Conveyancing Searches Conveyancing Searches

Contents

What Are Conveyancing Searches?

Conveyancing searches are one of the essential processes followed during a property sale.

Undertaken by the buyer’s conveyancer (shortly after a property is marked as Sold STC or Under Offer), a series of enquiries will be made to the local authority and other public bodies.

They’re usually undertaken by ‘search providers’ who collate them together to produce a single report.  Some conveyancers, however, prefer to source directly.

Why is It So Important to Obtain Conveyancing Searches?

Searches provide home buyers with the peace of mind that there’s nothing untoward with the purchase (it indeed is the purchaser that pays the costs).

Most mortgage lenders need to see property searches to grant a home loan. Lenders want to protect their investments (or securities) so it is compulsory to carry out official searches.

Searches are undertaken before the exchange of contracts to ensure that there are no issues to be addressed that may delay the legal process.

Searches when buying may highlight planning or structural issues which could affect not only the value but could mean potential risks of high costs to the new legal owner.

What Are the Different Types of Conveyancing Searches?

Below we’ve highlighted the most common searches (in order of priority):

Title Register and Plan Search

Title Register and Plan Search

This is a very quick process that the estate agent should have undertaken as part of their verification procedures.

Here at Property Solvers, for instance, we often forward the Title Register to the conveyancer to make things easier.  However, some conveyancers prefer to download their own copies.

The Title Register will show the charges against the property usually the name of the mortgage lender(s), any restrictions, covenants (conditions related to the land), easements (rights of way) and other specifics.  See a sample here.

Your conveyancer will then look into any areas of concern (such as title defects) in more detail.

The Title Plan is a map produced by HM Land Registry that shows the boundaries of the property and land (see a sample here).  Your conveyancer may need to download more than one plan, especially if there have been previous disputes.

Epitome of Title

Epitome of Title

Whilst not officially classified as a search, this process is carried out to confirm that the seller owns the property.

Local Authority Search

Local Authority Search

This search is split into two parts:

The LLC1 (Local Land Charge Register)

This will report back with any restrictions against the house in detail.

Examples could include whether there are any:

  • Planned public rights of way/access routes;
  • Tree preservation orders;
  • Planning applications (including conditional permissions) in progress and planning history;
  • Unauthorised / illegal building or development works;
  • Renovation grants deemed necessary.

This report will clarify whether the property is in a conservation/smoke control area, is a listed building or is located within the vicinity of outstanding natural beauty.

Note that there will be restrictions in terms of what you can or can’t do if the property falls into one of these latter categories.  At the same time, these types of properties tend to hold their value better than most.

Remember, if buying, you can also visit the planning section on the local council‘s website to see if there’s anything to be concerned about.

You’ll also see some of the plans (and objections) to other projects planned in the area.

There will almost always be specific information about developments including what will be built and what stage they’re at.

CON29 (Local Authority Search)

This part of the search will bring to attention information related to infrastructure-related programme’s that could affect the property’s value.

This could include:

  • Roads, traffic schemes, bypasses, overground/underground train lines, tram/bus routes, public footpaths, and/or noise abatement notices;
  • Plans for schools or further / higher education institutions;
  • Evidence of compulsory purchase orders;
  • Statutory notices or any other broader planning issues that haven’t been compiled;
  • Building regulations/controls that could have a negative effect;
  • Enforcement actions;
  • Repayable improvement or renovation grants;
  • Contaminated land or areas where there may be radon gas or other hazards.

The conveyancer may need to request further details such as specific transport proposals/approvals, maintenance / environmental / pollution notices or information on any anomalies that appear.

Environmental Search

Environmental Search

This search looks at geologically-related issues to be concerned about, particularly about:

  • Subsidence (complementing the Local Authority search);
  • Landslips;
  • Historic landfill site or waste management sites;
  • Previous industrial use / toxic waste disposal sites;
  • Current or former presence of asbestos, arsenic, solvents or gases;
  • Former petrol station  / hazardous use sites.

It’s usually produced by Landmark or Groundsure.

If something is found, as long as valid certified remediation has taken place, there’s usually nothing to worry about.

Flood Risk Search

Flood Risk Search

Coming together with the above, this search checks for any local expanses of water.  If the property is close to the coast, a river or a lake there may be cause for concern.

It will also look for evidence of flooding over the previous 75 years.  Again, certain parts of the country are more susceptible than others.

Surface flooding can also be an issue.  This is where rainwater doesn’t drain away properly or the groundwater table is too high.

However, there shouldn’t be any issues if there are legitimate flooding prevention measures in place.

Note that you can check flood risk yourself via this link.

Water Search

Water Search

Water searches will point out where the water supply to the property comes from and confirm if there is a meter installed.

It also indicates if there is any drainage or external pipework that may affect the land on which the property is located.

It will also confirm that the property is connected to a main water supply and public sewage network.

This search will also highlight if there are any public sewers close by and if any sewers are running under the land where the property is located.

Drainage Search

Drainage Search

Coming together with the water search, any complex draining networks around the property will be flagged.

The drainage searches will also confirm that there is adequate foul and surface water drainage (into a public sewer).

Any previously collapsed drains will also be highlighted.

Boundary Search

Boundary Search

Most conveyancers will be able to flag up any boundary issues using the Title Plan (downloaded directly from the Land Registry search).

However, a Title Plan is general and it may be deemed necessary to look at all the surrounding property borders collectively to see if there is any cause for concern.

This search will contain the Title Plan and Register, conveyancing deeds, and lease plans (if they exist) alongside boundary information packs.

Commons Registration

Commons Registration

If the property sits beside common land such as village green, this search will confirm that there are no encroachment issues.

Land Charges Search

Land Charges Search

This search is undertaken in rare situations where the underlying land is not registered.

It will flag up any restrictions, contractual obligations, financial charges, or bankruptcy proceedings against the property owner.

Chancel Repair Search

Chancel Repair Search

Classed as ‘non-routine’, this is one of the strangest searches that you’ll come across.

It checks as to whether there are any ancient liabilities on the land owed for church repairs.  It’s very rare for issues to appear here.

Some conveyancers suggest taking out chancel repair insurance (for around £25) to save time.

Canal and River Search

Canal and River Search

This search is suggested if the property backs onto a river, canal or stream or is close to nearby rivers.

It will reveal what rights exist over the waterway alongside any financial obligations.

Mining Search

Mining Search

In a similar vein to the environmental searches, if an old and unprotected mine, entrance or shaft is found nearby then it could cause the future owner problems.

Evidence of previous brine mining is also reported.

The search often is undertaken more in the Midlands, the North and Wales where these issues are more prevalent.

Living near or, worse, on top of a mine could cause stability issues.  However, many developers in recent decades have built suitable building foundations to protect against this risk.

Solar Panels

Solar Panels

If there are solar panels on the property, extra investigations are required.

No Search Indemnity Insurance

Here at Property Solvers, we take out a specific insurance policy to protect us against any negative results.

This means we can push forward our sales timeline much faster than a conventional (open market) sale.

If you are selling your house in the normal way, but speed is of the essence, you may want to consider this option.  However, we usually suggest being patient with our estate agency clients.

How Long do Searches Take?

Although some searches are faster than others, you can expect to wait about 2-3 weeks for them all to come through.

However, if your conveyancer is seeking searches from a more remote or under-resourced local authority, things could take longer.

There are certain parts of the country where searches have been known to take months to come through.

Other factors that come into play include whether search reports are sent via email or post as well as seasonal peaks and troughs.  The demand for searches tends to be the highest in the late spring and autumn.

It is hoped that things will start to speed up in line with the rising scope of data digitisation and automation.

If you find yourself waiting for more than a couple of weeks, don’t be afraid to chase up the conveyancing firm to see what is happening.

Is it Possible for Conveyancing Searches to be Fast Tracked?

Property searches cannot normally be fast-tracked but some local authorities do offer it as an additional cost.

This can speed up the property purchase and it’s worth talking to those conducting your conveyancing process who will know more about local authorities.

How Much do Conveyancing Searches Cost?

Another thing to consider in terms of conveyancing searches is the cost.

Property searches start from £250 but can depend on factors including the location, the local authority and the property.

A common search pack contains an environmental search, local authority searches, and a water and drainage search. Other conveyancing searches are extra such as a mining search and there will be an individual cost for other searches carried out during the conveyancing process.

Remember to obtain the search costs when looking for conveyancing solicitor quotes.

Once the conveyancing searches are done…

The buyer will then receive a full report and highlight any reasons for concern.

Remember that search results last for 6 months. If completion goes beyond this point, the searches will have to be ordered again.

Assuming they’ve been done, the conveyancer may also send through some feedback on the enquiries that have been made (see below).

The buyer will also have had the opportunity to examine the contents of the seller’s pack and seek out any clarifications.

Dealing with Negative Search Results

There may be situations where the sale is at risk of falling through due to negative search results.

For example, if the land where the property is located is contaminated or has evidence of subsidence the buyer may wish to withdraw from the sale.

The mortgage lender may not wish to move forward.

From the seller’s perspective, the main options are as follows:

  • Take remedial action.   Many of the issues are resolvable for minimum cost.  However, issues like subsidence are much more costly to resolve and will require underpinning and contracting a structural engineer.  You will then need to get a professional survey to ‘rubber stamp’ the works completed before undertaking a fresh search;
  • Take out an indemnity insurance to protect the lender.  However, most lenders are reluctant to accept the use of these kinds of policies to limit their risk;
  • Renegotiate the sales price, perhaps deducting the cost of resolving the issue;
  • Sell the property at auction;
  • Approach a ‘we buy any home’ type company such as Property Solvers who are willing to take on the risk;
  • Simply withdraw the property from sale and figure out another time to sell down the line (once the issue has been dealt with).

How Long Are Conveyancing Searches Valid For?

After conducting a conveyancing search with a search provider, these will normally expire after six months. It’s worth remembering if you are getting a mortgage when buying a house, property searches must be in date or the mortgage lenders will not allow completion of the mortgage.

Are Conveyancing Searches Necessary When Buying a House for Cash?

A cash buyer does not necessarily need to have searches such as an environmental search or a water and drainage search completed. But your conveyancing solicitor will still suggest that certain searches such as local authority searches are still carried out and you may want to carry out personal searches.