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Understanding Conveyancing Searches When Buying a House

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Searches are an essential part of the property purchasing process, providing crucial information about the property and any potential issues that could impact the transaction. As a prospective homeowner or property investor, understanding the importance of conveyancing searches is vital to ensuring a smooth and secure property transaction.

Header image for blog titled: Understanding conveyancing searches. Showing an image of a model house made out of wood with a set of keys and legal paperwork next to it.

Conveyancing searches involve a thorough investigation of various factors that may affect the property, such as planning permissions, environmental risks, and legal restrictions. These searches are a crucial step in identifying any potential issues that could impact the value or ownership of the property and can help to prevent costly problems in the future.

In this article, we will delve into the world of conveyancing searches, exploring the different types of searches available, their purpose, and why they are important. Whether you are a first-time buyer looking to purchase your dream home, or a seasoned investor expanding your property portfolio, understanding the importance of conveyancing searches is key to making informed decisions and protecting your investment.

Stay tuned as we explore everything you need to know about conveyancing searches, and how they can help you navigate the complexities of property transactions with confidence and ease.

What are the different types of conveyancing searches?

When buying a property, it is essential to conduct conveyancing searches to ensure that you are fully informed about the property you are buying. These searches are enquiries made by your conveyancing solicitor to various authorities and organisations to gather information about the property you plan to purchase. The types of searches may include a local authority search, a drainage and water supply search, and an environmental search. Additionally, if the property is located in an area with historical chancel repair liability, a chancel repair search may also be conducted. 

Furthermore, if you are buying with a mortgage, your mortgage lender may require additional searches to be carried out to protect their interests. For example, if the property is in an area where mining may have been carried out then a mining search to determine if any mining activities could affect your property may be carried out.

Do You Really Need Conveyancing Searches?

As previously mentioned, Conveyancing searches are enquiries that aim to uncover any potential issues or problems with the property that may affect your decision to buy it or not. These searches are crucial for ensuring that the property is free from any hidden liabilities or risks. It is important to make sure that the following searches are valid and up-to-date before you purchase a property. As a minimum, we would recommend the three main searches be carried out.

Local Authority Search

A local authority search provides essential information about the property, it is required by mortgage lenders if you are taking out a mortgage to purchase a property. The search covers local land charges, details of planning applications, restrictions on permitted developments, road schemes, and contaminated land. There are two types of local authority searches: official searches, conducted by council staff, and personal (regulated) searches, conducted by external agencies. The search consists of two parts: the Local Land Charge Register search (LLC1) and the CON29, which supplies information relating to public highways, planning decisions, and outstanding statutory notices.

The importance of local authority search lies in its ability to reveal potential restrictions, benefits, and conditions regarding the property, which the buyer may not be aware of otherwise. It can influence aspects of the property transaction and is often used as a negotiating tool. Even for cash buyers, it is recommended as it provides valuable information that the seller is unlikely to provide.

The information from the search can also lead to the buyer pulling out of the deal if poor results are obtained.

 Water and Drainage Search

The water and drainage search, commonly referred to as a CON29DW search, plays a vital role in the property acquisition process. It offers essential insights into a property's water supply and sewer connections. This search is typically obligatory when purchasing a property with a mortgage, as it is a prerequisite imposed by most lenders. The resulting report contains information regarding the property's water and wastewater service charges, its connection to public water supply and sewer systems, as well as the whereabouts of public sewer and drainage lines. Moreover, it identifies any public drains on the property, which could impact future construction plans. As with the Local Authority Search, this search is significant for both cash buyers and individuals obtaining financing, as it can uncover potential issues and prevent future complications. The cost of the search is variable and dependent on the property's location and the type of search conducted.

Environmental Search

Environmental searches in conveyancing are crucial when buying a property as they assess historical records to identify potential risks like contamination, flooding, subsidence, and energy infrastructure near the property. These searches reveal if the property is built on or near contaminated land, which could pose health hazards or financial risks. They also help in determining insurance availability and potential devaluation of the property. Environmental searches are typically required by mortgage lenders to protect their investments and ensure the property's value is not compromised.

These searches cover various aspects such as contamination of the land, flood risk, ground stability, radon gas, and energy infrastructure like power stations or wind farms. They are essential to avoid unforeseen issues that could lead to financial losses or health risks.

How long do Conveyancing Searches take?

The time it takes to complete these searches can vary depending on several factors. The location of the property, the local area, and the specific searches that need to be conducted all play a role in determining the turnaround time

While some searches are carried out quickly, others may take longer to complete. However, when buying a house it is crucial to ensure that all necessary searches are conducted early in the conveyancing process to protect your investment and avoid any potential issues in the future.

  • Local Authority Searches can take anywhere from 2 to 60 working days, depending on the location and workload of the authority.
  • Drainage and Water Searches typically range from 5 to 20 working days. 
  • Environmental Searches typically range from 1 to 10 working days. 

What to do if your property searches find problems?

If your property searches uncover any problems, you will be notified by your conveyancing solicitor. They will be able to advise you on the implications of the issues and what steps to take next. Whether the property has issues with boundaries, mains water connections, or is not registered with the land registry, your solicitor will be able to guide you through the next steps. It is crucial to address any issues that may affect your property before proceeding with the purchase.

When carrying out searches on a property purchase, several typical issues may come to light that could impact the transaction:

  • Rights of Way: Discovering a right of way across the property can affect its use and value.
  • Subsidence: Historical subsidence issues can lead to structural concerns and potential devaluation.
  • Contaminated Land: Previous land use for industrial purposes may result in contamination risks from hazardous substances.
  • Flood Risk: Properties near rivers or in flood-prone areas may face increased risk of flooding.
  • Environmental Hazards: Issues like gas hazards, landfill sites, or proximity to energy infrastructure can pose risks.
  • Building Regulations: Non-compliance with building regulations can lead to costly rectifications.
  • Property Changes: Sellers making changes post-agreement can cause disputes if not specified in the contract.
  • Ownership Disputes: Unclear ownership details or disputes over property boundaries can delay or jeopardise the sale.

These issues underscore the importance of thorough searches during conveyancing to uncover any potential risks or liabilities associated with the property. 

It is important to communicate with the owner of the property you're buying and any issues that arise during the conveyancing process. Transparency is key in these situations, and by keeping all parties informed, you can work together to find a solution. By obtaining all relevant information about your property, you can make an informed decision on whether to proceed with the purchase of the property you’re planning to buy.

How much do searches cost?

The cost of searches can vary depending on the search provider, location, and the specific requirements of the property transaction.

  • Local Authority Search: The cost of a local authority search can vary but typically ranges from £50 to £250, depending on the location of the property you are purchasing and the search provider. 
  • Drainage and Water Search: The cost of drainage and water searches usually falls between £50 to £150. 
  • Environmental Search: Environmental searches can cost between £50 to £300, depending on the level of detail and the provider.

Additionally, it is crucial to be aware of any potential cost of repairs that may arise from the searches. 

Process of Conducting Conveyancing Searches with a Solicitor

The first step in your property purchase journey is to instruct a conveyancing solicitor who will order searches promptly after starting the conveyancing process or upon receiving the full draft contract pack from the seller.

Once the conveyancing searches are back, your solicitor will review various aspects such as planning and building regulation entries, enforceable restrictions, contaminated land records, water and drainage details, and leasehold management pack (if applicable). Your solicitor will assess the search results to identify any potential issues that could affect the property's value or marketability.

Delays between searches and exchange can occur if your solicitor waits to raise enquiries until all searches and the mortgage offer are received. Chasing your solicitor excessively can also lead to delays as they need time to review search results thoroughly before proceeding to exchange contracts.

On average, it takes about 3 weeks from the point when property searches are back to exchange contracts. However, this time frame can vary based on individual solicitors' working methods.


In the complex world of property transactions, understanding the significance of conveyancing searches cannot be overstated.

These searches are an important component of the conveyancing process, ensuring potential buyers are well-informed about the property they intend to purchase. By engaging a conveyancer, clients can navigate the intricate details concerning the boundaries of the property, its legal standing, and any restrictions or obligations attached to it. 

Searches help to establish the legal owner of the property, confirm how the property is situated in relation to public rights of way, and determine whether plans to extend the property are feasible. Moreover, council searches are carried out to reveal any plans that might affect the property's future value or usability. Depending on where the property is located, certain searches might be more relevant, such as flood risk assessments in prone areas. Consequently, understanding which searches are essential and ensuring these searches are valid comprise parts of the preparatory work essential before you buy the property.

While it might seem like an additional step in the process of buying your home, these searches are necessary and serve as a safeguard against unforeseen complications. By consulting with your conveyancing solicitor you can make informed decisions, ensuring the property's potential is fully realised. Therefore, prospective buyers should not overlook the importance of these searches, as they are fundamental in securing peace of mind and legal protection in property transactions.



Don't let unforeseen property issues catch you off-guard! Ensure your peace of mind and protect your investment by starting your conveyancing process today with Glanvilles Damant. Fill out the form below to connect with our expert conveyancing team, who will guide you through every step of your property transaction with precision and care, alternatively you can call us on 01983 527878

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