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What are conveyancing searches?

Find out why your conveyancing solicitor will carry out searches on your behalf when buying a property.

What are conveyancing searches?

What are property searches?

Property searches (also known as conveyancing searches) are enquiries made by your solicitor to find out more information about a property you plan to purchase. As part of the home-buying process, your conveyancer will carry out a variety of 'searches' with the local authority and other parties.

The main searches when buying a house:

  1. Local Authority 
  2. Water and Property 
  3. Environmental

They typically include aspects such as whether planning permission may be granted for a future development that would negatively impact your property, the quality of the ground on which your house is built or details of common drains and access rights.

The conveyancing searches should be completed and approved before you exchange contracts and legally commit yourself to purchasing the property, as they may highlight planning or structural issues that could either affect the value of the property, or result in additional costs further down the line.

How long do Conveyancing Searches take?

There are over 340 local authorities across the UK. Searches are managed differently depending on your local authority so turnaround time can take between 48 hours to several weeks for your search results to be returned.

Local searches can vary due to the method in which your local authority return search results. For example, if you receive your search results electronically via an online portal or email this will be much quicker than by post.

Many local authorities only have small teams working in the Land Charges departments, so during busy periods it could take longer for them to return your search results.


Local Authority Searches 

A local authority search will provide you with detailed information about your property and the surrounding areas. This will give you peace of mind before going ahead with the purchase of your new home and ensure you avoid any nasty surprises in the future.

There are two parts to a local authority search, a LLC1 result and a CON29 result.

The LLC1 results will tell you the following information about your property:

  • If your property is a listed building
  • Located in a conservation area
  • Situated in a tree preservation order area
  • Need an improvement or renovation grant
  • In a smoke control area

Any future development plans that could affect your property are assessed by CON29. The CON29 results are broken down into two different parts (required and optional). The required results will reveal:

  • Proposals for new roads or traffic schemes
  • Contaminated land
  • Planning decisions affecting your property
  • Building regulations
  • If your property is in a Radon affected area

From time to time additional information may be required using the CON29 form. Examples include, road proposals by private bodies, completion notices, land maintenance notices and environmental and pollution notice. CON29 works to assess any changes that could be made in the near future that may affect your property.


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Water, drainage and other property searches

It is also recommended for first time buyers to apply to the local water company responsible for the property asking for confirmation that the sewers, drains and piping are maintained by them. A water and drainage search carried out by your conveyancer will also highlight the proximity of the property to public sewers and whether the property has a sewer running within the boundaries of the property.  

Environmental search

An environmental search identifies whether the previous land use of the property creates a potential environmental risk or is risk free. This type of search will highlight issues including:

  • Landslips
  • Subsidence
  • Contaminated land due to historic landfills and waste sites
  • The risk of flooding from nearby rivers or seas

In certain cases, your conveyancer may recommend carrying out the following non-routine searches, depending on the location of the property:  

Commons registration 

If a property borders with common land, a village green or is in a rural area a search is recommended in accordance with the Commons Registration Act 1965. This property search should also be carried out when purchasing agricultural land. 

Mining search

A mining search is required if the property is situated in an area of previous or current mining history and is at risk of being built on unstable ground. This search is largely carried out for the benefit of the mortgage lender.

Land charges 

This is a search that should be taken when dealing with unregistered land, detailing any bankruptcy proceedings attributed to the owner of the land. It will also highlight if there are any restrictions on the use of land, estate contracts and mortgages.

Chancel repair liability

All parochial church councils in England and Wales were given until October 2013 to identify and register any land bound to chancel repair liability. This information is kept by the Land Registry and stored on the Title Register database, so if you buy or inherit a property and you live within the parishes of the church, it is worth checking if you are liable to contribute towards the cost of repairs to the church.  

Disadvantage area relief

Disadvantage area relief on Stamp Duty was phased out by HMRC in April 2013 as evidence showed that this “relief” did not encourage people to purchase a property. Up until this date anyone that purchased a property valued over £125,000 or did not exceed £150,000 was exempt to Stamp Duty in they lived in a designated disadvantaged area. 

First time buyers should be mindful that property searches, by their nature, will often flag up things about a property you might not have previously considered. It is therefore very important to discuss the results with your conveyancer, and to seek other opinions from people with knowledge of the buying process and the local area. 

Employing a conveyancing solicitor for your house purchase is a vital aspect of moving home, so be sure to compare quotes from quality conveyancing solicitors in your area.

Last reviewed July 2018

Comments (22)

  • Tony

    posted on 10 Sep 2013

    Are you sure this page is accurate? The law society at: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/buying-a-home/ Say: Your solicitor will make various searches, including enquiries of the local authority. These can help to reveal any planning issues affecting the property, such as road improvements and details of any planning permission granted on the property. These searches will only provide information about the property itself and not generally about any neighbouring properties. Your solicitor may also carry out flooding, mining and contaminated-land searches if necessary. If any of these searches show matters of concern, your solicitor will let you know. This is different to what you imply in: Your property lawyer should also enquire about nearby buildings and empty land. You will want to know if there is major planning permission for further buildings or developments as this could greatly affect your quality of life in your first home.


    posted on 15 Sep 2013

    This article was very helpful

    Miss UMANDE

    posted on 10 Nov 2013

    This document have been very usefull.i have been looking to a solicitor who could help me. I have got a case of fraud of land .i nearly lost my house in the hand of a criminal solicitor. I was a council tenant and did building work .buily two rooms on the loft and extension . While I was on holiday solicitor not known to me approached seller and pretend to be my solivitor. Then proceeded in registering my building extension as is it was his borrowed monies using my name and vanished . With this information of yours it has helped me much buy I am looking for a lawyer who can represent me who is good in conveyancing and fraud .

    Simon Miller

    posted on 31 May 2014

    Very informative just what I needed to know

    Alex Ramsay

    posted on 18 Jun 2014

    I am buying for cash without a mortgage. I am advised that I do not need to do searches as they will be done by the seller's solicitor and my lawyer will be advised of the outcomes. Is this correct?

    heidi borchardt

    posted on 8 Aug 2014

    I WANTED the list of Searches that are Recomended for the area of: PL7 1HT And I also wanted to know HOW to Access them And at What Cost each...... When acquired myself please!!??......


    posted on 24 Sep 2014

    why do you have to have searches on a property that is mid build surely they would of already been done.

    Alex Tregoning

    posted on 17 Nov 2014

    if i am on a fixed rate with a solicitor, should a be charged again for local searches on a second property if i did not complete on the first property?


    posted on 9 Dec 2014

    Does a conveyancing solicitor bear responsibility for checking with the vendor`s solicitor,that all is in order with the property to be sold? Actual Scenario: A property developer has sold a property which subsequently has transpired to have a raft of problems with water & electric services to the house which are both routed to the property next door,which they also developed. It also seems the developer of the property he has sold, has himself not paid off the loan he has acquired for its original purchase for its development. In effect he has sold a property he himself does not fully own.How Is this possible & who should have found this out.!? The developer consistently refuses to respond to new owner`s complaints,in essence a rogue. Is there any redress that can be actioned with one or both solicitors to resolve the situation. Much obliged.

    scott parkes

    posted on 23 Jun 2016

    Is it law to have conveyancing search done when buying a house or is it cost u dont need???

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Scott

    It's always adviseable to get searches carried out, just to check there's nothing unusual around the property, such as an application for a motorway going through it or it is built on a previous industrial site.  They aren't so expensive, when you're spending hundreds of thousands of pounds.



    posted on 15 Oct 2017

    Hi - I am at the mortgage application stage and have a solicitor who has come recommended by a few different friends - being new to the process, do they automatically do all the searches or do you need to request any. I am buying a flat so it should be straightforward?

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Rebecca,
    Your conveyancing solicitor will know to carry out the searches. 
    Best of luck with your purchase,
    the reallymoving team

    Rosemary Clark

    posted on 6 Nov 2017

    I am purchasing a new house which has been completed 7 weeks ago so waiting for contracts to be sent to our solicitor, finally they have arrived today but my solicitor now tells me they have to do searches which will take about 2 weeks. Why couldn't these have been done earlier, it just seems such a waste of time, we are a cash buyer so no mortgage to arrange

    R Squire

    posted on 5 Jan 2018

    My son has just moved into a new flat and has recently found out via the local newspaper that a planning permission for a new Factory is to be built on the plot of land next to his block is going through the final review. The initial application was dated 2008. The Factory will block out the view of the nearby river, which was one of the reasons he chose the flat. Should the Searches have identified this planning application? If so, would he have any grounds to claim against the solicitor doing the Searches?

    Reallymoving response

    We have had a similar question asked here - we hope this helps.
    All the best,
    the reallymoving team


    posted on 17 Mar 2018

    Do I need to get searches done if purchasing an old building without a mortgage.

    Reallymoving response

    Whilst conveyancing searches are necessary for a mortgage lender's approval, they important in that they let you know more about what you're buying into, including the area and any upcoming changes. Searches are often an automatic part of the conveyancing process, and they are incredibly important in helping you to make a fully informed decision about your purchase.


    posted on 3 Apr 2018

    I am purchasing a flat that i have rented for the past 15 years, surely i don't need to have searches done?

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Lynn,

    Searches can include information about the area that might be subject to change, and include issues with local authorities, boundaries or any upcoming works. These are things that you may not have been made aware of when you were renting, or may not have had any effect on you as a tenant, but will matter when you purchase a property. It is best to discuss with your conveyancing solicitor during the buying process.

    Best of luck, reallymoving


    posted on 1 Jun 2018

    My searches to purchase my new home were recently completed with no issues. I found out yesterday that the solicitor representing the purchaser of my current home has yet to initiate the searches on my property although the fee was paid around 2 months ago. I believe this will delay my move by a further 4-6 weeks until these searches are conducted, and puts the chain at risk. Initial instruction was given 10 weeks ago. Can you advise if the search process can be expedited by the faltering solicitor and if so, would they be liable for any additional costs incurred?

    sue shires

    posted on 16 Oct 2018

    We bought a property which was extended 25 years ago. Planning permission was never granted and building regs were never signed off. This is all in the public domain. We now have to carry out £30000 repairs as the property is structurally unsound. Should the solicitor have found this when he did the searches?

    Len zelig

    posted on 19 Nov 2018

    Hi my house sale is due to complete very soon - just waiting for the Local Search to come back from the buyers solicitors - it seems to be taking ages with excuses like "sorry there's a weeks delay" ?? Its now been nearly 3 weeks since the search was instigated - there is no chain and no mortgage and I own the house outright - is there a recommended time for this to complete?

    Reallymoving response

    Hi there,

    Delays are incredibly frustrating, especially as you've outlined that it should be an incredibly quick process without a chain or mortgage.
    It may be to do with a backlog from the land registry, or conveyancers being on holiday, or a number of people trying to move before Christmas - there really are a number of possible reasons. 
    We do cover a few reasons there might be a hold up in our article 'What's holding up my move?' but it may be a case of continuing to call and check in with the conveyancer about progress.

    best of luck with your move
    the reallymoving team


    posted on 10 Oct 2019

    Great article, very helpful. Yet i have a question, you stated that the buyer conducts the searches. In my case i have a solicitor who is selling the property for me, but they are asking for money to conduct the searches...are they correct to do so. As you stated the buyer should be conducting the searches. Many thanks

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Sheila,

    The buyer's solicitor should be doing the searches on the property. I would ask your solicitor what searches they are conducting on your behalf and why, as this does seem quite unusual.

    Kind regards,


    posted on 21 Nov 2019

    Do the searches have an expiry date? Our previous buyer purchased searches on our property but then the sale fell through. We have a new buyer now and I understand that their solicitor can purchase the searches from the previous solicitor if they are in date. Any idea how long they are valid for before new searches are needed? Thank you

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Vikki,

    Searches are valid for 3 months and after that we'd recommend getting new ones done.
    Kind regards,

    Stephanie Howe

    posted on 8 Dec 2019

    If a seller finds out 2 weeks before exchange of contract that a planning application for quite a large number of houses on adjacent land has been submitted is he legally bound to inform the buyer? This would have been submitted after the search.

    Imran Ali

    posted on 10 Dec 2019

    I am buying a house and I don't know if I should carry out a personal search or a local authority search?

What information does a local search provide that a personal search will not? Also I read personal search is not upto date. How out of date can the information be?

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Imran,

    The choice to have a personal search or a Local Authority Search can often be impacted by the mortgage lender and your conveyancing solicitor. I would recommend talking to them directly. You can also find more information on the difference between the two on the HomeOwners Alliance site.

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