Richard Broadhead, Head of Residential Property at Thompson Smith and Puxon, gives an overview of what residential property searches cover and why they are so crucial.

Buying a property is likely to be the biggest financial decision that you will make in your lifetime. Most people wouldn’t buy a car or a household appliance without doing some research, reading reviews, or asking for opinions. Undertaking property searches will tell you a good deal of important information that you need to know in order to make an informed decision.

Property searches are carried out before you exchange contracts. It is in your best interest to know exactly what you are buying and if there are any underlying concerns. If you are using a mortgage to support your purchase, your mortgage lender will require certain searches to be carried out in return for them securing the debt against the property.

There are usually 3 main searches that are carried out when purchasing a property.

Types of Property Search

  1. Local Authority Search – this will provide information on the Planning history, provide details of any Building Regulations compliance certificates, reveal any notices issued by the Council in terms of enforcement action and any orders made against the property or the area such as for Compulsory Purchase, Tree Preservation or removal of Permitted Development Rights.  It will also reveal whether the road adjoining the property is an adopted highway and whether any major works are planned to the road within 200 metres of the property.
  2. Water and Drainage – this search is undertaken with the water authority providing water supply to the property. It will tell you whether the property is connected to mains drainage and water and also the route of the public system where known including advising whether any part of that system passes within the boundary of the property as there are restrictions in connection with building near to these…
  3. Environmental – this search will give information on any environmental risks associated with the area around the property. For example, if it is at risk of flooding or is in a mining or area of potential contamination from past industrial land use.

In addition to the standard searches, there are other specialist searches that can be carried out, either at your request or by recommendation from your Solicitor or Surveyor. These are usually if you are buying a more unique property or a property in an area that is known to require more thorough due diligence.

Due Diligence Before you Purchase

Conducting searches ensures there are no nasty surprises once you have settled into your new home. Some searches can be returned within a few days, but others can take several weeks to come back. It is your Solicitor’s responsibility to explain any red flags that have come back from the property searches, but if you are unsure of what the documents mean, make sure to ask for guidance.

Residential Property Team in Colchester and Clacton

For further information on buying a new home, please contact the Thompson Smith and Puxon residential property team on 01206 217070 or email