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If it’s the first time you have been involved in a conveyancing transaction, you may question what are conveyancing searches and why are they needed. Searches are enquiries which are made by your conveyancing solicitor to various authorities to find out more about the property you wish to purchase.
Are conveyancing searches necessary?
While it would be extremely unwise to do so, cash purchasers can decide to proceed without searches. However, you may end up with a property which, for example:
- floods regularly, making it difficult or impossible to insure;
- has an unstable mineshaft running beneath it;
- has debt attached to it, the responsibility for which you may inherit with the property;
- sits on land used previously for industrial purposes and is contaminated with such delights as asbestos, arsenic, solvents, or gases;
- has a new housing estate, road, wind farm, or factory planned close by, which may affect not only your enjoyment of the property but also its value.
If you are buying with a mortgage, the Council for Mortgage Lenders Instructions state that you must undertake “all conveyancing searches a prudent solicitor would carry out”.
How many searches are done when buying a house?
Three main types of searches are done when buying a house:
- Local Authority Search: highlights issues concerning planning, building control, highways, and pollution. Find your local authority.
- Water and Drainage Search: clarifies who owns and maintains the sewers, drains, and pipes, and their location. It will confirm whether the property is connected to the public water supply and sewer, and whether the water supply is rateable or on a meter. This search will also confirm whether you will need permission from the water authority to extend the property.
- Environmental Search: highlights issues concerning flooding, subsistence, landslide, and contaminated land.
Other types of search required will depend upon the location of the property. Your solicitor will know which searches are prudent in a particular locality. Common examples of additional searches are to check for possible threats from:
How long do searches take?
How long conveyancing searches take is primarily dictated by each local authority’s current volume of work. Typically, much will depend upon the Local Authority Search, which, wherever the property is located, invariably takes the longest. If you are lucky, you will have it within 2 to 3 weeks, more likely 4 to 6 weeks, but sometimes up to 10 weeks.