A solicitor is required to carry out the conveyancing process, and they will need to conduct various searches before your property purchase can take place. Solicitor searches are necessary so that you can find out if there are any issues with your intended property before you assume ownership. They are also required by lenders, who will want to ensure that there’s nothing which could affect the property value before they offer your mortgage.


What searches are involved in conveyancing?

There are numerous searches that a solicitor will complete when you purchase a property. These include the following:

  • Local authority searches
  • Land Registry searches
  • Environmental searches
  • Water authority searches
  • Location specific searches
  • Chancel repair search

Local authority searches

These are arguably the most vital type of search that your solicitor will conduct, as they will look at information held by the local authority involving the property, including potential planning permission and any restrictions. It will also indicate who is held responsible for maintaining road paths adjoining your property. Local authority searches can take anywhere between one to six weeks to complete and cost can vary from £70 and £400 depending on which authority you intend to buy in.


Land Registry searches

This search requires your solicitor to prove the property seller is indeed the legal owner of the property that you intend to buy. It is completed by checking the ‘title register’ and ‘title plan’ at the Land Registry. These checks cost around £3 each, and are legally required for the sale to go through.

Environmental searches

A search of this kind is important as it will establish whether the property you are buying is built on or near contaminated land or water, or an old landfill site. Your lender may require this type of search to be fulfilled before they offer you a mortgage. The search is required as many properties are built on land which was formerly used for industrial purposes, and toxic substances could remain in the ground. If these issues aren’t discovered before you assume ownership of the property you can find the home is impossible to sell at a later date - or even worse – a home that is a health hazard. An environmental search will also identify if there is a risk of flooding.


Water authority searches

A water authority search will establish where your water comes from and whether there are any public drains on the property. This is a necessity, particularly as the presence of one could affect any building work you wish to complete in the future, such as an extension.

Location specific searches

Depending on the area where you are buying a property, your solicitor might suggest some further searches. For example, if you are buying in an area formerly used for mining, a mining search should to be carried out, to establish whether the home you want to buy has been built on unstable ground and could be of risk to subsidence.


Chancel repair search

A chancel repair search is required to determine whether you will be liable for the cost of repairs to a parish church. During the middle ages, property owners rather than monasteries became accountable for repairing church chancels. Following a law change in October 2013, the church must now establish and lodge liability with the Land Registry, but in certain circumstances the church can still insist a property owner is liable for repairs even if the liability is not registered. A chancel repair search only costs a few pounds, but you may opt to take out Chancel repair insurance instead, which may cost around £30.

How long do conveyancing searches take?

Searches commonly take around two to three weeks to complete, but do consider that their results may require your solicitor to make further enquiries.

It is not always possible to provide a specific timescale for conveyancing searches as the length of time they will take depends on your solicitor, where the property is and which searches have to be 

completed, as well as how long external bodies take to produce the information. Some councils respond particularly quickly to search requests, whilst others may take several weeks.

For the most part, the best way to speed up the length of time it takes for searches is to remain in regular contact with your solicitor to ensure they have put in all the relevant requests, and that they chase up any delays.

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