If I am buying a property, surely I do not need searches?

Prospective purchasers sometimes question the needs for searches in the conveyancing process.

In day to day conveyancing, all parties are under time pressure to complete the transaction and therefore it is not uncommon for purchasers to look at what option they may have to shorten the process in order to “get the deal done”. Practitioners always advise and guide clients as to the substantial benefits of obtaining searches for their purchase.

Whilst the contract papers and title deeds received from the sellers’ solicitors will reveal substantial information about the property which will be invaluable to buyers, were buyers to rely solely on the contract papers and not to request searches, they would have an incomplete picture of the property to enable them with confidence to proceed at the point of exchange of contracts where the agreements will become legally binding.

The standard conveyancing principle is called “caveat emptor” or “buyer beware” which means that a buyer is expected to undertake searches and investigations with regards to the property to enable them on completion to acquire a good and marketable title.

The purpose of searches is, in conjunction with a survey, to give the buyers as comprehensive a picture as possible so that they can be confident in giving adequate instructions to their practitioner to proceed to exchange of contracts. The purchase of a property is one of the single most expensive and important decisions in a person’s life.

The normal range of searches include the water and drainage search, which will confirm amongst other things whether the property is connected to mains water supply and foul service water, and drainage to a public sewer. In addition, and interest to buyers is whether or not the property has a benefit of a water meter, or has suffered from low water pressure o flow, and if there is a public sewer and/or water main within the boundaries of the property which may restrict development.

Another is the environmental search which details a variety of environmental factors relating to the property, including but not limited to issues of flooding, radon gas, ground stability and energy infrastructure. All of these could have a bearing on the decision of the buyer to proceed with the purchase.

The local authority search is by far the most important search in a conveyancing process, as this details the information that can affect a property, which is held by the local authority. The factors are numerous and include whether the property is subject to a compulsory purchase order, if the property is in an area which is required for public works or for roadworks, if there are any outstanding notices from the local authority with regard to breaches for planning and/or building regulations. The search provides an abundance of information to potential buyers and are publicly available in registers held by the respective bodies and authorities.

The dangers for buyers who proceed without searches is that once the purchase is completed and the client is now the registered owner of the property, any issues which could potentially affect the property which were readily available and could have been discovered by undertaking searches, are now the responsibility of the buyer together with any consequences that flow from them.

In the vast majority of cases, buyers who have a mortgage offer will also be required by the lender to carry out all necessary and reasonable searches.


Further reading

Property Conveyancing

Conveyancing Fees Estimate

National Conveyancing Protocol & Its Importance

New Law Society Conveyancing Protocol

A look at new build properties: The differences to the conveyancing process

Understanding conveyancing terminology: what are “fixtures and fittings”?

Understanding conveyancing terminology: what is “completion”?

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