Buying a home – the importance of searches & surveys

Date Added 06.03.23

Buying a home is most likely the biggest investment most of us will ever make, therefore it is extremely important to do a comprehensive investigation of the property before committing to a purchase. That’s why searches and surveys play a leading role.

What’s the difference between conveyancing searches and a survey?

In spite of the fact that the terms “survey’ and ‘search’ are often used interchangeably, they are quite different. Searches are carried out by your legal advisors and they would cover legal issues with your property. On the other hand, surveys will usually be carried out by your mortgage provider or an independent property surveyor and it would observe the physical condition of the property.


Searches are enquiries made by your solicitors to various organisations regarding the property you are looking to purchase. There are several types of search, however, the most common searches conducted on a residential purchase are:-

Local Authority – are considered the most important type of search as they will look at information held by the local authority involving the property, including answers to questions relating to planning, building regulations, roads, enforcement notices, etc.  The search relates specifically to the property and will not reveal details about works in the surrounding areas. This search will not reveal development/planning permissions for neighbouring properties.  Local Searches are specific in that they deal solely with the property that you are purchasing, not any adjoining properties or pieces of land.

Drainage & Water – will advise whether the property is connected to mains drainage and sewerage. The search will also reveal if there are any drains within the boundaries of the property. This is of particular importance if the property has been extended or you intend to develop.

Environmental Search – will establish whether there are any registered landfill sites, disposal sites, waste disposal treatment sites, etc.  The search will also reveal if the property is within a flood risk area, an area of natural subsidence or a coal mining area.

If you are buying the property with the aid of a mortgage, your lender will normally insist upon a solicitor carrying out conveyancing searches. Even if you’re not purchasing a home with a mortgage, we strongly advise that you carry out searches; a few hundred pounds spent on searches is a worthwhile expense when considering the cost of a home.


A survey is a detailed inspection carried out on a property. In the event that you are using a mortgage to buy your property then your mortgage lender will need to check that the property is worth the money that they are lending to buy it by carrying out a valuation. This is in fact, for the lender’s benefit only in valuing the property as adequate security for the mortgage. You are not permitted to rely on this valuation when deciding whether to proceed with the purchase and the onus is on you to satisfy yourself as to the condition of the property, before making any legal commitment to purchasing it. As a result, we would always recommend you have your own survey carried out. Surveys determine the physical condition of the property and are carried out by qualified surveyors. The main types of surveys are:

Condition Report (Level 1) – this is the most basic level building survey usually used for new properties and those in good condition.

Homebuyer Report (Level 2) – this survey is more detailed and is suitable for most properties. It looks at the overall structure and helps identify problems such as damp or subsidence and gives advice on any repairs needed.

Full Structural Survey (Level 3) – as the name suggests, this is the most comprehensive survey and is a particularly sensible option if you’re buying a property that is old or has known problems.

As a buyer, you may be considering whether you should take on the extra expense, but it is definitely worth it for your own peace of mind and can also save you thousands of pounds in the future. In the case that a problem is revealed within the survey, it will allow you to reopen negotiations with the seller and you may reach an agreement that the seller completes any repairs before you move into the property. If the problems are too severe, then you may rethink your purchase of the property entirely. Consequently, not only will you save money on a bad sale and repair costs, but you will be able to buy a home that’s in good condition later down the line.

Whether you are taking your first step on the property ladder or you have moved many times before, the process of moving house can seem overwhelming. If you’re looking to buy, sell or remortgage your home…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258 558. Our team is on hand to guide you through the process and help you buy your dream home.

Find out more about the process of buying a home here.

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