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Conveyancing is the legal process for buying or selling property. Professionals who deal with conveyancing are often conveyancing solicitors but can also be licensed conveyancers (specialised property lawyers). Once an offer has been accepted by the seller, both parties will instruct their lawyers. It's the seller's solicitor's task to draw up the legal contract to transfer ownership of the property. The buyer's solicitor will examine the draft contract, raise any enquiries if necessary and will initiate a set of legal property searches.
Legal Property Searches
Property searches only serve purpose for the legal conveyancing process andwill not provide information about the state of the property. If you are buying with a mortgage you are obliged to the lender to undertake some of these searches.
Simply put, searches are a list of questions about the property which are being sent out to other organisations or authorities. Sellers are normally strongly advised to carry out the standard searches to avoid nasty surprises later on but your solicitor will suggest which ones are a must and which ones would be important for you.
Local authority search: This search will give you all relevant information on the planning history of the property, any potential issues regarding access or rights of way, including public right of way (public footpath, bridal ways), plans for any new development next to you or for a road across your garden.
Land registry search: This includes 'title register' and 'title plan' searches, both proofing the seller's ownership. There is also a flood risk indicator search available.
Water authority search: This search will advise you on water flowing to and from the property - is the property connected directly to mains water and drainage and on the water mains location as the water might go across someone else's land. The search will provide information on public sewers that might be close by and if there are sewers running across your boundaries.
The environmental search: This search from the Environmental Agency will highlight any risks in the proximity of 500 meters of your property, including flooding, subsidence, landslides, and landfill and waste sites.
Location specific searches: These locality specific searches could be a coal mining search if your desired property is in a mining area or a British Waterway search if your property is next to a canal or river. A Chancel Repair Liability search would be recommended if the property was close to a church and will show if you are liable to contribute to church repairs. Your solicitor will advise you on the need of any of these searches.
A survey is normally commissioned and paid for by the buyer to check for structural defects on the property. The survey is carried out by a surveyor who visits the property in question and produces a report on the physical state of it.
Surprisingly, as buying your house is most probably the biggest purchase you will make in your lifetime, a large proportion of homebuyers do not commission a survey.
One reason for this is the cost involved - finding another few hundred pounds on top of deposits and solicitors fees is for some people impossible, plus, if the sale will not go ahead (for whatever reason but perhaps because of the outcome of the survey) the money is non-refundable and therefor lost.
Another reason is the confusion that some buyers have about the merit of the obligatory lender's survey - which in fact is only a mortgage valuation (the lender needs to know if the property has enough equity to secure the loan they give you). It provides no information about structural defects or other problems the property might have (like damp).
Depending on the age of the property, the state it is in (newly renovated or ripe for a project?) and your future plans for it, you can choose between three types of surveys:
Home condition survey or report: This survey is the most basic and cost effective survey. If your property in question is a new built (despite a house still being under a 10 year new-built warranty you might opt to have an additional survey) or of standard construction without major alterations this might be a good choice. It will summarise the condition of the property and highlight risks this purchase might bring. It gives basic guidance to your solicitor and might help you with price negotiations. This survey will not address the question of the value of the property. This type of survey came to life during the period of the Home Information Pack (HIP) requirement and was tailored towards sellers but might well suit your needs as a buyer. Chartered surveyors offer this type of survey but it can also be carried out by a home inspector but do check their qualifications.
Homebuyer's report: This is a more comprehensive survey useful for houses built in the last 150 years and of conventional construction. Like the report mentioned above, this report will alert you to any issues the property might have and give you advice on potential specialist help you may need in the future. It will include a market valuation and state the rebuild costs for insurance purposes. It is always carried out by a chartered surveyor.
Building or structural survey: This is the most comprehensive survey and should always be carried out for older or non-conventional properties. This is the most comprehensive survey and also costs the most which is why many people opt for the other 2 options. However, this survey will bring up any kind of problems the property might have. The final comprehensive report includes details about the construction of the property, materials used and a list of all major and minor defects. A valuation will not automatically be included in this report but can be added at extra cost.
Searches and Surveys lie within the buyer's sphere and should be budgeted for from the outset of financial considerations when buying a property.
Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)
EPCs need to be provided by the seller when putting their house on the market. These certificates were introduced in 2007 as part of the HIP's but when the requirement for these was removed in 2010, the EPCs stayed. They are also required when you let your property or build a new house and will be valid for 10 years in which they can be reused.
An energy survey will be carried out by an accredited assessor who will be looking at the house's heating system, loft and wall insulation, amount and type of glazing and the general construction of the house, e.g. which materials were used to construct walls and roof. All data will be entered into a computer program which will calculate the energy rating for the property, which consists of two ratings, one for energy efficiency and one for environmental impact. These can range between A's (most efficient/ lowest impact) to G's (least efficient/ highest impact).
Some properties are exempt from the EPC requirement which include listed buildings, temporary buildings, standalone properties with less than 50sqm of floor space, non-residential or mixed use buildings (although they might be subject to the non-domestic EPC requirement), buildings due to be demolished or residential buildings which are used less than 4 month a year.
The cost of these certificates depend on the size of the property and sometimes on their location but is relatively low (somewhere between £30 and £80) compared to the cost of searches and surveys.
For more information our Conveyancing service, please contact us on 01689 88 50 30 or through our online form to request a free initial enquiry.