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Posted 29 Jun 2022

Property Searches: What Searches Are Done And How Long Do They Take?

buy / house / moving / property searches

Find out more about what property searches are and how they work here.

Property searches (also known as ‘conveyancing searches’) are an important part of buying a house or flat – but they can be intimidating for first time buyers.

When doing research, tons of information and terminology will be thrown in your face and you might find yourself feeling confused.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone – we’ve all been there!

To help get you started, I’ll cover the basics of property searches:

What is a property search?


When buying a property, you may want to use a first time buyer checklist to make sure you’ve ticked all the boxes.

If you’re buying with a mortgage, the lender will most likely require a property search.

Your conveyancing solicitor or a licensed conveyancer will carry out all the relevant searches.

These searches will ensure the property is correctly valued, there are no hidden faults with it, and its legal description and boundary lines are accurate.

However, even if you are a cash buyer, you may wish to commission your own property search to ensure you have all the important information about the property before purchasing it.

In this situation, I would advise hiring your own independent conveyancer, who should be accredited by either RICS or the RPSA.

The information gathered from your property searches will provide you with additional information that may influence your purchase decision.

What property searches are done when buying a house?

There are three main property searches carried out when buying a house:

1. Water and drainage search 

The first required property search is a water and drainage search (CON29DW).

This is conducted to confirm that the property is connected to the municipal water supply and drainage system.

If property searches are optional for you and you decide against them, you may find you end up paying the high maintenance costs for a private system.

A water and drainage search will also show:

  • Previous internal sewage flooding and future risk
  • Location of the water meter
  • Charges for water
  • Classification of water supply

The information gathered from a CON29DW may vary depending on the company hired.

2. Environmental search

Environmental searches are another important type of property search that should be conducted before buying a new home.

These property searches check for:

  • Soil contamination
  • Flood risk
  • Landslide risk
  • Subsidence issues
  • Gas hazards
  • Nearby landfill sites

Checking for soil or land contamination is vital to ensure you aren’t held responsible for funding the cost of decontamination, which can be very expensive.

Assessing the risk of damage due to flooding, landslides, subsidence or gas hazards is also essential as these can impact not only the value of your home and your ability to acquire home insurance, but also your health.

Prior to your property search, you can check if your property is in a flood risk zone using the government’s flood risk map.

3. Local Authority Search

Local authority searches have two mandatory parts: a Local Land Charge Register (LLC1) search and a CON29 form.

An LLC1 reveals information on the following things:

    • Listed building status
    • Conservation areas
    • Smoke control areas
    • Current tree preservation orders
    • Financial charges registered against the property
    • Conditional planning permissions

Next, a CON29 provides information on issues including:

Your mortgage lender or conveyancing solicitor may also determine that the optional CON29O search is necessary. This may come at an extra cost, depending on your solicitor.

The CON29O includes information related to:

  • Private road proposals
  • Land maintenance notices
  • Pollution notices
  • Noise abatement orders

Water and drainage, environmental and local authority searches are the three primary searches conducted when buying a new home.

However, your conveyancer may advise conducting other searches depending on the individual circumstances of the property.

What additional property searches may be needed?

1. Chancel repair search

If you’re buying a property in England or Wales, this search will reveal if chancel repair liability applies to the property.

If so, the homeowner will be liable to contribute to repairs to the chancel of the church; these costs can be expensive.

As a prospective buyer, you should check if a property falls under such an obligation. If liable, I would strongly advise getting chancel repair insurance.

2. Land registry search

A land registry search consists of three parts: the property summary, title register and title plan.

The property summary shows the address, description, tenure type, any ‘restrictive covenants’ (agreements not to do specific things with the land) and any ‘easements’ (rights of one piece of land over another).

The title register includes the title number, owner, last sale price, mortgage status, and information on restrictive covenants and easements.

A title plan shows the property’s location and boundaries.

The property summary can be accessed free of charge, while the title register and title plan cost £3 each. You can start your land registry search on the government’s website.

3. Commons search

Common land refers to land that is owned by one or more individuals privately, by the National Trust or by a local council, who are allowed to utilise the land and resources.

While citizens have the right to roam, for example walking or running, certain common land has rights that allow for more activities.

In England, around 3% of the land area is common land.

This property search should be done if your future property is in a rural area or can be accessed through open land.

If some of the property is on common land, certain developments are not allowed.

4. Energy and infrastructure search

During this property search, the surveyor looks for nearby developments in energy or infrastructure. These may include solar and wind farms, sewage works or high-speed rail developments.

Such developments will influence the property’s value depending on its proximity.

5. Mining search

This type of property search is not necessary in most areas in the UK and is mostly for the benefit of the mortgage lender.

Nonetheless, it is something to be mindful of if the property is situated in an area where mining has occurred as the ground could be unstable or contaminated.

How much does a property search cost?

You may be asking yourself, ‘how much will all of this cost me?’

That’s a tough question to answer.

There are various factors to consider, like the property’s location, size, surveyor and how many searches are done.

To be on the safe side, I’d advise allocating £1,000 – £1,500 for property searches.

How long do property searches take?

You’re probably eager to secure your new property – so you may be wondering, ‘how long do property searches take?’

The duration of conveyancing searches often relies on the local authority search, which could take several weeks, depending on the current workload.

In contrast, environmental searches and water and drainage searches are usually quicker.

The whole process could take 2-6 weeks. However, various factors can influence how long property searches will take, including:

  • Property size
  • Location
  • Availability of surveyors
  • Number of required searches

At the end of the day, it’s all part of the process – and the most important thing is to make sure everything has been checked thoroughly.

Summary: property searches

So, in reality, there is no certain answer to the questions ‘what property searches are done when buying a house?’ and ‘how long do property searches take?’

The number and duration of property searches will depend on each property’s individual circumstances.

However, it’s important to take all the necessary steps to ensure your new home is safe and complies with all necessary regulations.

Never let a short delay dissuade you from buying your dream home!

If you’d like to know more about property searches, you may want to seek professional advice, for example from the HomeOwners Alliance.

If you’re ready to make your next move, get in touch with Fine Living today!

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02/15/2023

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04/11/2024

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