read
Key Takeaways
  • Searches are short and detailed reports about matters which could affect the land the property you're interested in is built on and/or the surrounding area.
  • Top Tip: In most cases, buyers encounter difficulties with the Local Authority Search, which can take up to 8 weeks. A solution to this is to check if your local authority offers the option to fast-track property searches.
  • Sometimes, for certain areas, lenders might expect you to buy additional searches as a condition of lending.
  • Providing you are happy with the results of the searches, you can move on to exchanging the contracts and this process usually takes around 1-3 weeks.

Conveyancing searches when buying a house form an integral part of the process and should be seen as a 'must have' and not a 'do I need?'.

The water/environmental companies and local councils store information that your seller won't know, so obtaining searches when buying a house could bring light to potential issues that neither you, the seller, nor their conveyancing solicitors would know.

The average time to exchange is 3 weeks from the point that property searches are back, but beware that solicitors work in different ways.


Do Cash Buyers need property searches?

Mortgage lenders won't lend their money without evidence that certain properties and searches have been obtained, so why would you want to risk your own money by buying without property searches?

Our advice would be to always get conveyancing searches when buying a house, even if you are buying without a mortgage.

All too often, there are restrictions or notes on the local authority register that affect your property/land, which could cause you a problem if you try to sell later on. If your buyer's searches find issues you missed, that might mean you can't sell the property at full market value.


What searches are done when buying a house?

These are the main property searches. There are additional searches you can order when buying a house, which we set out further down the article.

Chancel Search

The land on which your property is built retains a potential liability that you have to contribute to the cost of repairs to the chancel of a parish church. This medieval anomaly affects thousands of properties across England and Wales. Whilst the liability may not be recorded in the title to the property, it may still be binding on the current owner.

As the liability relates to former rectorial land which often stretches for many miles, it can affect old or new properties, urban or rural, and the potential costs can run into thousands of pounds.


Drainage and Water Search

The Regulated Drainage and Water Search identifies if a property is connected to the mains water supply, the location of public water drains, whether there are any public drains or sewers within the boundaries of the property or in the near vicinity, and if any sewers or proposed sewers are adopted.

It also indicates whether foul water and surface water drain from the property to a public sewer and the basis of charging for sewerage and water supply.


Environmental Search

The Environmental Search Report identifies past and present industrial land use, which may indicate the potential for the land to be classified as contaminated.

Suppose the local authority has registered the land as ‘contaminated’. In that case, it can pass the liability and costs for cleaning it up to you as the legal owner or occupier if it cannot find the person responsible for originally contaminating it.

Clean-up costs often exceed the value of the property and/or land. Most environment reports also contain information about nearby industrial processes or installations such as landfill sites or waste management sites, as well as pollution incidents.


Regulated Local Authority Search

Most commonly known as the Local Authority Search, this search is mainly restricted to the property/land of the title you are buying and identifies any issues that might adversely affect it.

This includes information about planning consents, highways information and road adoption agreements, and any notices and/or restrictions affecting the property if, for example, it is within a conservation area, smoke control area or if there are any tree preservation orders.

This search does not identify issues beyond the boundary of the property.



Conveyancing Search Pack

The searches above are likely to satisfy the requirements of all lenders unless you have to purchase any other conveyancing searches (on a case-by-case basis) or your lender requires you to get an Official Local Authority Search.

How much do conveyancing searches cost?

We offer a conveyancing search pack for £295 INC VAT. We can also provide you with any extra local searches you may need.


Additional searches when buying a house


Coal Mining Search

Certain parts of the UK are at risk of hazards caused by mining activity, which has the potential to cause subsidence. If you are buying property or land in Cornwall, for example, your mortgage lender will usually require a Coal Mining Search.

This will identify current, planned, or historic underground workings, and may indicate if any previous claims have been made for subsidence.

Two dumptrucks carrying coal in a quarry. SAM Conveyancing searches include an environmental search, a planning search, and land registry search.

Flood Risk Report

A property does not have to be near a river or sea to be at risk of flooding.

The Environment Agency estimates that over 500,000 properties are at ‘significant risk' of flooding. They suggest that 1.4 million properties are at risk of river (fluvial) or coastal (tidal) flooding, with 2.8m at risk of surface water (pluvial) flooding. From the search results, 1 million properties are at risk of both types of flooding.

As well as identifying traditional flood risks and whether the property benefits from flood defences, a flood search report may identify if the property is at risk of groundwater flooding from rainwater, one of the main causes of the 2013/2014 floods.

A flood search report can also indicate the insurability of a property which may be a mortgage requirement.

Planning Report

A Planning Report goes beyond the scope of a Local Authority Search by providing information about the surrounding area, more detailed information regarding the current and prior planning history of the property, and information about land use policies.

This report provides a professional opinion about the development potential of the property and identifies any areas or sites nearby that may be of potential future interest to a developer, but where planning has not yet been submitted.

These sites may include neighbouring properties and land. The professional opinion also considers the risk of change taking place, search costs, and whether you should undertake any further conveyancing searches which may reveal covenant control on adjoining land.

Energy and Infrastructure Report

An Energy and Infrastructure Report highlights if your property is located near sites likely to be affected by HS2, areas for fracking, wind farms, solar farms or wind turbines, and Crossrail.

Subsidence Report

This report confirms if your property is in an area affected by subsidence due to soil shrinkage. This is an optional report which you can choose not to get if you are happy to proceed without it.

Commons Registration Search

The Commons Search reveals if any part of your property is registered as common land. If so, that part will be subject to public access. If the entire land your property is sitting on is considered common land, the council may order its removal.

Radon Search

If your property is located in a radon-affected area, it is recommended to get this additional report. Radon is a radioactive gas which could make you ill. The report will provide recommendations in case your property is affected.

A collection of dead fish, and bottles in some grimy river water. Use SAM Conveyancing searches today and save on your searches cost

How long after searches do you complete?

This depends on whether or not the conveyancing searches reveal any potential risks. If that is the case, you can try to renegotiate the price with the seller.

If, however, you are satisfied with the search results, you can move on to exchange contracts. You can expect this to be done within 1-3 weeks after getting your conveyancing searches back. Our team will help you throughout the entire process.


What do house searches reveal?

These searches are short and detailed reports about matters which could affect the land the property you're interested in is built on and/or the surrounding area. There are four core conveyancing searches which most lenders insist on if you're trying to buy a property with a mortgage.

They each address a particular subject area and they flag any potential risks regarding the property or the land it's built on. These either need further investigation or reveal something devastating, which might make the house either:

  • be too expensive, at some point in the future, to carry on living in
  • be unpleasant to live in
  • become a hazard to your health

Sometimes, for certain areas, lenders might expect you to buy more location-specific searches as a condition of lending.

Usually, there are 3 responses which occur once your solicitor has looked through them and possibly passed further enquiries across to the seller to find out any additional information.

They'll either broadly conclude that no significant issue or threat has been highlighted and that you can go ahead, or that you should negotiate with the seller, either for a lowering in the selling price or for them to contribute to some works on the property.

Lastly, your solicitor might even strongly advise that you pull out of the purchase entirely.

For example:

Local Authority Search

This search might flag that your property's loft conversion was built without appropriate planning permission or building control sign-off. This might mean it is dangerous and that the property should have been sold as having one less bedroom.

It might mean that you can bargain with the seller to pay for retrospective building control sign-off on the works or perhaps to pay for an indemnity against the local authority fining you if they discover the anomaly.

Then again, further enquiries might uncover that the works were sub-standard and hazardous, which will make any purchase to be regarded as too risky.

A drain in the floor outside. SAM Conveyancing has experts who can provide environmental searches and a water and drainage search for you. Don't let contaminated land affect your sale or purchase.

Water and Drainage Search

A drainage and water search might uncover that your property is not correctly attached to the local water company's sewage network. This equally might entail expensive work being carried out which would need to be paid for.

Environmental Search

An environmental report might flag that the property has been built in an area prone to surface water and/or river flooding. At the very least this might mean building insurance is very expensive or impossible to get.

Chancel Search

A chancel search might flag that you have a potential liability to pay for repairs and upkeep of your local church. That opens up the possibility that in future, you might face a demand for as much as £10,000 to help repair and maintain your parish church roof. It would be advisable to pay for an indemnity policy to cover against this chance.

For the first three cases above, the report concerned could flag many other such possible hazards or detracting factors, which are invaluable to know about and that your solicitor can look into further.

The fact that lenders place so much importance on getting these searches is revealing in itself: any large lending organisation is likely to 'hedge its bets' as much as possible where risk is concerned.

However, if you were a cash buyer, you would have a choice in the matter and might opt to save yourself a few hundred pounds.

If you are in this position, an additional - and very strong - argument to consider is that even though you have the option to press ahead without getting any searches, you need to think over what might happen if you choose to sell up in the future.

If you were selling to a cash buyer, they might, like you, opt not to get conveyancing searches. However, if you're hoping to be able to sell to anyone buying using a mortgage, that person will have to get conveyancing searches because of lender requirements.

If these searches reveal any major issues, the lender might refuse to grant the necessary mortgage; if this is the case, then all lenders are likely to do so.

You might then find out that you're either facing a ruinously high cost to rectify the faults before you can sell up or, in the worst-case scenario, that your property is simply unsellable.

Cartoon image of a magnifying glass overviewing a map. SAM Conveyancing can help with your conveyancing searches: a chancel repair search, planning search, or even mining searches.

Order Your Searches

Commons Registration

Commons Registration Search

Drainage and Water

Drainage and Water Search

Highway Search

Conveyancing Searches Example: HighwaySearch

Planning Report

Planning Report

Local Authority

Regulated Local Authority Search

Energy & Infrastructure

Energy and Infrastructure Search

Climate Risk Report

Conveyancing Searches Example: Climate Report

Environmental Appraisal

Conveyancing Searches Example: Environmental Appraisal

Environmental Report

Environmental Search

Flood Appraisal

Conveyancing Searches Example: Flood Appraisal

Flood Risk

Flood Risk Report

Coal Mining

Coal Mining Search

Subsidence

Subsidence Report

Chancel

Chancel Search

Radon

Radon Search

Chancel Search

Chancel Search

Drainage&Water

Drainage and Water Search

Climate Risk Report

Conveyancing Searches Example: Climate Report

Environmental Report

Environmental Search

Regulated Local Authority

Regulated Local Authority Search

£295 INC VAT

 
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Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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