Conveyancing searches: why are they necessary for a house or flat purchase?

Searches are a necessary and crucial part of the conveyancing process. Although they are not a legal requirement for a purchase of a property, particularly if you are a cash buyer, your conveyancing solicitor would normally recommend that these searches are carried out so that you know all the essential information about the property and land you are buying. If you are buying the property with the help of a mortgage, then your lender will usually insist on searches being carried out.

Why are searches necessary and recommended by conveyancing practitioners?

The simple answer to that is that buying a house or flat is the most likely the biggest investment that you will make, so it pays to make sure that you have details and knowledge of issues which potentially affect a property before you sign on the dotted line.

What searches will a solicitor undertake on your behalf as part of the conveyancing process?

It will depend on where you are looking to buy: for instance, if you live in certain areas it might be advisable to carry out certain specific searches mining searches.  However, the most common searches carried out by conveyancers include:

  • Local authority searches
  • Land registry searches
  • Environmental searches
  • Water authority searches

If you are buying a property that has not changed hands since October 2013 there is a risk that a nearby church may have applied for chancel liability to be registered as an overriding interest. So a Chancel search may be carried out. In order to protect you and your lender from this risk, you may be advised to obtain chancel repair insurance. – there is usually a cost of approximately £20 to cover this).

What do conveyancing searches tell you?

Searches will flag up and provide details about any potential issues that could affect your new home: issues like legal disputes, flooding, planning constraints and permissions. Your conveyancing solicitor will carry out these searches on your behalf and let you know if any problems are raised.

Local authority searches

The local search shows any construction planned in the vicinity of your property. Local Authority searches will, therefore, check for issues like whether there are plans for new roads nearby, plans for new buildings such as schools in the area and will also search for existing planning permissions related to the property you’re buying. The local search will also cover things such as whether there is a compulsory purchase order on the property.

Environmental and drainage searches

Environmental searches look for potential issues like flood risk, contaminated land, gas hazards and landfill sites in the area. These searches will also identify whether the sewers of the property you are intending to buy are adopted by the water company.

Land registry searches

Land Registry searches will check whether current owner actually owns the property they’re selling and give priority prior to registration.

How long do conveyancing searches take?

Searches are usually out of the control of your solicitor/conveyancer as they are carried out by external third parties, so it’s difficult to give a precise timescale. However, in most circumstances, searches are usually carried out within 2 to 4 weeks.  It should also be borne in mind that the search results may mean further enquiries need to be raised.

How much will the conveyancing searches cost?

The cost for searches varies from area to area, and also depend on which search agency is used. However, as a rough guide a purchaser should budget to spend somewhere in the region of £100 to £300 for all the necessary searches.  

Buying a property is the most important purchases you will probably ever make. It’s a huge long-term commitment, and therefore it’s vital to put the administration of that purchase in the hands of someone you trust: someone with in-depth knowledge and years of experience. For further information about our property conveyancing services, or for more information about the other services our property team are able to offer, call Harold Stock & Co on 0330 400 4040 or email

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