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Searches - why do I need them?

Buying a property is likely to be the most expensive purchase you will ever make, and ensuring you have sufficient information to assist in your decision to purchase is vital.  Searches are an important part of the conveyancing process.  They cost a few hundred pounds, but that is only a tiny fraction of the value of the property.  The result of a search may mean that you decide not to proceed with your purchase, and look for another property to buy.

If you are purchasing a property with a mortgage, your lender will always insist on searches being carried out.  Cash purchasers do not have to have searches but we would always recommend them. 

The usual searches for a purchase or remortgage are:

Local Authority Search

This is a search of the local authority in which the property is situated, and reveals matters specific to the property being purchased, including:

  • Planning Permissions granted or refused and Building Regulation Consents.  We will check that the property has Planning Permission for its construction and its current use, and whether all necessary consents have been obtained for any works which the sellers have carried out.  If those consents are not in place, enforcement action could be taken against you for the sellers’ breaches.
  • Whether any planning enforcement notices have been served on the property, which you will have to comply with.
  • The location of the nearest public highway. This may not be the road which the property abuts.  If the property does not abut a public highway, then you will need a right of way over the intervening land. 
  • Any road or rail proposals in the vicinity (e.g. entirely new roads, widening or re-routing of existing roads, Crossrail, HS2)
  • Whether the property is a Listed Building, and if it is, which parts are listed, and whether all works have been done with the relevant Listed Building Consents.
  • Whether the property is in a Conservation Area.
  • Restrictions on permitted development.  These are known as Article 4 Directions, and will require you to obtain planning permission for minor works that would not normally require it.
  • Public rights of way, such as footpaths and bridleways.
  • Tree Preservation Orders.

Water and Drainage Search

This search shows whether the property is connected to the mains water supply, mains drainage and surface water drainage.  The result will also reveal the location of any public sewers or mains water within the boundaries of the property, which may restrict your ability to extend your home in the future. 

Environmental Search

This search identifies any potential environmental risk from past or present uses of the property itself or land and buildings in the vicinity of it; such as current and historical landfill sites and industrial uses.  The search also provides information regarding the risk of flooding from rivers, sea or surface water; although if such a risk was identified, we would also carry out a specific flood search.

Chancel Repair Search

This search shows whether the property is located in an area with the potential risk of the owner being liable to contribute towards the cost of repairs to the chancel of the parish Church.  If a potential liability is revealed, we will put in place an indemnity insurance policy at completion.  The cost of these policies are low, and they protect you financially, should you receive any request from the Church to pay towards repairs in the future.  There is debate over whether buyers can be subject to such liability.  Our view is that the law in this area is not definitive and we recommend insurance if a liability is revealed.

There are other searches which may be required depending on the area in which the property is located, including coal, chalk and tin mining searches. 

If any issues are revealed by the searches, there is more often than not a solution, and you may be able to negotiate a price reduction or arrange an indemnity insurance policy to cover any potential issues.

By having all the relevant searches carried out at the outset of a transaction, you are fully informed to make a decision on purchasing a property which could save you thousands of pounds.  If you purchase a property without carrying out searches and then learn that the property does not suit your needs, you could incur considerable additional costs.

If you would like to discuss searches in more detail please contact me –

If you would like a quote for conveyancing services please contact one of our conveyancers:

Jo Green (Northampton)

Jemma Hanna (Northampton)

Clare Best (Cambridge)

Tony Ekin (Norwich)

Karina Frudd (Norwich)