So, how long do property searches take? What do they include? What can you expect to pay? We take a close look at the conveyancing process and answer some FAQs to give you everything you need to know.
What searches are carried out by conveyancers?
- Local authority
- Land Registry
- Drainage & water
- Coal authority
- Chancel repair
Some checks are a legal requirement, others optional, depending on the property and its location. The need for which searches need to be carried out will be determined by your conveyancer and mortgage lender on a case-by-case basis.
#1 – Local authority
This is split into two parts: a LLC1 and a CON29 questionnaire. The former (Local Land Charges Register) would look at (if applicable to the property):
- Whether it’s a listed building
- If it’s located in a conservation area
- Tree preservation orders
- Conditional planning permissions
- Smoke control areas
- Planning agreements
The second part, the CON29 looks at:
- Planning history
- Public highway information/proposals for new roads
- Tree preservation orders
- Railway schemes/proposals
- Public footpaths
- Building control regulations
- Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)
- Assets of community value
Optional searches of the CON290 include gas pipelines, flood defences and land drainage consents, as well as common land enquiries.
#2 – Environmental
These may need to be carried out to determine whether the property you’re buying is built on (or near to) contaminated water, or a landfill site. If toxic substances aren’t found before you take ownership of the property, they could pose a serious health hazard, or make your home impossible to sell later down the line.
#3 – Land Registry
Your solicitor needs to check the ‘title register’ and ‘title plan’ at the Land Registry to ensure the seller is the legal owner of the property. This is a legal requirement for the sale to go ahead.
#4 – Drainage & water
This establishes where your water comes from and whether there are any public drains on the property. Findings could impact you later down the line, for example if you want to get an extension on the property.
#5 – Coal authority
This may need to be carried out if the property is in an area affected by coal mining.
#6 – Chancel repair
These searches establish whether you’ll be liable for the cost of repairs to a parish church.
#7 – Property-specific
There are other searches that can be carried out that are specific to each individual property, such as:
- Boundary checks (and any previous disputes)
- Shared access & rights of way
- Shared utility supply
- If the property is freehold or leasehold
- Building regulations and certifications (e.g. gas, electric, glazing)
- Anything flagged with the energy performance certificate (EPC)
How long do searches take?
These property searches take place at the start of the conveyancing process, before the exchange of contracts. They typically take anywhere between 3-8 weeks.
What can slow the process down?
Searches can be delayed due to factors outside of anyone’s control, such as a busy property market. During periods of high demand, everything can be slowed down, which can be frustrating, as it affects how long it takes property searches to come back.
However, you also need to ensure your solicitor is proactive and communicative. When finding someone, you should check they have capacity to take on your workload. If not, the process could be significantly slower. We can help you find a conveyancer, all who work on a no sale, no fee basis. Get a conveyancing quote below.
How much can you expect to pay?
Conveyancing fees are split into two parts: the cost of the legal work & disbursements, with searches falling into the latter category.
Fees vary depending on a range of factors, and which extra searches you’ll need. For example, local authority searches can cost anywhere from £200-£450.
What if property searches find issues?
Only at exchange of contracts does a sale become legally binding. Up until this point, both buyer and seller can back out. You could be gazumped, for example. Reduce your risk of this by being prepared, responsive and trying to build a good relationship with the seller.
Also, depending on what is found during the property searches, your mortgage lender could change their mind. A mortgage in principle isn’t a guarantee, and if something is uncovered that threatens the security of their loan (such as severe flood risk) they may withdraw your offer.
Depending on what is found during the conveyancing process, you may choose to walk away from the property, or negotiate the house price.
Home buyers’ protection insurance can offer a safety net should the purchase fall apart after you’ve already spent money on surveys, solicitors etc.
Should you take out indemnity insurance?
Indemnity insurance is a form of protection many buyers take out to cover them in certain difficult situations, or ones that could result in financial loss, such as the previous owner carrying out major works without applying for planning permission.
While checks carried out by your conveyancer should be thorough, it’s an extra level of protection that can offer peace of mind. A previous owner could have breached restrictive covenants, for example, which you could be liable for once legally responsible for the property.
Need a solicitor?
Property searches aren’t the only thing solicitors will carry out; there are many other vital jobs, such as deposit transfer and payment of stamp duty.
Haven’t found one yet? We can help you out. Get in touch below – for free.
Last Updated: September 1st, 2021