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What are Residential Property Searches?
December 12, 2023

One of the key stages of buying a residential property is undertaking ‘searches’.

In this blog, our Residential Property lawyers answer some frequently asked questions about the searches undertaken during a residential property purchase.

What are searches?

Searches are the series of enquiries made by your solicitor to discover more information about a property you plan to purchase.

They highlight any potential problems with the property at the time of acquisition and protect you against the risk of discovering any issues with your new home after you have completed the purchase.

When do conveyancing searches start?

Property lawyers usually begin the searches once an initial offer has been accepted on a property and it is listed as ‘Sold Subject to Contract’.

How many conveyancing searches are carried out?

Conveyancers usually carry out three main searches. These are:

  1. Local Authority Search. This uncovers any issues that might affect the property directly and can forewarn any legal restrictions a property may have imposed on it.

A local authority search is divided into two parts:

a. A local land charges certificate (LLC1). This tells you if the property:

    • Is a listed building.
    • Has debts registered against it.
    • Is located in a conservation area.
    • Is subject to a tree preservation order.
    • Is in a smoke control area.

b. Enquiries of the local authority (CON29). This form helps to establish if the property will remain a worthwhile investment in the future by highlighting, for example:

      • Any proposals for new roads or traffic schemes.
      • Any planning decisions that might affect your property.
      • Whether it is on the contaminated land register.
  1. Environmental Search. This surveys historical and current land records to reveal:
  • How the land was used in the past.
  • Whether there is a risk that those uses have caused contamination.

An Environmental Search also identifies issues relating to:

  • Landslips and subsidence.
  • The risk of flooding from nearby rivers or seas.

 

  1. Water and Drainage Search. This reveals:
  • Whether the property is connected to a mains water supply.
  • The location of the water mains.
  • Whether there is a public sewer within the property’s boundaries.

In addition to these three primary searches, several subsequent and additional searches can be undertaken depending on the results or if you have any particular concerns about a property that need further examination.

These include:

  • Neighbourhood search.
  • Flood search.
  • Mining searches.
  • Energy and Infrastructure search.
  • High-Speed Rail 2 (HS2) search.
  • Underground railways search.
  • Commons Registration.

A specialist residential property solicitor can advise on exactly what searches need to be carried out depending on the nature of your property and its location.

Muscatt Black Graf has extensive experience in residential property with particular expertise in helping high-net-worth individuals add to their property portfolios in the London prime market.

If you are looking for advice and guidance on residential property issues and want to discuss your next steps, please contact us via contact@muscattblackgraf.com.

Does everyone need to do searches when buying a property?

No mortgage lender will proceed without searches being completed, and even for cash buyers, they are essential for highlighting any issues with a property.

Why are searches important?

Searches unearth additional information about a property that might affect whether a buyer proceeds with the transaction.

During the searches, a solicitor will raise any enquiries you may have with the sellers and can ask for additional information to ensure there are no problems that affect the value or saleability of the property in the future.

If any issues come to light, these need to be concluded to the satisfaction of the seller and the buyer, possibly in the form of a revised offer.

Searches are a vital part of the conveyancing process as they ultimately determine whether a house sale or purchase will go through or not.

Once all the initial searches have been undertaken, your lawyer will provide you with a review of the results in a document called a ‘Report on Title’.

This document compiles all the relevant information relating to your desired property. Buyers should ensure they read this document carefully as it contains valuable information about their new home.

How long do searches take?

The official local authority search is usually the most time-consuming, although the exact time it takes depends on how busy the local authority is. Generally, searches take somewhere between two and six weeks to complete.

How long are conveyancing searches valid?

Conveyancing searches are valid for six months. If your purchase hasn’t gone through in this time, you should consider having new searches carried out so that the information is accurate and up to date.

Residential Property Lawyers London

Muscatt Black Graf’s experienced Residential Property and Enfranchisement team can help with all aspects of buying, selling, developing, and financing residential property for individuals and families, developers, and private banks.

We have particular expertise in dealing with prime London property. We advise high-net-worth individuals, corporate entities, and domestic and overseas investors with their residential property needs in London and beyond.

We have a long history of acting for high-net-worth individuals, their families and connected businesses, marrying discretion with the highest level of expertise and clear and pragmatic advice. We work closely with our private client team and a network of esteemed industry professionals to deliver a seamless experience for our clients.

Our experienced Residential Property and Enfranchisement solicitors can assist with a wide range of matters, including:

  • Sale and purchase of freehold and leasehold properties (including off-plan properties, heritage properties, new builds and listed buildings).
  • Rights of first refusal.
  • Borrowing by the owner.
  • Financing and re-financing.
  • Planning agreements.
  • Construction advice on property renovations and refurbishments.
  • Offshore trusts.
  • Investment in land.
  • Lease extensions.
  • Enfranchisement (inclusive of collective claims by tenants).
  • Right to manage claims.
  • Restructuring purchases, developments and investments.
  • Tenancies.
  • Residential property portfolio management advice.
  • Tax advice.

For more information about our Residential Property department, click here.

To speak to one of our lawyers, please email contact@muscattblackgraf.com or fill in our online contact form.

This blog was prepared on 7 December 2023. It is not intended to be advice and should not be relied upon as such.

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