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Searches and what they tell you

One of the major costs involved in the purchase of a property is searches but why do we need them and what do they tell us? Below are some everyday questions that people ask about searches.

1. How much do searches cost?

Typically searches can cost anything between £100 to £350. The price is very dependant on the type of searches you require. Your conveyancer should advise you on what searches are best for the property dependant upon its location and how the purchase is being financed.

2. Do I have to have searches?

If you are purchasing a property with a mortgage then yes you do. A mortgage lender will want your conveyancer to carry out all usual and necessary searches along with any other searches which may be appropriate to the particular property, taking into account its locality and other features. If you are not having a mortgage then searches are not essential, but I would ask yourself the question....if a lender requires it for their security, why wouldn't I?

3. What are the usual searches?

Searches which would be carried out on any purchase property would be Local Search, Water & Drainage Search and Environmental Search. Some conveyancers will carry out a Chancel Repair Liability search too, others will choose to cover that risk with an insurance policy. There is more information to follow about Chancel Repair in one of my next blogs.

4. What does a Local Search tell me?

The Local Search contains a lot of information and will tell you amongst other things whether the roads and footpaths adjoining the property are publicly maintained (also known as adopted). The search will confirm that any works carried out at the property have been done under the correct certification. It will also tell you of any planning decisions which affect the property. It will confirm if the property is in a Conservation area, has a Tree Preservation Order, a Smoke Control Order or any enforcement notices for violation of planning permissions or other breaches. If there are any road or traffic schemes within the local authority then the search will also reveal these.

5. What does a Water & Drainage Search tell me?

A Water and Drainage Search will tell you whether the property has mains water and drainage services. It will check for both foul and service water drainage. It will also check whether there are any mains pipes within your boundary. It does not tell you the location of any private drains which carry waste from or across your boundary.

6. What does an Environmental Search tell me?

The amount of information in an Environmental Search differs dependant upon the search provider, however all searches will tell you whether the is a likelihood of the property being classed as contaminated. This is important as under current legislation, if the property you are purchasing is or becomes contaminated you could be made to pay the cover of the cost of decontaminating the property even if you did not cause the contamination. The search can also identify other environmental issues such as flood risk, ground stability risk, radon risk and energy and infrastructure risk. If these issues are identified then your conveyancer can arrange for further specific searches to investigate this further.

7. Are there other searches which I may need?

There are a number of other searches which may be required depending on your location:

Coal Mining Search - eg coal mining in Lancashire, tin mining in Cornwall, china clay mining in Dorset, gypsum mining in Nottinghamshire, lead mining in Derbyshire, Limestone mining in the West Midlands and Cheshire Brine in yes, you guessed it, Cheshire.

British Waterways Search - this is a search of records relating waterways (rivers, canals, streams etc) which will reveal such things as ownership of and responsibility for the riverbank, fishing and mooring rights, licences to extract water and drainage rights.

Flood Risk Search - an assessment as to how likely it is that the property you're intending to purchase will suffer from flooding at some point in the future.

Planning Search - tells you about the local area such as crime rates, local schools and what local services are available. It will also reveal any planning applications within a 250m radius of the subject property so if for example a major new development is planned which might alter the character of the area it would be revealed on a planning search but not on a local authority search.

Commons Registration Search -a search to establish whether the land which is being purchased is registered as common land in accordance with the Commons Registration Act 1965.

HS2 – a search has been developed which will indicate how a particular property will be affected, if at all, by HS2.

DevAssess - a specialist search which combines existing planning information with a detailed investigation that exposes unexploited development sites. It reveals to homebuyers potential construction activity and nuisance planning applications that could affect the enjoyment of the property.

8. Is there any alternative?

There is an alternative but this would only be suitable in rare occassions such as when time is really of the essence. This alternative would be a no search indemnity policy or a search delay indemnity policy if the purchaser still wants to have searches. The cost of this is variable, but not cheap and depends on the purchase price and the risk an insurer thinks is involved. Such a policy would cover you for loss should something be revealed which would have been revealed had all the searches carried been carried out.

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