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You’re Buying a Property – So what are Conveyancing Searches?

You have found your dream property, instructed your solicitor. So that’s that isn’t it? Well, not quite.

One of the duties of your solicitor or licenced conveyancer is to advise you on what conveyancing searches should be carried out on the property. This is one of the advantages of using a local conveyancer.

Searches represent a very small financial outlay when purchasing a property but they can highlight issues that could mean the difference between you buying the property or walking away from it. Searches are not a formality so ignore them at your peril.

If you are taking out a mortgage to purchase your property your lender will insist on certain searches being carried out. These are usually;

A Local Authority Search will show if there are any charges or enforcement notices against the property and will also show if the correct planning consents and building control certificates have been obtained. It also reveals if there are any planning restrictions such as it being a listed building or being in a conservation area, both of which can severely restrict what alterations and improvements you can make to the property.

A Water & Drainage Search shows if the property is connected to mains water and sewerage, who the services provider is, and it will include a plan of any water company owned pipes and assets in and around the property.

An Environmental Search checks the historical use of the property and advises on the risk of the land being contaminated. For example, many houses were built on the site of old town gas works where the soil could have been heavily contaminated. You will want to make sure that proper remediation works were carried out before the houses were built.

Your conveyancer should also advise you on the need for any additional searches such as;

Flood Risk Reports will advise if the property is at risk of flooding from rivers or other bodies of water and they will also advise on the risk of surface water flooding. This has become an increasing problem as more and more land is concreted over by new developments or, indeed, by homeowners paving over their gardens to create off-street parking.

Mining Searches. Cornwall and Devon have a long history of mining but in many areas there is no outward sign that mining ever took place. However the danger can still be there. Mining searches are recommended in most of Cornwall and many areas of Devon. Many people don’t realise that a great deal of mining took place in and around Plymouth. So just because you are in a city doesn’t mean you won’t be at risk.

Planning Searches report on all of the planning applications submitted within the neighbourhood of the property being purchased. A good report for finding out if someone is planning to build anything nearby that might affect your property. Some people might like the convenience of a new supermarket across the street from them. Others may not.

There are other specialised reports available but a good local conveyancer will advise you when and if these are necessary.

My advice. Don’t treat conveyancing searches as just another tiresome expense in the property buying process. Look upon it as an opportunity to learn more about your new property. Read the search reports and if anything is unclear get your conveyancer to talk you through it. The better informed you are, the less chance you will make a very expensive mistake.

James Ferguson is a Director of X-Press Legal Services in Cornwall and Devon.

X-Press Legal Services publishes a website of free online legal guides for the public and small businesses. To find out more go to