Property Searches – What Are They?

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Property Searches – What Are They?

You are buying a property, perhaps your first home or maybe your tenth, regardless, the onus is on you as the buyer to be satisfied with your purchase before going ahead, which brings about the phrase caveat emptor, or in plain English – “let the buyer beware”.  After completion, there are ‘no comebacks’ and so it is vital to be fully aware of what you are purchasing before committing.

As part of the conveyancing process, the seller (or sellers) completes protocol forms which detail information about the property being purchased directly from them.  This information is extensive but still limited as the seller may feel they know everything there is to know about their property, however in most cases, they are not experts in certain areas, e.g. structural integrity, permitted development rights, party wall agreements, rent charges, way leaves and the list goes on.  In other circumstances, the seller may not know anything, or have very limited knowledge, about the property, e.g. where they are selling as executor, attorney or landlord.

As your Solicitors, we commission searches on your behalf to dig a little deeper and try and find more information about the property, which a lot of the time does corroborate the information provided by the seller, but it can also reveal information that the seller has not provided.  You should also be aware that where you a purchasing with a mortgage, searches are a set requirement by the lender.

What are these searches?

As a standard, we will commission the following searches:

  • Local Authority Search – revealing planning applications, building regulations, road information, enforcement matters and financial charges against the land. Whether the property is in a conservation area and if the building is listed are there any protected trees in and around the property.
  • Drainage and Water Search – revealing whether the property is connected to mains water and drainage, potentially any drains/mains/sewers within the boundaries of the property.
  • Environmental Search – revealing any flooding, subsidence or any contamination issues affecting the land which could result in high remediation costs, any infrastructure projects or large development projects which potentially impact your enjoyment of the property.
  • Chancel Repair Search/Indemnity – revealing whether the property is located in area where there is an obligation to contribute towards the maintenance of the local parish church.

In certain circumstances, we may advise that it would be a good idea to commission additional searches, e.g., if the property is located in an area where it is known to have had historic mining activities or if it is not possible to determine whether the highway/roads abutting the property are publicly maintained.

A practical example

You are purchasing without the need of a mortgage from someone who has inherited the property and, as a result, does not know much about the property, although are trying to be helpful in the information they have provided.

In the forms, the sellers advise that no works have been carried out at the property and there are no issues with any of the neighbours or nearby properties, nor has there been any problems with flooding.

Following our searches it is revealed that there have been multiple planning applications for an extension where the applications have been refused due to objections by the neighbouring property. Also, a previous owner has completed historic extension works without planning permission or building regulations and such works have been built over a drain located within the boundaries of the property.  Our searches further reveal that the property is located in an area where there is a high risk of flooding and there have also been historic cases of flooding.

If you purchased with the absolute reliance on the sellers’ completed forms, you would have purchased with potential ongoing disputes with your neighbour that may result in extremely high legal costs to defend the same, potential enforcement action from the local authority, further potential action from the local water authority for building over a public drain without permission, and unexpected insurance premiums which could invalidate any future lender conditions.

We have created a series of animated videos which help explain the conveyancing process and these can be found on our website and You Tube channel.

Contact our Residential Conveyancing experts

Our residential conveyancing solicitors provide professional legal advice on all aspects of buying and selling property. We are always happy to speak to you about the progress of your sale/purchase on the telephone at any time. For more information or advice from our residential conveyancing solicitors call us today on 01494 790013 or 01494 790071 or email 


Imran Dean


Residential Conveyancing | 01344 294138