Buying a house: what property searches do I need?
It is important to know as much as possible about the property you are hoping to buy before committing to the purchase. Residential property conveyancing executive, Laura Vanstone, outlines some of the different types of property searches you may need.
Property searches are one of the key parts of the conveyancing process. They are hugely important in helping to gather together all the information relating to, and concerning, a property which we provide in a full report to buyers. If you have found your dream home then you will want to know if there is a public footpath past your front door.
Each search offers specific information about certain elements of the property. When all the details are collated, it provides a clearer picture for buyers. Searches should be completed before the exchange of contracts as they could highlight key issues which could affect the value and enjoyment of the property.
Local authority search
A local authority search consists of information on the planning history for the property, nearby contamination’s, road schemes along with details of the highways and footpaths adjoining the property.
These searches are vital, and can unearth key pieces of information that will be decisive in whether you buy the property or not. The searches will highlight anything in the local area that will affect the property.
The local authority search is made up of two parts.
The first part of the local authority search is the Local Land Charges Register Search (LLC1). This will be able to tell you if:
- the property is a listed building
- the property is located in a conservation or tree preservation area
- the property’s conditional planning permissions.
The second part of the local authority search is the Enquiries of the Local Authority (CON29). This includes:
- the property’s planning history
- if there are any proposed building plans that could affect the property
- if there are any road or traffic schemes planned near the property
- the area and property’s building regulations
- if the Highways are adopted by the local authority.
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This report is designed to supplement the findings of the local authority search by also looking at development activity in the wider area. The search will reveal planning applications for development nearby and whether these are residential or commercial as well as the scale of the development. It will also reveal whether there are any developmental constraints which may be of interest.
Any land use designations are highlighted to show how the area may change over the coming years, along with any proposed future uses for land in nearby areas. Additionally, information on local schools and essential amenities, including school inspection results, will provide you with the complete picture.
Common Land, Town and Village Green Search
This search confirms whether any land forming part of the property or surrounding the property has been registered as an area of common land or a town or village green. If it does then we can advise you on how it affects your property.
Drainage and water search
The drainage and water search will reveal exactly where the adopted drainage and water pipes are in relation to a property. The search will also identify whether the property is connected to the public sewage system or water supply, which enables us to check that adequate legal rights to use any private section are contained in the legal title. It also reveals if there is risk of flooding due to proximity to public sewers and how the property will be charged for its water supply.
This search will cover you for any environmental issues within the locality of the property. An environmental search looks at everything from flood risk to subsidence. It is carried out by a company that maintains detailed information about previous land uses within the vicinity of a property.
Environmental searches will:
- examine the history of the uses of land around the property
- give information in relation to contamination or radon gas nearby
- identify if there is a flood risk in the area
- identify risk of subsidence
- identify solar panels and wind turbines.
If potential contamination is revealed we will advise upon the implications.
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Mining and Mineral searches
These searches are essential in areas where mining work used to be or continues to be carried out. There are different types of mining, stone and mineral searches in relation to different substances such as china clay, limestone, gypsum, coal, lead and tin.
Open mines or excavated tunnels may run beneath a property, putting it at risk of subsidence, and it’s essential to know exactly what lies beneath or nearby.
Buyers often question why it is necessary to make a mining or mineral search when there is no sign of any mines having existed in the area. When mines are closed, they leave little or no evidence on the surface but can still cause major problems for property owners. Mines often run long distances underground from the mine shafts and extend beneath residential properties. When old tunnels and shafts cave in, this is likely to cause damage to buildings above. We will advise you which mining searches are required for your purchase.
Are property searches really necessary?
Anyone buying with a mortgage will generally need to have property searches carried out to comply with the requirements of their lender to ensure that the property has no hidden defects.
There is a further option to proceed on the basis of ’no search insurance’ however, this route varies upon each individual circumstances and many lenders do not accept this option.
Cash buyers could proceed without searches, however, it is risky as the searches can reveal if there are any problems that could affect the property. Our advice is always to obtain full searches so that we can identify whether there are matters that may adversely affect the use and occupation of your property, as well as its value and marketability.