Conveyancing searches are one of the essential processes followed during a property sale.
Undertaken by the buyer’s conveyancer, a series of enquiries will be made to the local authority and other public bodies.
Searches provide homebuyers with the peace of mind that there’s nothing untoward with the purchase.
Most mortgage companies also need to see search to grant the home loan.
They’re usually undertaken by ‘search providers’ who collate them together to produce a single report. Some conveyancers, however, prefer to source direct.
Searches are undertaken before the exchange of contracts to ensure that there are no issues to be addressed.
Below we’ve highlighted the most common searches (in order of priority):
This is a very quick process that the estate agent should have undertaken as part of their own verification procedures.
Here at Property Solvers, for instance, we often forward the Title Register on 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 the shows the boundaries of the property and land (see a sample here). Your conveyancer may need to download more than one Title Plan, especially if there have been previous disputes.
Whilst not officially classified as a search, this process is carried out to confirm that the seller owns the property.
This search is split into two parts:
This will report back with any restrictions against the house in detail.
Examples could include whether there are any:
This report will clarify whether the property is in a conservation / smoke control area, is a listed building or located within the vicinity of outstanding natural beauty.
Note that there will be restrictions in terms of what you can can’t 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.
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:
The conveyancer may need to request further details such as specific transport proposals / approvals, maintenance / environmental / pollution notices or information on any anomalies that appears.
This search looks at geologically-related issues to be concerned about, particularly in relation to:
If something is found, as long as valid certified remediation has taken place, there’s usually nothing to worry about.
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 lake there may be cause for concern.
It will also look for evidence of flooding over the previous 75 years. Again, there are certain parts of the country that 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 for yourself via this link.
This search 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 are 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 mains water supply and public sewage network.
This search will also highlight if there are any public sewers closeby and if there are any sewers running under the land where the property is located.
Coming together with the water search, any complex draining networks around the property will be flagged.
The search will also confirm that there is adequate foul and surface water drainage (into a public sewer).
Any previously collapsed drains will also be highlighted.
Most conveyancers will be able to flag up any boundary issues using the Title Plan (downloaded direct from the Land Registry).
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 concerns.
This search will contain the Title Register / Plan, conveyancing deeds, leases plans (if they exist) alongside boundary information packs.
If the property sits besides common land such as village green, this search will confirm that there are no encroachment issues.
This search is undertaken in rare situations where the underlying land is not registered.
It will flag up any restrictions, contractual obligations, financial charges, bankruptcy proceedings against the property owner.
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.
This search is suggested if the property backs on to a river, canal or stream.
It will reveal what rights exist over the waterway alongside any financial obligations.
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.
If there are solar panels on the property, extra investigations are required.
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.
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.
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 into 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.
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: