mini house with magnifying glass

What are “searches” when buying a house?

While property searches are mandatory when purchasing a house with a mortgage, they are not obligatory if you are paying in cash. When buying with cash, you are utilising your own funds rather than those of a mortgage lender, thus assuming the risk and decision-making responsibility. However, this does not imply that searches are unnecessary. Even as a cash buyer, it is still advisable to conduct property searches. Let us explore the reasons why.

Property searches involve investigations into the local area surrounding your property, conducted by your solicitor. These searches differ from surveys, which focus on the property itself. Mortgage lenders require property searches as they can identify any issues that may have a long-term impact on the property’s value. For instance, searches can reveal if there is a high risk of flooding in the area, if the land beneath the house is sinking due to its proximity to an old mine, or if there are plans for the construction of a new road or motorway nearby.

Without this information, both your lender and yourself may invest in a property that could present significant problems in the future. Ultimately, property searches are in place to protect you and your investment. Now, let’s delve into the different types of property searches.

Local Authority Search


The first type is the local authority search, which examines the surrounding roads and infrastructure that may affect your property. It also looks into past planning permissions and building regulations on the property. This search can also inform you of any potential pollution issues and restrictions, such as if the property is listed or in a conservation area.

Water and Drainage


Next is the water and drainage search, conducted by the Water Authority. This search informs you about the location of your property’s sewer and drainage pipes. It also reveals whether your property is connected to a public water supply maintained at public expense and provides information on the ownership of drains, sewers, and piping. If there is a public sewer on your property, it is crucial to be aware of this, as it could impact your future development plans.

Environmental Search

The environmental search focuses on contaminated land and assesses whether the land is in good condition and at risk of flooding. It also explores potential subsidence and the possibility of landslides.

Chancel Search

The chancel search checks if your property is within a parish boundary. If it is, the chancel or church may charge you for any necessary repairs. This may sound unusual, but it affects a significant number of properties in England and Wales.

There are other searches available, such as the canal and river search, the commons registration search, the coal mining and brine search, and the flooding search. The necessity of these searches will depend on the location of your property, and your solicitor or conveyancer will be able to provide guidance.

Always consult your solicitor to determine which searches they are conducting, ensuring that you are well-informed throughout the process. In terms of timing, most searches are ordered soon after your offer has been accepted. You will need a solicitor to manage the process and pay the deposit for the searches, typically ranging from £250 to £500. It is advisable to initiate the process as soon as possible, as some searches may take a while to complete.

The authority responsible for carrying out the search depends on the specific type of search. Your solicitor will handle the application, review the results, and manage the entire process. Given the complexity of gathering and interpreting the information, having a solicitor to guide you through this process is invaluable.

The duration of the search process will primarily depend on your local authorities. On average, you can expect the search process to take between two to three weeks, although it may take longer in some cases. If you require expedited searches, it may be possible to fast-track the process, although this may come with additional charges.

Throughout the process, maintain regular communication with your solicitor to ensure that all requests have been submitted and to address any concerns regarding the time taken.

The cost of searches varies depending on the location of your property and the complexity of the search. Generally, you can expect to pay between £150 and £600 in total. Each local authority sets its own fees for local authority searches, so the total amount will depend on that.

Some additional searches may be conducted by your solicitor, which are not directly related to your property and have relatively small fees. For example, a search to determine bankruptcy status costs £2 per name, while a Land Registry search, which prevents unauthorised changes to the property title during the buying process, costs £3.

It is important to note that searches do expire after six months. Your lender and solicitor will closely monitor this date, ensuring that you have ample time to complete the purchase of your house. While it may be tempting to forgo these expenses as a cash buyer, it is not worth saving a few hundred pounds when the long-term costs could be significantly higher. Plan ahead and factor in these fees, as they provide peace of mind.

#get in touch

Ready to get started ?

Speak to a MyContractorBroker specialist on 02394 211120

#get in touch

Ready to get started ?

Speak to a MyContractorBroker specialist on 02394 211122

Scroll to Top