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Conveyancing searches explained

Last updated on January 11th, 2024 at 11:31 am

Latest posts by Caroline Murray (see all)

    What are conveyancing searches?

    Conveyancing searches are enquiries your conveyancer makes to identify any potential problems with the property you’re planning to buy.

    They protect you against the risk of discovering a serious issue with your new home only after the purchase has completed, when it’s too late to do anything.

    Conveyancing searches are not surveys, so they don’t cover the property’s structure or condition.

    Does conveyancing include searches?

    Searches are a standard part of the conveyancing process and will be included in the conveyancer’s total quote. More information about conveyancing fees.

    How many conveyancing searches are carried out?

    The following searches are compulsory:

    Other searches are optional but are recommended if your circumstances deem them necessary or worthwhile.

    What do conveyancing searches look for?

    Local authority search

    This has two parts:

    • A local land charges certificate (LLC1)
    • Enquiries of the local authority (CON29)

    The results tell you if your property:



    • is affected by potential road or rail schemes or proposals for new developments nearby
    • whether roads and accessways are adopted (i.e. maintained at public expense)
    • has breached planning permission or building regulations, and what planning/build regulation approvals or self-certifications have been taken out in respect of the property
    • is on the contaminated land register
    • is in a radon-affected area

    Though most property transactions involve a local authority search, you’ll definitely need one if you’re borrowing money from a mortgage lender.

    How is it done?

    There are official searches and personal searches. Both are carried out in the same way, in that your conveyancer uses an independent agency to search the register of the local council’s land charges service.

    The difference is that personal searches aren’t nearly as thorough as official searches, as local authorities only allow access to certain information in their register. Some lenders don’t accept personal searches at all.

    For this reason, Graysons only conducts official searches.

    Water and drainage search

    This provides information such as whether the property:

    • is close to public sewers and water mains
    • is connected to a public water supply
    • has a public sewer running within its boundaries

    and whether these risks might affect your home in the future.

    How is it done?

    Your conveyancer uses a search agent to enquire with the local water company.

    Environmental search

    Your prospective home may be built on or close to ground which was once used for industry or landfill.

    The environmental search:

    • details how the land was used in the past
    • determines whether there’s a risk those uses have caused contamination

    It also identifies issues relating to:

    If the land is found to be contaminated, the local authority might hold you responsible for cleaning it up, which can be a very expensive process.

    How is it done?

    Your conveyancer uses a search agent to enquire with specialist environmental companies that keep detailed records of land use.

    Coal mining search

    If the property is based in an area which used to be mined or quarried, a mining search is essential. Such activity could mean the ground is unstable and at risk of landslips or subsidence.

    If you’re borrowing money from a mortgage lender, it will ask that this search is done before it agrees to provide the funds.

    How is it done?

    Your conveyancer uses a search agent to enquire with the Coal Authority.

    Other optional searches

    Depending on where your property is, your conveyancer may recommend carrying out other searches alongside the compulsory ones mentioned above. These include the following:

    Commons registration search

    This search is advised if your property is:

    How is it done?

    Your conveyancer uses a search agent to enquire with the local commons registration authority (usually the local council).

    How much do conveyancing searches cost?

    The exact fee for searches depends on the local authority, but it can range from £200 to £500.

    How long do conveyancing searches take?

    The official local authority search tends to be the most time-consuming, taking anywhere between two and six weeks, depending on how quickly the local authority can work.

    All other conveyancing searches can be carried out online, so the turnaround is fairly quick.

    The timescales for Graysons’ full conveyancing process are set out here.

    How long are conveyancing searches valid for?

    Conveyancing searches are valid for six months. If your purchase still hasn’t gone through, you should consider having new searches carried out, to ensure the information within them is fully accurate and up-to-date.

    Do I need conveyancing searches when buying a house for cash?

    If you’re buying your home without a mortgage, the searches aren’t necessary. However, your conveyancing solicitor will likely recommend that you have at least a local authority search carried out.

    Graysons always recommend searches and would ask you to sign a disclaimer if you chose not to have the searches carried out.

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