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Property searches when buying a property

Ever Wondered Why? Property Searches when buying a property.

In the next instalment of our ‘Ever Wondered Why?’ series of blog posts, we’re tackling the property search process. This takes place after an offer is accepted on a sales property and must be completed before the sale goes through. But why does it happen?

Property searches, also called conveyancing searches, provide detailed information about the property that you are about to buy. The main searches are the Local Authority Search (information about the property itself and surrounding area), the Water Drainage Search (a check on how waste water is removed from the property) and the Environmental Search (details about any potential contamination in the local area).

Other searches that are specific to the area and property are often also carried out, like Flood Risk Searches, Mining Searches and Chancel Liability Searches (whether or not the owner of the property is partly responsible for the upkeep of the local church).

You may be wondering why these searches have to be conducted every time the property is sold – surely the information could be gathered once and then kept on record? Well, the data collected via searches changes over time – for example, if the property has been altered in any way since it was last sold, then this will come up during the search process. This could be important if, for example, an extension has been built without planning permission. The buyer needs to know that the extension might have to be taken down in that case.

Similarly, the environment around the property might have altered since the last owner moved in. Let’s say a potentially dangerous substance is found in the local area as a result of some kind of industry that has popped up in the area – a search would pick this up, too.

Often, the results that come back from searches are simply added to the property file by your solicitor and the sale continues to go through. If the searches do throw up a problem, though, buyers can have some important decisions to make – like finding out if the property is still worth what they have agreed to pay, or deciding whether the property is actually right for them. After all, it’s no good buying a home because it’s seemingly quiet and peaceful if the searches show that the local council has approved a new major road next to it.

Sometimes, you can also take out a kind of insurance called ‘indemnity insurance’ to protect you if something does happen to the property as a result of an issue discovered through searches – for instance, if the house has an unauthorised extension, indemnity insurance can protect you from being penalised for it by the local council. It can also be taken out to cover chancel liability.

So, in other words, the searches tell you and your solicitor information about your property that you might not be able to see at first glance, just like the property survey does. The information gives you a bigger picture about the important investment that you are going to make.

You must be wondering at this point, if things are often fine when it comes to searches, then do you really have to have them at all? Well, legally speaking, they are not a requirement if you are a cash buyer. A mortgage lender will usually insist, however, that searches take place. Plus, you have to consider whether it’s really worth the risk of foregoing the search process just to save time and a small amount of money, when you could miss some serious problems with the property as a result.

Are you looking for some advice about the property sales process? Contact our team of experts to find out more or click here to watch our short video on sales progression for a buyer.

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