If you are having a mortgage to assist with the purchase of a property, searches are a compulsory requirement of your Mortgage Lender. However, if you are a cash buyer, ultimately it will be your decision as to whether you have all or some of the recommended searches carried out.
We would always advise to have the full set of searches that are recommended for the property and location that you are purchasing in. After all, a few hundred pounds spent is a small amount in comparison to the overall cost of the property you are looking to buy, and the searches could reveal something that may change your mind about purchasing the property.
Typically, the main searches that are recommended against any property are the Local Authority Search, a Drainage & Water Search and an Environmental Search. These can be further explained as follows:-
- Local Authority Search – will cover, amongst other things, areas such as the planning and building regulations history of a property; will provide details of any enforcement proceedings outstanding against the property (e.g. a planning breach or outstanding building control issue); financial debts outstanding to the Local Authority (e.g. pest control charges; disability improvement grants); proposed improvements/alterations to the local highways; whether there are any constraints on the property (e.g. within a Conservation Area, a Listed Building, or affected by a Tree Preservation Order etc.)
- Drainage & Water Search – this search will confirm if the property is connected to the mains sewer network for the removal of both foul and surface water from the property; it will confirm whether the property is connected to a mains water supply; it will provide details of whether there are any sewers or mains water pipes which pass through the boundaries of the property; it will indicate whether anything has been built over or close to any of the sewer or water pipes; and it will confirm who owns the pipes etc. and who is currently billing the property for these services.
- Environmental Search – the search provider assesses historical land data for the land and surrounding area upon which the property has been built and based on their findings they will certify whether the land has a potential environmental risk or is risk free. This type of search will highlight issues such as risks of Landslips; Subsidence; Contaminated land due to historic landfills and waste sites; or the risk of flooding from nearby rivers or seas or other water sources.
Depending upon the property location, there may be further, more bespoke searches that your Conveyancer will also recommend being carried out against the property such as a Coal Mining Search if the property is located within an area which has current and/or historical coal mining activity; Tin mining or China clay mining (e.g. if the property is located in Devon or Cornwall for example); Gypsum mining (e.g. if the property is located within Cumbria); or a Canal & River Search if the property abuts a riverbank or canal.
Your lawyer will discuss any additional recommended searches with you, and the risks that have been flagged for the property being purchased, so that you can make an informed decision as to how you wish to proceed.