What are searches and why are they needed?

A homebuyer's conveyancer is carrying out a survey. He is holding a notepad and studying the home's interior.

When buying a property, searches are carried out by the buyers’ solicitor or conveyancer. This is to make sure that the  buyers have all the information they need about the local area before they proceed with a house purchase. Let’s take a look at what property searches are, the different types, and why they’re needed.

What are searches?

Property searches are an in-depth assessment of the home and its surrounding local area. These are carried out by the buyer’s conveyancer or solicitor and will reveal if there are any future planning development issues or historical problems in the area which might affect the home that is being sold.

If the property is being purchased through a mortgage, searches are mandatory. But for cash buyers, they are optional. This is because lenders need to know that the buyer is paying the fair amount for the property before they can agree to lend the money.

Related: House-selling checklist: Is your home ready to be sold?

What are the different types of searches?

There are various different searches that can be carried out on a property. Some are essential if you’re buying with a mortgage, whereas others may be optional and only necessary for certain properties.

Local authority search

The local authority search provides important information about the local area, covering planning permissions, building regulations, and any planned developments. It can also advise the buyer if the property sits in a conservation area or is affected by any nearby road schemes.

Land Registry search

The Land Registry search verifies the seller’s legal ownership of the home. It also details any mortgages or charges remaining on the property.

Environmental search

The environmental search is conducted to check if there is any risk of contamination on or around the property. This may include information on previous land use, potential flood risks, and the presence of any hazardous substances.

Water and drainage search

The property must be searched for any water-related issues such as flooding. This search will also check whether the property is connected to the mains water supply and sewerage system.

Chancel repair search

Certain homeowners are required to pay chancel repair liability towards the cost of repairs to the chancel of a nearby church. This can be expensive, so if the property resides close to a church, a chancel repair search is an important measure.

Mining and subsidence search

The mining and subsidence search assesses the history of mining in the property’s area. It also and checks for any risk of subsidence, which could affect the structural stability of the home.

Related: Six factors that devalue property

Do I really need property searches?

The exact requirements for searches can vary from lender to lender. As a buyer, you’ll need to communicate with your lender and your solicitor so you can get a full picture about what specific searches are necessary for your mortgage application. Most lenders will have a list of reputable search providers to recommend to you. 

Even if your lender doesn’t require certain searches, it’s always in your best interest to conduct any searches that are relevant to the home. The purpose of searches is to uncover any underlying issues with the home and its surroundings before you commit to moving in. 

For more advice, contact your local Martin & Co branch today

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