Buying a House, What are Solicitor Searches?

September 15, 2019

Every house being sold goes through a number of different types of “solicitor search” which, with their legal terminology and complex descriptions can often make people feel confused or overwhelmed… but that’s often because they haven’t been properly explained. So if you’re buying property in North Somerset what searches can you expect your solicitor to carry out and what do they mean?

Local Authority Property Searches

Local Authority Searches are the main type of search your solicitor will do. If you’ve made an offer on a house for sale in Weston super Mare, Clevedon or Portishead, then your solicitor will apply to North Somerset Council for copies of all information they hold for that property. This will include any plans for the house itself, for the roads nearby, and housing plans for the local area. and will also include information about who is responsible for road and path maintenance. Searches reveal legal restrictions or outstanding charges that might be attached to a property or land. This can include whether the building is a listed building, planning issues, conservation areas and tree preservation orders – all important stuff if the first thing you intended to do when you move in was chop down the ancient oak tree blocking all the light to the property!

Land Registry Searches

The solicitors need to prove that person selling you the house is the legal owner of the property – so that it’s theirs to sell – after all, technically anyone could walk into an estate agents in North Somerset and say they have a property for sale…as long as they have the keys. And who knows, they could just be renting the property rather than it’s legal owner. Land Registry searches check the ‘title register’ and ‘title plan’ at the Land Registry. These checks cost a few pounds each and are legally required for ANY land/property sale.

Water Authority Searches

Water Authority Searches establish where your water comes from (mains supply), and whether there are any public drains (for example culverts or sewers) on the property. These are vital if you are planning building work in the future (it may make you think twice about the property and save you money). The search can also highlight issues that may arise in the future, and whether you are responsible for the upkeep of any of the drains.

Environmental Searches

Environmental Searches are very important to establish if the property you are looking to buy is built on a land which may have any kind of potential environmental issues
Environmental Searches are very important to establish if the property you are looking to buy is built on a land which may have any kind of potential environmental issues, for example former landfill site, coal mine, or near contaminated water. Your mortgage provider can insist on this type of search before offering a mortgage. This is more often the case where the building has had a previous industrial use or is near an industrial site. If this is the case, and no searches are done and, for example toxic waste is found in the ground later, the value of the property may be reduced, and the property impossible to sell. An environmental search should also show if your home is at risk of flooding. This for many is the most important part of the environmental search as it may affect your ability to get flood insurance for the property.

Area Specific Searches

Depending on the area where you are buying a property you may find that your mortgage provider or solicitor asks for specific searches. A good example of this would be a coal mine search/report. These ensure your home would not be in danger of falling down a disused mineshaft and your garden isn’t likely to collapse etc. – we’ve all seen terrifying pictures in the papers of huge sink-holes suddenly opening up in someone’s garden or driveway and it makes sense to check your dream home isn’t built on land that resembles Swiss cheese!

Chancel Repair Search

This type of search is an optional search as it doesn’t really affect many properties, but basically Chancel repair searches establish if you will be liable for the cost of repairs to the local parish church. They cost around just a few pounds to run, but can save you a lot of money long term so check with your solicitor whether you need this search.
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a substitute for legal advice so please always take the advice of your solicitor when purchasing a property.

Disclaimer: All advice on this site is given ‘as is’ House Fox Estate Agents are not responsible for any losses you may make subsequent to following the advice on this website, we advise you to always do your own research in full before you act.