Which searches are done when buying a house?

  • 7th Mar 2022
  • 5 minute read
  • Written by Maisie Eames
Which searches are done when buying a house?

Once you have found your desired property, you will have to have some searches carried out by your solicitor. These are carried out to ensure there are no major flood risks, building proposals, sewage issues and the list goes on, basically all the things you’ll want to know before moving into your new home!

In this guide
Are searches necessary when buying a house?
What property searches do you need?
Local authority searches
Title Searches
Water and drainage search
Environmental search
Chancel repair liability search
Flood Risk Report
What other searches do you need?
Mining search
Common’s registration
How much do property searches cost?
How long do house searches take?
How to deal with problems found in the searches


Are searches necessary when buying a house?

For cash buyers, searches are not necessary, but still there to help you to make an informed decision about the home you’re buying. The few hundred pounds they will cost to complete will be worth it, as they could potentially save you lots of money if something was to go wrong in the future. However, if you’re buying with a mortgage, they are a necessity as the lender will have a large stake in the property.

Ultimately, they are designed to protect you, your finances, and your health in the long run, so are highly recommended to have done.

What property searches do you need?

Like we said, if you’re buying with a mortgage, the chances are you will have to complete the searches, and there are a few main ones carried out when buying a property:

Local Authority Searches

Local authority searches find information on any potential planning work, environmental searches such as potential road schemes, contaminations, and a few other minor searches. They usually cost between £60 – £230, but this depends on a few factors including the local council.

As a result, they can help protect you from future planning, building, highway, and pollution issues – which could end up costing you lots of money and stress if undiscovered.

Local authority searches are only valid for 6 months until completion. If completion date is after 6 months of it being carried out, you will have to order another one.

For more information on local authority searches, check our our blog!

 Title Searches

A title search is an in-depth investigation into the property’s previous ownership and ensures that the current owner has the right to sell it. It also covers the price they paid for it and if there are any charges or debts registered against the property. A title guarantees that the home you are buying is registered with the local government and, when sold, will be transferred to the new owner.

The water and drainage search is another search that your mortgage lender will require you to have to ensure the property being purchased is safe from any flooding, leaking or damp caused by public waterways and drains. The enquiry will be made to the local water company and once carried out, it will provide you with current information on the water supply, status of the sewer connection and billing arrangements.

An environmental search looks into previous and current records of land and checks whether any past use of the land could have led to contamination. The search is carried out by an environmental agency which people often confuse with The Environmental Agency.

This search checks whether the home you’re planning on buying is affected by a potential Chancel Repair obligation to the local Parish Church.

Flood Risk Report

A flood risk report assesses how likely the property you’re planning on buying is at risk from flooding in the future and to what extent. Such a simple search can save you the stress and hassle of a surprise flood in the future and allows you to become that little more prepared if it was to occur.

What other searches do you need?

Whilst these are the main searches, there are some addition ones to consider and depending on the type of property you’re buying etc. such as:

Mining search

This search is mostly for the benefit of the lender. As the name suggests, this search is done on properties built on current or previous mining land and therefore is at risk of unstable ground.

Common’s registration

This search applies if the property you’re purchasing is near common land, a village green, rural area, or agricultural land and comes under the Commons Registration Act 1965.

How much do property searches cost?

Most of the time, your searches will be requested once you have had your offer formally accepted – these will be authorised by your solicitor or conveyancer. They usually cost around £250 – £300 so, in the grand scheme of things, the few hundred pounds extra for searches are worth spending to protect yourself and your home from future damage and disappoint.

Below is a breakdown of each search and its cost:

Local authority search£60-£230Varies by Council
Water and drainage search£50-£100 
Environmental search£25-£60Increases by amount of land
Flood risk report£20-£50 
Mining search£25-£120Increases by amount of land
Chancel repair search£20-£90 
Bankruptcy search£2 per name 
Indemnity insurance£30-£300 
Flood risk (online)£9+VAT 
Title register (online)£3 
Title plan (online)£2.50+VAT 
Title register (official copy)£7 
Title plan (official copy)£7 

How long do house searches take?

Conveyancing searches can typically take anything between 3 – 8 weeks. This usually is determined by the local authority search, which takes the longest no matter where you’re located (as seen in the table below). Once searches are complete, the solicitor will then need some additional time to create a detailed report on their findings.

1-2 weeks 2 weeks – 2 months
Land registry searches Title search Water and drainage search Environmental search Chancel repair liability search Flood risk report Mining search Bankruptcy search Contaminated land search Indemnity insuranceLocal authority search Common’s registration

How to deal with problems found in the searches

After all the searches have been carried out, you will receive a detailed report from the conveyancing solicitor, and it will provide information about the property and any identified issues that could affect your decision to go through with the purchase – as much as this can be a disappointing thought, the searches are for your benefit in the long run.

The results could flag up something serious, for example, high flood risks that may change your mind about the purchase. They may however just pre warn you of issues that can be resolved, and you can therefore ask the seller to take action or even lower the asking price to help you out.

Conveyancing searches can often seem like a lot to take in, especially if you are a first-time buyer and have not considered or experienced these things before; but going over the reports with your solicitor will rule out any confusion and you’ll be able to make a clear and informed decision about your potential new home – without worrying about any undiscovered problems in the future.

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