What are Conveyancing Searches?
A Solicitor or Licenced Conveyancer will generally order conveyancing searches as part of a property purchase. They are not relevant when selling a property, only buying.
When buying a property with the aid of a mortgage it may be that the mortgage company require that you have searches carried out to protect their investment in your future home. Additionally you employ your solicitor to protect your interests and they will recommend the conveyancing searches they believe are relevant to your local area.
If you are fortunate enough to be a cash buyer you do not need to have any conveyancing searches carried out on your behalf. However whilst some people see searches as an unnecessary expense they can be vital in protecting your interests. Whether you want searches, or not, the lawyer will recommend them as part of the conveyancing process. Why ? Because they are trying to protect you. You could also say that, by preference, they do not want to get sued in the event your home collapses into a big hole in the ground in the future.
The Coal Authority released a statement in November 2020 saying that 1 in 4 properties in England are sited above an old coal mining facility. If this was relevant to yourself it may cause problems if you chose to redevelop your property especially if the ground was affected by either subsidence or whether a previously abandoned entrance shaft lies in your garden and it affected any future foundations.
The higher level Conveyancing Searches firms, such as ourselves, have access to a range of data that will provide both yourself and your solicitor with an added tier of local knowledge. We have integrated links with the Coal Authority, the Land Registry, and a company called Groundsure. Each of these links is aimed at providing the solicitor with immediate information and recommendations.
The searches should not be seen simply as an extra expense, but more a way to provide you with further information regarding your local area. In that way you can decide whether to proceed with your purchase, or take the view that property prices may fall as a result of future developments.
Another way to see matters could be to take the view that if you were made aware of possible future "issues" would you want to offer the full asking price for the property ? As a company we have been providing conveyancing searches for over 10 years and we have seen a range of instances that may put hairs on your chest (man or woman). Such examples might be;
A past client cancelled a house purchase after finding out his proposed home was 400m's away from a Nuclear storage facility. This came to light courtesy of the Environmental Search the client received.
One individual attempted to sue a solicitor on the basis that he'd bought a beautiful rural property only to find out that his neighbour had put in planning permission to build a grain silo in a nearby field. The grain silo cast a shadow on the clients new, and very expensive, home. In this instance a Planning Search would have helped identify the problem and then the client could have decided, prior to completing the purchase, whether to proceed.
In certain instances new build apartments are being built on the site of old petrol stations and that can lead to land contamination and consequently health issues.
The owners of homes within sight of a Church may have a financial obligation to repair the church, hence your solicitor may recommend both a Chancel search and Chancel insurance to mitigate your liability.
From a personal perspective, as the writer of this piece, I bought a property 10 years ago and the solicitor recommended various conveyancing searches, specifically a Local Authority Search, Environmental Search and Coal Mining Search. I will admit that I kicked up a fuss and was adamant I didn't want to spend the extra money, I reluctantly did as recommended though.
The searches outlined that the property was in a coal mining area, but that house was unaffected. The environmental search revealed that a former quarry was half a mile away (I remembered playing there as a teenager when it filled up with water during the summer months). The report said there was a possibility the quarry could be reopened as a landfill site.
I bought the property regardless and 3 years ago the quarry was reopened as a landfill site and lorries rumble along the main road every day. My point being, that even though there's muck and dirt everywhere, I can't say I wasn't told of the risk. My guess is that the houses on the country road that the landfill lorries traverse are worth less than those further afield. Forearned is forearmed.
In summary if your solicitor recommends any number of conveyancing searches specific to your house purchase our recommendation would be to bite the bullet and spend the money so that you can say with authority that you know what you're buying into.
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