Searches - What Are They And Why Are They So Important ?

When purchasing a property, you will often hear that searches have been submitted and we await the results. Residential searches consist of replies to enquiries from public authorities and are valid for 6 months. Searches are compulsory if you are taking a mortgage to purchase the property. Cash buyers have the option to proceed without searches, however it is always advisable to find out as much as possible about the property.  

Environmental Search:

Time frame: approximately 48 hours.

Amongst other things this search can reveal –

  • Flooding risks, if the property is in a high-risk area it could mean increased home insurance premiums.  
  • Ground Stability, this could be caused naturally or by non-natural causes. The search can advise of areas with high subsidence claims or events and take information from Geological Survey to advise of the level of risk.
  • Oil and Gas, the search can reveal historical, active or planned wells or extraction areas near the property. It could be a health risk to live nearby a well or extraction site and as a consequence, it could devalue the property.
  • Conservation Areas, this is important to be aware of, if you are looking to make any changes to the property, to extend or develop the property as strict conditions apply to properties located within these areas and often such changes require a separate full planning permission.

Water and Drainage Search:

Time frame: approximately one week.

Amongst other things, this search can reveal –

  • Adopted or unadopted, Sewers and water pipes serving the property can either be publicly or privately maintained. If they are publicly maintained then the local sewerage and/or water undertaker will be responsible for the repairs and maintenance. However, any private drains and sewers are normally the sole responsibility of the property they serve.
  • Location, the search can provide a map showing the location of the drains, pipes and sewers. This is extremely important to be aware of if you are planning to extend the property because the water and/or sewage undertaker has statutory rights to access their assets and carry out work on them, subject to notice.
  • New properties, buyers will need to know if the sewers laid by the developers are subject to adoption.  A buyer will need to know the maintenance and renewal liabilities if the sewers are not going to be adopted. This is important as it could potentially be costly.

Local Authority Search:

Time Frame: approximately  6 – 8 weeks.

Amongst other things this search can reveal –

  • Planning applications, since 1st January 2000 affecting the property and Building regulations, since 1st January 1996.
  • Local Land Charges, these are generally financial charges which relates to work carried out to the property by the local authority or approved bodies for renovation works. In this case you will want to ensure the charge is redeemed by the seller so it no longer effects the property. As well as, restrictions or prohibitions on the use of the property. It is important to be aware of these as they will be binding an enforceable against the new owner.
  • Road adoption, some roads are not maintained by the council so it is important to know if you may be expected to contribute towards the maintenance and also if you have proper access to the property.
  • Approved but not yet implemented alterations, such as cycle tracks, one way roads, traffic calming measures, residential parking controls etc.
  • Certificates, e.g. FENSA, GASSAFE, NICEIC etc. These are important to ensure any works carried out to the property have been done so by a qualified professional, ensuring the property is safe.

In conclusion, the searches help you to make an informed decision about the property you intend to purchase. Your conveyancer will investigate any issues and then provide you with a full summary report outlining the risks and thereafter potential solution for mitigating such risks or otherwise what it might mean to purchase the property with the risk as it is. Searches are also useful in finding factors which may devalue the property and on this basis you could even negotiate the price with the seller. There are other searches that can be carried out if you are particularly concerned about something.

If this is something you would like to speak to our Property Team about, please get in touch.