Do I need a conveyancing search?

If you are buying with a mortgage, the lender will almost certainly require conveyancing searches to be carried out. But even without a lender insisting on it, for your own security and peace of mind, it is generally recommended that you should still do them.

Searches are the only reliable way of receiving certain important information that isn’t covered elsewhere in the conveyancing process. For instance, a basic survey deals with the physical condition of the property, but it doesn’t investigate potential issues linked to previous use of the land (you need an environmental search for this).

Likewise, the seller’s information pack covers a lot of detail, but it won’t flag up things like upcoming road schemes and planning permissions impacting the property; i.e. the type of issues covered in local authority searches. For the purchaser of a property, you will want to be made aware of any potential issues affecting the property, and so the law firm will commission searches on the key risks relating to a property and report back to the purchaser with their findings. There are different search packs available but, you should note, the law firm will charge the third party cost of the specific search pack to the purchaser.

Without conveyancing searches, you could end up committing to a property that’s worth considerably less than you thought. These problems can be very expensive to fix post-purchase; they can make it harder to sell on and can make it more expensive to insure. So in practical terms, searches are important and a must.

What are the different search packs available?

We offer two search packs. The first is the ‘essential’ pack which includes the two vital searches required by almost all major lenders (local authority and water); the second is an ‘enhanced search pack’ which contains the essential searches, plus flood, environmental and chancel insurance. All searches are detailed below and it is your choice which search pack option to order.

We will use a ‘personal’ search in regards to the local authority element. However, if the local authority in question is experiencing significant delays at the time of your transaction, we may switch to an ‘official’ search pack, which can be quicker but more expensive.

The search pack we recommend for your transaction will be listed on your quote. It is important to note that if there is not a deadline for the transaction to complete, the essential (personal) search pack will typically be used.

What do conveyancing searches include?

The searches you require depend on your property location and type. Here’s an overview of the main ones:

Local authority search

There are two parts to this, referred to as LLC1 and CON29.

LLC1 tells you if the property is a listed building, if it’s in a conservation area, and if it is impacted by tree preservation or smoke control orders. Let’s say you plan to install double glazing post-purchase and if it’s a conservation area, any changes made will need to be in keeping with the character of the area. This could make things more difficult or expensive than you first thought.

CON29 results focus on things like planning applications relevant to the property, nearby road schemes, building control history and any enforcement action, restrictions on permitted development and issues with contaminated land. So for instance, if a new housing development is in the offing next to the property that could impact its value, this search should flag it up.

Environmental search

This search is carried out through a specialist environment agency. It flags up whether the previous use of the land on and around the property poses environmental risks. This includes the risk of landslips, subsidence, contaminated land or presence of radon.

Environmental searches can warn you of the risk of problems that can be very expensive to fix, such as major underpinning works to deal with subsidence.

Water and drainage search

A water and drainage search is done with your local water provider. It confirms whether the sewers, drains and piping for the property are all the responsibility of the water supplier. The search therefore gives you vital reassurance that you are not going to be hit by additional maintenance costs.

The water and drainage search also highlights the presence of public drains on your property. Depending on proximity, this could affect your plans for things like property extensions and putting up outbuildings.

Mining search

This search is recommended if your property is located on or near a site of previous or current mining activity. A mining search is usually carried out with The Coal Authority. This sets out whether the property has been or is likely to be affected by any damage or hazards as a result of mining in the area. Subsidence is the biggest risk: if there’s a potential problem, the report can give you a vital heads-up on what it might mean in terms of the likelihood of damage, insurance and costs of repair.

Flood search

This search assesses the properties risk from flood, particularly key if a property is on a flood plain.

Chancel search

Chancel repair liability is a legal obligation on some property owners for future repairs to a parish church. If you choose the ‘enhanced search pack’, rather than carrying out the search to determine whether insurance is required, we will simply take out the insurance as a precaution, which is ultimately cheaper.

How much do conveyancing searches cost?

In general, the cost of searches vary due to the property and type. Depending on the council, local authority searches cost between £60 and £230. Environmental searches are typically in the region of £50, while water and drainage searches are between £50 and £100. Depending largely on the size of the area of land that needs to be investigated, a mining search can cost between £25 and £120.

How long do conveyancing searches take?

For the environmental, water & drainage and most other specialist searches, you would normally expect the results to be available within a week or two from submitting the request.

With local authority searches, it all depends on the council. Some can usually turn around a search within a few days, while others can typically take a few weeks or more. However, because of staff shortages and disruption linked to Covid, a number of councils are currently taking a lot longer than usual to process search requests, sometimes by as much as three months.

How can I keep the transaction moving?

Throughout the whole process, A good conveyancer is always proactive in keeping things moving for you, keeping you updated in the process, and getting an estimated delivery time for your local search results. You can find out more information here on how long the full conveyancing process usually takes.

If the wait times are likely to lead to a significant hold-up or you have a deadline for completion in mind which a delay could threaten, your conveyancer may suggest obtaining a local search delay indemnity policy, instead of the full search results, subject to your lender’s acceptance (in the event you are using a mortgage).

This policy can be provided within a few days and in the very unlikely event of experiencing an issue at a later date will compensate you for the difference between the price you paid for your property and any reduced value that results from previously unidentified issues (such as a public right of way) which would have been revealed in a traditional search pack.

We suggest the OneSearch Express product in this regard and alongside the indemnity this includes a property data report that provides over 70% of the data normally obtained from local authorities, for your conveyancer to review.

Overall, waiting around for search results and dealing with any findings can feel like a needless formality which only pushes back the exchange of contracts even further. That said, it’s far better to be aware of any problems before you commit, rather than nasty surprises later on!

For more insider knowledge on all aspects of conveyancing, such as what an indemnity policy is and whether you need one, be sure to explore our knowledge hub.

Ready to make your move? You can meet our team who are committed to getting you there quicker, or get in touch to start progressing your property transaction.