Beware the searches

Our lawyer Fiona McNulty looks at the importance of conducting pre-contract searches when buying a property without the help of a mortgage lender
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Question: I don’t want to keep my savings with my bank any more and want to buy a property to renovate and sell on at a later date.

The property is empty and run-down. My solicitor says that searches must be carried out, which are very expensive.

Isn’t it up to me whether I have searches done?

Answer: As you are buying your property from savings and do not have a lender, it is up to you. However, you may have heard the phrase caveat emptor, meaning buyer beware.

Although a seller must disclose charges and other defects affecting the seller’s title to the property that are not apparent, they do not have to disclose any physical defects in a property.

This means that your solicitor will want to carry out pre-contract searches and enquiries on your behalf. There should be a Home Information Pack (HIP) containing a local authority search and a drainage and water enquiry. Your solicitor may be advising you to have an official local authority search because the local search from the HIP is out of date.

It would be sensible to undertake this as it will reveal, among other things, information about planning and building regulations affecting the property, any infringements of building regulations and notices, orders, directions and proceedings under planning Acts - all very important, especially as you intend renovating the property.

Your solicitor may also recommend other searches, such as a chancel check, a mining report and an environmental search. Lenders require certain searches to be carried out as part of the title investigation and you do not want to be caught out by a future buyer who needs a mortgage carrying out these searches and discovering problems of which you are unaware.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors

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