What are solicitor searches when buying a house?

Searches are carried out for you when you purchase a property. The number and type of the searches that we will do on your behalf will depend on the nature/location of the property and whether the legal title is registered at the Land Registry. 

Some searches are carried out before the contracts are exchanged (i.e. when you are not legally bound to proceed with the transaction) to ensure that there are no adverse matters affecting the property.  Others are done between exchange of contracts and legal completion. 

If you are taking a mortgage on a property, then your lender will always insist on certain searches being carried out.  These are not compulsory if you are not buying with a mortgage. However, we would normally recommend that you proceed with the benefit of searches because any legal liability that follows from the searches not being carried out  would lie with you.

The most common searches that we undertake as part of the conveyancing procedure are:

The Local Authority Search:

The Local Authority (i.e. District Council) is under a legal obligation to maintain various registers that set out information concerning properties.  This includes (among other things) confirmation as to whether the property that you are buying is affected by any of the following – listed building legislation, repayable improvement grants, conservation area status, smoke control or compulsory purchase orders, tree preservation orders, adverse planning entries etc.  The search will also give information concerning ownership/maintenance of roads.  This search (as with all searches) will only give you information about the property itself .  The results of the search are only accurate as at the date they are issued.  This is a risk that all buyers have to take. 

The Drainage and Water Search:

This search gives information about the water and sewerage/drainage services for the property. 

The Environmental Search:

An environmental search surveys historical and current records of land to ascertain whether any past use is likely to have led to contamination. A physical inspection of the land is not required for the production of the report. The search is carried out with an environmental agency rather than The Environmental Agency.

The search also confirms whether the property is at risk of flooding. This is important to establish as this can have an adverse impact on insurance premiums, the ability to obtain a mortgage and the value of the property. If a search reveals a high risk of flooding in the area, further enquiries should be made of prospective insurance companies prior to purchasing to ensure that buildings insurance can be obtained


If you would like any further information, please contact our office on 01904 624903, and speak with one of our friendly residential conveyancing team members who will be able to assist.


Rachel Butterfield