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What are conveyancing searches?

Discover why your conveyancing solicitor will conduct conveyancing searches on your behalf when buying a home.

How do conveyancing searches work?

Your solicitor conducts a property search (also known as a conveyancing search) in order to gather more information about a property you intend to buy. Your conveyancer will conduct a variety of conveyancing searches with the local authority and other parties on your behalf during the home-buying process.

The most critical searches when buying a property include:

  1. the local authority, solicitor
  2. for water and property
  3. environmental problems

Typical aspects include whether planning permission might be granted for a future development that would adversely affect your property, the quality of the ground on which your property is built, or information about common drains and access rights.

A conveyancing search should be completed and approved before you exchange contracts and legally commit to buying the property, as they may reveal planning or structural issues that could affect the value of the home or result in additional costs in the future.

What is the average time it takes for a conveyancing search?

In the UK, there are over 340 local authorities, and searches are handled differently in each, so turnaround time varies from 48 hours to several weeks.

The method in which your local authority returns results for local conveyancing searches can affect the results of local conveyancing searches. As an example, if you receive your search results electronically via an online portal or email, this will be much quicker than by mail.

In many local authorities, the Land Charges department only has a few staff members, so during busy periods, your results may take longer to be returned.

Searches of local authorities

With the assistance of a local authority search, you can obtain detailed information about your property and its surroundings. Purchasing a new home with this information will give you peace of mind and prevent any unpleasant surprises in the future.

An LLC1 result and a CON29 result are the two parts of a local authority search.

You can find out from LLC1 whether the property is:

  • A listed building
  • located within a conservation area
  • is located in an area protected by a tree preservation order
  • requires a grant to be improved or renovated
  • requires a smoke control order

The CON29 assesses any future development plans that may affect your property. We have separated the CON29 results into two sections (required and optional). Results that are required include:

  • New road proposals and traffic system improvements.
  • Clean-up of contaminated land.
  • Your property will be affected by development decisions.
  • Construction regulations.
  • If you live in a Radon-affected area

you may need to provide additional information from time to time by using the CON29 form. There are several types of notices, including road proposals by private bodies, completion notices, land maintenance notices, and environmental and pollution notices. Whenever possible, CON29 assesses whether any changes are coming in the near future that will affect your property.

Searches for water, drainage, and other properties are available.

In addition, it is advisable for First Time Buyers to apply to the local water company responsible for the property to confirm the sewers, drains, and piping is maintained by them. Your conveyancer will also perform a water and drainage search to determine whether the property is near a public sewer system and whether it has a sewer running inside its boundaries.

Environmental investigation

When an environmental search is conducted, it identifies if the previous land use of the property poses an environmental risk. The following issues will be identified:

  • slipperiness
  • and subsidence
  • Land contaminated by historic landfills and waste sites
  • Risk of flooding from nearby rivers and seas

Additional searches

Your conveyancer may recommend performing the following non-routine conveyancing searches, depending on the location of the property:

Registration of common property

According to the Commons Registration Act 1965, a search is recommended when a property borders common land, village green or is in a rural area. If you are purchasing agricultural property, you should also conduct this search.

Mining reports are also available.

It is necessary to conduct a mining search if the property is located in an area with mining history and is at risk of being built on unstable ground. Mortgage lenders are usually the ones who carry out this search.

Land costs

The search should be conducted when dealing with unregistered land, to determine whether the landowner has faced bankruptcy proceedings. This will also indicate if there are any restrictions regarding the use of land, estate contracts, and mortgages.

Liability for chancel repairs

England and Wales gave all parochial church councils until October 2013 to identify and register any land-bound to chancel repair liability. When you buy or inherit property and live within the parishes of a church, you may be liable to contribute towards the cost of repairing it. This information is stored by the Land Registry on the Title Register database.

Benefits for disadvantaged areas

HMRC eliminated the “relief” on Stamp Duty when evidence showed that it didn’t encourage people to buy a property in disadvantaged areas in April 2013. Prior to this date, anyone who purchased a home valued over £125,000 or not exceeding £150,000 was exempt from stamp duty if they lived in a designated disadvantaged area.

A property search, by its nature, will often reveal things about a property that you might not have considered previously. As a result, it is crucial to discuss the results with your conveyancer and to seek other opinions from people with experience in the buying process and in the local area.

The use of a conveyancing solicitor for your house purchase is an important aspect of moving home, so be sure to compare quotes from quality conveyancing solicitors in your area.

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