What Property Searches are done when Buying a House?

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The main property searches are a Local Authority Search, a Water & Drainage Search and an Environmental Search.

As part of the pre contract ‘investigation of title’ the buyer’s solicitor will (amongst other things) generally undertake ‘searches’. These are also sometimes referred to as ‘conveyancing searches’, ‘property searches’, or ‘solicitor searches’. The main searches done when buying a house are:-

  • Local Authority Search
  • Water & Drainage Search
  • Environmental Search

Here, we look at what those 3 main property searches do, and what other searches are sometimes done dependent upon the property type and location.

What is a Local Authority Search?

A local authority search (sometimes called a local property search) is provided by the council of the area within which you are buying a house.

What does a Local Authority Search cover?

The local authority search will cover things such as:-

  • Planning
  • Roadways
  • Tree Preservations Orders (TPO)
  • Listed Buildings (if relevant)
  • Regeneration areas (if applicable)
  • Smoke Control Zone

How long does a Local Authority Search take?

This depends on all manner of factors, but a local authority search generally takes upwards of a week to be returned to the buyer’s solicitor.

How much does a Local Authority Search cost?

This will vary enormously from authority to authority. As a rough guide you can assume it will cost anything from £60-£300. Generally, you can budget for around £200-250.

An environmental search will look at energy and infrastructure. 

Where do I get a Local Authority Search?

Your solicitor will order the local authority search. It is provided by the council of the area you are buying in, but most solicitors now purchase this (and other) searches through specialist intermediary search providers (for ease and speed – rather than making separate applications for water searches, environmental searches, etc).

What is a Water & Drainage Search?

A water and drainage search will establish things like:-

  • Water main – establish that the property is (or is not) connected to the main
  • Sewers – establish that the property is (or is not) connected to the mains sewers
  • Plans – show plans of routes of water supplies and mains drains/sewers

How long does a Water & Drainage Search take?

A water and drainage search generally takes just a few days from being ordered by your solicitor.

How much does a Water & Drainage Search cost?

A water and drainage search is generally around £50.

Where do I get a Water & Drainage Search from?

Your solicitor will order the search for you. It comes from the company that looks after water and drainage in your area. Solicitors will often now order this and all other searches from one specialist intermediary search provider rather than ordering the searches separately themselves.

What is an Environmental Search?

An environmental search will look at things such as:-

  • Flood risk
  • Land contamination
  • Industrial usage
  • Subsidence
  • Energy and Infrastructure

How long does an Environmental Search take?

Environmental searches typically take days (not weeks) to be returned.

How much does an Environmental Search cost?

An environmental search typically costs in the region of £60-70.

Where do I get an Environmental Search from?

Your solicitor will order the environmental (and other searches). They all now tend to be obtained in one go from specialist search providers, reducing the time and cost of the solicitor making separate applications on any one property (for the local, water, and environmental searches).

What other property searches might be done when buying a house?

Other searches (as well as local authority, environmental, and water & drainage) might be done depending on the property in question, and whereabouts in the country it is located. The need may arise for them if the initial 3 main property searches throw up question marks that need to be further investigated by your conveyancing solicitor. These additional searches might include:-

  • Mining
  • Flooding (in addition to environmental)
  • Planning (in addition to the local search)
  • Highways (in addition to the local search)
  • Commons Registry (re common land usage)
  • Chancel (repairs to local churches)

What if I want advice on Property Searches?

If you want advice on any of the subjects raised in this post, please reach out to our specialist team of conveyancing and property solicitors – we will be glad to help!

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