What are searches when selling a house?

Property searches are less dramatic than it sounds. Find out how this part of the legal process works.

Will @ Nested
Property market insight

Whether you’re buying or selling a house, you should instruct a solicitor or conveyancer to oversee the legal side of the transaction. One aspect of their job is to carry out searches on the property you wish to buy.

But what does that mean? Essentially, searches are the various checks your solicitor will undertake to determine whether there is any good reason not to buy the property.

What searches are done when selling a house?

  • Local Authority searches — This will highlight any issues to consider in the surrounding land, such as responsibility for footpaths, conservation area status and tree preservation orders.
  • Environmental searches — Your solicitor can uncover causes for concern when it comes to environmental issues, such as the risk of contaminated land. An enhanced search can highlight issues like mobile mast locations, waste sites and whether the property lies in a flood plain.
  • Water authority searches — These searches will identify the source of water and drainage for the property, and whether any public sewers exist within the boundary which may affect future development.
  • Land Registry searches — In order to prove that the seller is the legal owner of the property you’re buying, your solicitor will need to conduct Land Registry searches. This is a legal obligation.
  • Chancel repair liability — Your solicitor may check whether the local parish contains a church built before 1536. In the unlikely event that it does, you may be liable for the cost of church repairs, though this quirky relic from yesteryear has been less of an issue since the law changed in 2013.

How long do property searches take?

Your solicitors’ searches will begin after you’ve had an offer accepted on a property.

From this point onwards, the searches should take several weeks (typically more than a month). Bear in mind that you’ll have plenty of other tasks to keep you occupied in the meantime, such as getting your mortgage approved, and organising a survey on the property.

Got any burning questions? Read our guide to the legal process of buying and selling a home.

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