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Who Pays for Searches When Selling a House?

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Who Pays for Searches When Selling a House?
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There are many different stages involved with the process of selling a house.

Some of them are more complicated than others and require the assistance of solicitors or estate agents.

Searches are one of these processes.

Let’s look at exactly what searches are and who pays for them.

What are searches?

In the UK property market, a search refers to the process of investigating a local authority’s records for information about a specific property.

There are, in fact, three main types of searches:

  • Local authority searches – checking matters such as planning and highways
  • Water and drainage – to determine who supplies, owns and maintains the water and drainage supplies
  • Environmental searches – covers matters such as pollution, subsidence and contaminated land

And there are other types, too (such as chancel searches).

The solicitor of whoever is buying the house generally carries out this work. And the specifics of each search can vary depending on the area of the purchase.

Searches on the seller

The house seller’s solicitor will usually complete a bankruptcy search on the buyer.

If there is a bankruptcy in the buyer’s past, it will not necessarily be an issue. But the lender must know about it.

Why are searches carried out?

Searches are carried out so that buyers and their mortgage lenders know every detail a property.

This informs buyers about all aspects of issues with a property, which ensures that no unforeseen problems occur after a purchase.

Am I legally required to complete searches?

This depends on whether you are buying a property using a mortgage or cash.

Searches are mandatory on a property when you are buying with a mortgage. This is because mortgage lenders require them.

When you can purchase a property with cash, searches are not mandatory.

However, it is strongly recommended complete them to prevent unwanted issues appearing after the purchase has been made.

After all, a seller could purposely omit information or even lie to a buyer about a property.  

How much do searches cost?

The average cost for a conveyancer to carry out a search in the UK (on either a residential purchase or a residential sale) is between £500 – £1000.

However, searches often come as part of the service that a property buyer’s solicitor or conveyancer provides.  

In addition, buyers will have to pay legal costs, known as ‘disbursements’, which cover:

  • Searches
  • Registrations
  • Documentation
  • Land registry fees
  • Clearing House Automated Payment System (CHAPS) payment fees

Who pays for searches when selling a house?

The property buyer typically pays for searches. They usually pay their solicitor a fee upfront, which includes provisions for covering search expenses.

How do I understand the results of the searches?

Hiring a solicitor while buying a house can makes buyer’s lives significantly easier.

They can clearly explain the results and implications of searches. They can also answer buyer’s questions and share their experience of similar cases.

How do I deal with problems found in the searches?

When problems are found in searches, they need to be solved.

A buyer’s solicitor is responsible for informing them whether the results of certain searches may be particularly problematic.

For example, some results may not legally prevent a buyer from purchasing a house. However, they may be a dealbreaker for that buyer personally. Examples like this include:

  • Flooding risks or severe subsidence
  • A debt exists on the property (which may become your problem)
  • There is an ongoing dispute with a neighbour
  • Japanese Knotweed has been identified on the property
  • A new development may interfere with your property in the future

Each issue from a search must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

For example, a buyer may need an expert to remove Japanese Knotweed, while other problems may not bother them at all.

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