What Are Searches When Buying A House?

Written by Millie Archer

I love all things property and have a real eye for detail. I’m always reading up on property news, whether it be renting a first property or buying a mansion.

Revealing everything you need to know about searches when buying a house...

Buying a house is an experience most people love and hate in equal measures. Finding a new house is only the start of a long and complicated adventure…

First, you need to sell the house you’re in AND find your next house, making sure in both cases you settle on a price you’re happy with. You also need to get a house repayments, find a solicitor, arrange removals, schedule surveys and before you can even think about exchange, you need to conduct searches on your next house.

You may be reading that thinking ‘WHAT?! What are searches when buying a house?’, which is a common question, one which we’re going to answer for you!

Not only do you need to decide which searches to conduct (which is going to add MORE to your ever growing ‘to-do’ list), you also need to consider what you’re going to do if the results show there are problems with your next dream home!

Conducting searches is also an added time and cost – now you’re understanding the ‘hate’ part of the love-hate relationship with moving.

We’re going to help with all your burning questions around searches when buying a house, trying to make the moving process seem that little bit easier.

You can use this menu to help you find the answer you need:

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What searches are done when buying a house?

When buying a house, there are certain searches which should be carried out before you can head towards exchange of contracts.

When you exchange contracts, the deal becomes legally binding, so it’s important you make sure there are no major issues with the property before you put pen to paper.

The searches, when buying a house, are organised by your solicitors and are known as ‘conveyancing searches’.

The main searches which are carried out are Local Authority search; drainage and water search; environmental search; flood risk search; coal and general mining searches; chancel repair search; land registry search; and high-speed rail search.

We know that’s a lot of information to take in and sounds like A LOT of searches, so we’re going to break each search down, so you can see the benefit of each one and whether it’s something you and your solicitor feel you need:

  1. Local Authority search - looks for planning, pollution and building control issues. This search will normally be conducted in two parts – LLC1 and CON29. There are two types of Local Authority search, with one being a generic council search and the other being done by a company who are registered with the Property Codes Compliance Board. The second option comes with more reassurance as it’s covered by insurance.
  2. Drainage and water search - looks to find out where all the drainage systems are around the property and look for the risk of these affecting the property in the future. This will provide you with important information on where the drains run, which may affect you if you’re planning on building an extension.
  3. Environmental search - looks for whether the property has been built on or near contaminated land, waste, or landfill site. This search will also do a basic check for flooding and any landslip or subsidence issues.
  4. Flood risk search - looks for risk of flooding (as the name suggests). Generally, more essential if you’re buying a property near water, as these properties are most at risk and harder to insure.
  5. Coal and general mining search - looks for old tunnels which used to be used for coal, brine, or salt mining. The old tunnels can put the property at risk of susidence (sudden or gradual sinking of the ground surface).
  6. Chancel repair search - looks for a property’s liability for the cost of repairs of the local parish church. This doesn’t just apply to old houses and the liability may not be mentioned in the title, so it’s definitely something worth checking.
  7. Land registry search - looks for any bankruptcy which may have taken place and whether the seller of the property is the legitimate owner. You could also include ‘title plan’ and ‘title register’ searches in this same category, as the documents are purchased through the Land Registry website. The title plan search is a map which will show the location and boundaries of the property and the title register has details about who owns the property and the land and how it has been paid for.
  8. High-speed rail search - looks for whether the property you’re interested in is affected by the planned works of the new high-speed railway, HS2.

How long do searches take when buying a house?

Depending on the situation, searches, when buying a house, can take differing amounts of times. The size of the property and land will naturally dictate the amount of time.

However, we have a rough guide on how long to expect your searches when buying a house to take:

 Type of search  Amount of time taken
 Local Authority  Can take up to several months
 Drainage and water  1 to 10 days
 Environmental  1 to 10 days
 Flood risk  1 to 10 days
 Coal and general mining  1 to 10 days
 Chancel repair  1 to 10 days
 Land registry  1 to 10 days

Statistics from The Advisory

As the high-speed rail search is a fairly new search, there’s no real data on how long this will take. However, it’s thought to not take much longer than 10 days, as an expert will be able to find plans fairly easily.

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Are searches compulsory when buying a house?

This may come as a surprise to you but searches, when buying a house, are actually not compulsory – you can decide whether you want to have them and which ones, if any, you feel you want to have.

Although searches when buying a house aren’t compulsory, you could say they’re necessary. Before exchanging contracts, which adds a ‘legal seal’ to the deal, you want to feel confident there are no major issues with the property and the only way to get this confidence is through searches.

If you’re buying a house with a house repayments, you have less control over which searches are carried out as the lender will want to make sure there are no issues with the property, as should they need to take ownership of the property, they will want to make sure they can make their money back.

If you’re buying a house with cash, no one is telling you what searches to have and so it’s up to you to complete as many or as little searches as you like.

However, if you aren’t to do searches when buying a house, you may end up with several issues, such as:

  • Regular flooding (makes insurance more difficult to get)
  • A new road, railway line, housing estate, etc built nearby which could affect your property price, positively or negatively
  • Has a debt attached to it which you will have to take over if you buy the property before having the debt sorted first
  • A hole suddenly appearing in garden due to a mineshaft collapsing
  • The land under your house sinking, causing your house to sink with it

Not doing these checks can make it difficult to get house insurance and are also harder to sell when it comes to it, as buyers don’t want to take on a property with lots of issues.

How much do searches cost when buying a house?

Just like the length of time taken, searches when buying a house will all have different costs. A search may cost more on your property compared to the same search on a friend’s property as it’s all relative to the size of the job.

For example, if you’re having an environmental search and you have lots of land, this will naturally cost more than the same search on a small plot.

We have got together a table of costs as a guide to help you work out how much it will be for your searches, when buying a house:

 Type of search  Amount of time taken
 Local Authority  £60-£230
 Drainage and water  £50-£100
 Environmental  £25-£60
 Flood risk  £20-£50
 Coal and general mining  £25-£120
 Chancel repair  £20-£90
 Land registry – title register  £3 (online copy) £7 (official copy)
 Land registry – title plan  £3 (online copy) £7 (official copy)

Statistics from The Advisory

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What happens after searches are complete?

After searches are complete, if there are no major issues that need solving and you as a buyer are happy, then you can work towards exchange of contracts. However, if the searches come back with issues, a decision will have to be made about whether these can be overcome or that they’re ‘unsolvable’, meaning dropping out of the sale.

The reason searches, when buying a house, are so important is to avoid buying a house which is going to be bill after bill trying to fix problems, which may not even be fixable. These issues are also only going to make it harder to sell.

What happens if there’s a problem?

If you face a ‘common’ problem, such as low water pressure, it’s normally something that can be solved with a bit of help from a specialist, in this case a plumber.

However, not all issues that arise will be fixable, which often leads to the sale falling through. In some cases, you may be able to secure indemnity insurance.

Indemnity insurance is an insurance policy where the insurance company guarantees compensation for losses or damage sustained. It enables the buyer a degree of peace of mind when buying a property with risks attached that the insurance company will be there to help cover the costs of fixing any problems.

The cost of the insurance will vary, depending on the issue, but will likely be lower than the cost of fixing any problem which may arise as a result of the discovered concern.

Not all problems will be able to be covered by indemnity insurance and often buyers don’t want to take on the properties with issues. Even if they can get insurance, it’s not an ideal situation knowing that something may go wrong with your property and even if the insurance covers the costs, the house owners will still have to undergo the inconvenience of getting it fixed.

Selling a house with issues isn’t easy, made even harder when you’re in a chain, where everyone is relying on each other’s sales going through. Maybe below you the chain has broken, due to issues which have come back on a search and you’re left wondering what you’re going to do, as you need to sell your house to be able to move on with your onward purchase.

Or maybe your house sale is constantly falling through because your house brings up issues on the searches. After this has happened multiple times, you’re probably starting to wonder where you can find a buyer and FAST?!

Here at The Property Buying Company, we’re a cash buyer of houses in any condition and any location – no need to worry about those searches! We will offer you a cash sum for your house, which we can get in your bank in as little as 7 days, all whilst covering your legal fees.

We’re here to take the stress out of selling your house and so we’ll even help to arrange removals, helping you get into your next house that little bit faster.

Give us a call or fill in our online form today to receive a no-obligation cash offer to help you go into searches on a new house, with the confidence you’ve sold your house and can put down a deposit for exchange.

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