Searches and surveys - Downsizing - First time buyer

What are conveyancing searches and are they necessary?

3 min read

Conveyancing searches, also known as property searches, are enquiries made by your conveyancer on your behalf. Find out more about the different types of conveyancing searches and why they are so important below.

  • Amy Colton, Conveyancing Manager and qualified solicitor
    Amy Colton

    Conveyancing Manager

    Published April 24th 2023

young home buyer looking at her property searches relieved that no issues have been raised

There are multiple conveyancing searches you will need when buying a house, and they all look for different issues in the local area or with the property, that may impact your purchase. Find out what the different searches are when buying a property, what they look for and why they are so important below.

In this article:

Why are conveyancing searches important?

Searches help you to make a completely informed decision about the property you are purchasing. They are designed to protect you, and your finances and may help to stop you from purchasing a property that may lose value in future or may even be harmful to your health.

What are the different types of conveyancing searches?

  • Local authority search

  • Environmental search

  • Land registry search

  • Water and drainage search to establish where your water comes from and whether they are any public drains running though the property or land

  • Mining search to check whether the property has been built on land where there has been historic mining, as this increases the risk of subsidence

How long do property searches take?

There are more than 340 local authorities across the UK and they each manage property searches differently. This means that turnaround time can be anything from 48 hours to several weeks.

Can they be fast tracked?

Generally, conveyancing searches cannot be fast-tracked, although a small number of local authorities can offer it as a paid additional service. For more information on timings, it’s best to speak to your conveyancer. Dealing with local authorities on a regular basis, they will be able to provide more information on your specific local authority, including indicative timings. 

Who pays for conveyancing searches?

Property searches are paid for, and then owned by, the buyer of the property.

Can I buy a house without getting searches?

Buying a house with a mortgage

Conveyancing searches are compulsory when using a mortgage to purchase a property. Lenders will insist that searches are conducted, as they have a large stake in your property and will want to be sure that the money they are lending you will not be invested into a property that has a higher chance of being worth less in future. Your lender will tell your conveyancer what searches to run, and these will be checked before they release your funds.

Cash buyers

Cash buyers are free to go without most searches, or to cherry-pick a few to run based on their needs. Though the majority of conveyancing searches are not compulsory, it’s still a good idea to get them anyway to avoid the risk of:

  • A devalued property (for example, because the loft conversion cannot legally be used as a habitable space).

  • Living on land that may be contaminated (for example, from past industrial works).

  • Finding out that the house isn’t connected to mains water, and only has access to a very limited natural water supply.

It’s important to note that certain searches, such as Land Registry searches, are required for all purchases.

How long are property searches valid for?

Conveyancing searches generally expire after six months. If you’re buying with a mortgage, your lender will only allow completion of the mortgage to take place if the searches are still in date.

What happens after conveyancing searches come back?

Your conveyancer will pick out anything that may be of concern and will share this with you, as well as raising enquiries with the seller’s solicitor.

We would usually expect a handful of enquiries from each search pack and depending on the seriousness of the enquiries raised may mean you wish to withdraw your offer on the property.

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