Buying a new home is not always as simple as handing over the money and fixing a moving date. As anyone who has bought a new home will tell you, there is a wealth of information to take in once the conveyancing process begins. One process which we get asked about a lot as conveyancing solicitors are property searches.

Searches are something that you will hear mentioned either by your estate agent or by your solicitor when you begin the process of buying a house. This is short guide to tell you exactly what a property search is, and when and why you need to order searches.

What is a Property Search?

Searches are conducted to provide the buyer with as much information about the property they are buying as possible.  When you are buying a property, your estate agent will be able to offer you information about the property such as the number of bedrooms, the local schools and the size of your garden, but their information is limited to what they have been told by the seller. In Doncaster this can vary.

Conveyancing in England operates on a ‘buyer beware’ basis which means that it is up to the buyer to find out as much about the property as they can before they complete their purchase. If the seller has given incorrect information which the buyer has not checked out as being accurate, it is unlikely that anything can be done in the buyer’s favour once the matter has completed.

Types of Search

The main searches that you will come across are:

Local Search                      

A local search will look over data held by the local authority in relation to the property. It will let you know whether planning permission has been granted or rejected for extensions in the past or future or may even let you know that the property is in the middle of a planned new bypass!

Water/Drainage Search

This search will give you information about whether the property has access to mains water and drainage. It will show the location of piping and access to the sewers. For example, the water company may at times need access to your driveway to check the sewers.

Mining Search                  

This search is compulsory in some regions with a history of mining, for example here in Doncaster. The search provides information of the location of working and disused mines and whether your property is at risk of subsidence by proximity.

Environmental search  

This search will alert you to any landfill sites or patches of contaminated land near to the property which may affect the buyers investment or even their health in the future. It will also alert the buyer to any flood risk that may be present.

Chancel Searches           

Historically, some households in parishes in England and Wales were liable to contribute financially to the parish church. In some areas, this liability still exists today. A chancel search will tell you whether you can expect to be called upon to contribute to the new church roof once you have bought the property!

Once you have the search results, your conveyancing solicitor will discuss the contents with you and help you to decide whether to proceed with the sale. Most issues raised in property searches can be resolved by finding out more information from the seller.

Do I need Searches?

If you are purchasing a property with a mortgage, the likelihood is that you will be required by the mortgage company, your ‘lender’, to have the searches carried out. This is to make sure that they are not investing in a property which is likely to be overpriced or decrease in value in the future.

If you are a cash buyer, searches are not compulsory. However, you will find that almost all conveyancing solicitors will recommend that you have searches carried out so as not to risk any surprises once your purchase is completed.

I have had a mortgage survey done do I still need searches?

Your mortgage survey is different to your property searches. When you have applied for a mortgage you the mortgage company will send a surveyor to look over the property and make an initial assessment as to whether it is worth the price the buyer has agreed to pay. Once the lender is satisfied that the asking price is accurate, they will grant a mortgage offer.

Property searches delve much deeper and provide much broader information than a mortgage survey. They assure the mortgage company that they are making a secure investment.

Who conducts the Searches?

Most searches are conducted by private companies who have access to information in the local area. Your conveyancing solicitor will order and receive the searches on your behalf, sharing the information with you once it is received. If you’re based in Doncaster we can help you this this.

Is there an alternative?

In some circumstances, your solicitor may recommend a search indemnity. This is an indemnity policy which will insure you against any eventuality which may otherwise have been discovered in the searches. This is often popular with cash buyers as it offers some security but at a lower cost than searches. It is, however, unlikely that you will be able to take this route if you have a mortgage. Only a select few lenders allow search indemnities, if you are interested you would have to ask your solicitor to check with your individual lender.

The blog was by Zoe Hutchinson

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