Buying a property anywhere in the UK results in a long line of legal processes. Some property searches are not legally required to buy a property but if you are buying with a mortgage you’ll have to complete them. But there are some very good reasons why these types of searches have been adopted into the purchase process.
Searches are a very valuable tool to find things out about the property you are looking to buy which you can’t tell just by viewing it. Searches are designed to give you all the information you need about the property you’re looking at, and checking there is nothing hiding in the background that could change your mind.
We explain some of the searches you’ll come across when you buy a home, and what they do:
Local Authority Searches
These searches cover a large area and look at all areas that your local authority would be aware of in relation to your property. This could include:
- Boundary disputes
- Existing planning permissions and any planning constraints on the property
- All information on public rights of way
- Information on all utilities into the property
- New building work or permission for work that has been granted next to or near to the property
The cost of Local Authority searches really depends on the Council and can vary massively from as little as £70 up to hundreds of pounds. Local Authority searches take time to come through, anywhere from 1 week to 6 weeks. If you are looking to move into your new home quickly, you could not complete the searches to save time, but if a motorway is being built at the bottom of your garden or your neighbour is in a long running dispute with the current owner, you won’t know about it.
There are additional local authority questions you may want to ask as part of the local authority search but you will have to pay extra for these. Some examples of them are Noise Abatement Zones and public paths for example. If you have concerns about any aspects of the property or surrounding land, talk to a Conveyancer who can best advise you.
A Title Register and Title Plan search is an easy and cheap one. The documents are available from the Land Registry and currently cost £3 each. These documents are legally required to sell a property, and these will be obtained by the seller to prove their title and ownership. Unless of course the property is not registered with the Land Registry. If it’s not registered, the seller will prove their title with the deeds.
The Environment Agency estimates that one in six properties in England & Wales are at risk from flooding, so it’s worth checking the flood risk of the property you are buying. You can do this through Land Registry too and it currently costs £9 plus VAT.
If you are having an environmental search done on the property you are buying, you can skip a flood search as the information you’ll get from the environmental search will be much more valuable and detailed, but if you are buying with a mortgage this may be a requirement.
The environmental search looks at the environment around the property and will include contaminated ground, details of flooding assessments and predictions, industrial work both current and previous, subsidence issues and the stability of the ground and any hazards such as radon gas.
There are certain times where your Solicitor may recommend a location search, also known as a local search. This would look for regional or location specific issues such as tin mining in Cornwall and coal mining in many different parts of the UK. This will help to give a picture about whether mining has taken place and if so, whether the mining creates an issue for the property. This is important to know as there may be subsidence as a result of the mining or other structural issues. Buying with a mortgage will probably mean you have to complete this search.
Water Authority Search
This search looks at who supplies the water to the property and deals with sewerage, and how this affects any extensions or building that’s been done. This will cost less than £100, but will vary depending on the authority. Buying with a mortgage will probably mean you have to complete this search.
This is an old law that some homes are liable to help local churches with their repair bills. You can complete a search to see if a property is affected, or simply buy insurance to cover you if it is. The search itself will cost £18 and the insurance is only a couple of pounds more so it may be more sensible to skip the search and simply buy the insurance.
These are all the searches that most Conveyancers would recommend, but you should take their advice. After all, knowing all you can about the property is the best approach when you are spending such a significant amount of money.
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