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Are Property Searches Worth the Money?

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By Paul Butt, Residential Property Consultant at Rowlinsons Solicitors

If you are looking for someone to handle your conveyancing, you may find the quote so long and complex that you skip to the bottom line rather than worrying about the separate amounts for Fees, Stamp Duty Land Tax and Searches. However, it is important to check what searches are being commissioned on your behalf to get the most value for your money.

‘Searches’ are a lawyer’s way of describing the research of various databases which may contain information affecting the property. Every quote should include the cost of a ‘Local Search’ as an absolute minimum.  Information from the Local Authority will, for example, tell you whether the road on which the house is situated is maintained by the Local Authority and whether there is Planning Permission and Building Regulation Approval for any works carried out to the property.

Just as important however is what it does not tell you. One reason that people sell their house is because there is going to be some kind of development in the area – a new housing estate or whatever. You want to know about this before you buy, not when you have moved in. However, the Local Search won’t reveal this.  You may therefore wish to consider a ‘Plan Search’ - at an extra cost - that will tell you about any planning applications made within a 250 metres radius.

Most quotes should include a ‘Drainage and Water Authority Search’.  This will tell you whether the house has mains drainage and water but as this can be ascertained without spending money on a search, is sometimes omitted. On the other hand, it will also tell you whether there are any water mains or sewers within the boundaries of the property – essential information if you might wish to extend the house or erect a garage.

And then we have the risk of flooding. The Environment Agency estimates that one in six homes are at risk from flooding.  Don’t think that flooding just affects houses near the sea, rivers or on low lying land. Over 3 million houses are at risk from surface water or sewer flooding. A flood search can be commissioned to check and see whether the property is at risk.

There are a whole host of other searches that are available. For example, an ‘Environmental Search’ which will tell you whether the land on which the house is situated might be contaminated by harmful matters, or whether the area is affected by natural ground subsidence – and a multitude of other risks as well!

So do identify which searches are included in the cost, and if you have any concerns consider paying for extra searches to ensure complete peace of mind. 

For expert advice on the best searches for your property make an appointment with our Property Department on 01928 735333 for a FREE 30 minute consultation.