Why should you have searches carried out when purchasing property?
The decision to buy property is often one of the biggest financial decisions you can make. A property lawyer will always recommend you find out as much information as possible about the property before committing to the purchase. This information is revealed by searches, carried out by a third party for a fee, and enquiries made with the Seller.
The usual searches carried out by your lawyer include the local land charges register, enquiries with the local authority, water and drainage enquiries , regarding potential chancel repair liability and environmental risk assessment searches as well as making pre-contract enquiries with the Seller. There are further searches available which may be recommended depending on the circumstances of your transaction.
Essentially purchasing a property without the benefit of searches is a risk. Without the information revealed in the search results you will buy the property subject to anything onerous which might be revealed by the searches, and would not be entitled to any compensation from the Seller in the future.
Upon obtaining search results, your property lawyer will report to you on anything of concern. For example, a water and drainage result may reveal a public sewer within the boundary of the property which may restrict future development. A local authority search will check the planning situation, among other matters, for the property which may reveal that any extensions to the property may not have had the relevant permission or that any planning conditions may not have been complied with. Additionally, an environmental search may reveal the land is, or is at risk of being contaminated and it will highlight if the property may be liable to subsidence or flooding. This could mean that if the party who caused or knowingly permitted the contamination cannot be found, you could be required to remedy the contamination, which can be an expensive process.
If you are purchasing a property without a mortgage then you do have the choice not to have searches carried out, but this is at your own risk. However, if you need to secure funding to purchase the property then the lender will insist searches are obtained.
Although a fee is payable for searches to the search providers, it is a small proportion of the overall cost of the transaction and therefore buyers are always advised to obtain searches as you never know what they may reveal.