What is a Pre-Exchange Search?


If you have the experience of or are currently in the process of purchasing a property, you may have heard of your conveyancer speaking about ordering searches, which usually comes to at least a three-digit price. But do you know what these searches are for, why do we advise getting them, and why is it sometimes required?

It is always good to have an idea of what you are paying for.

The purpose of the searches are to find out additional information about the property that will not be able to obtain from a title register from the land registry, and to expose any potential risks relating to the property and its surrounding before a transaction, so that the parties can be made aware of, and obtain relevant indemnity policy should they feel necessary.

What if you’re getting a mortgage?

The amount of loan offered by the mortgage lender is usually projected by the value of the property. As explained, these searches can expose potential risks relating to the property, mortgage lenders will therefore often require the borrower to obtain searches — as the lender would want to know any potential hazards that may affect the valuation of the property.

In this article, we will break down the three main searches for a residential property that is generally required by mortgage lenders.

1. Local Authority Search

A Local Authority Search reveals information on any nearby road schemes, tree preservation orders, work that have been permitted but have not been carried out, building consents that affect the Property, and more. Due to the extensive area covered, this search normally requires the longest time to be returned. It will also reveal who is responsible for maintaining roads and paths adjoining the property.

2. Drainage and Water Search

A Drainage and Water Search will find out the water supplier, where all the drainage systems are around a property, and if there are risks of affecting the property in the future. Attention should be drawn on the right to access the property by suppliers to maintain their sewer. This search will also show whether a property is connected to the mains water supply and mains drainage, the location of water and sewer pipes that may restrict potential building development.

3. Environmental search

This search will establish environmental issues near the property, including subsidence risk, i.e. whether the property is built on or within 500 meters of a contaminated source or area. This is especially vital for recently built properties as it exposes whether they were built on land which was previously used for purposes that can raise subsidence concerns. This search also looks at issues such as flood risk within 250 meters of the property.

Points to Note…


Each local authority has different capacities for handling searches – depending on the location of the property, the turnover time for search results may vary. Currently, the Plymouth City Council has a turnover time of around 40 working days to produce a Local Authority search. As this may affect the timeline of your purchase, should you wish to obtain any searches, this should be communicated to your conveyancer as soon as possible.

Cash Buyers:

For cash buyers, whether to obtain searches or not is your personal choice. That being said, money to spend on a property does not end at completion of the transaction, it follows with maintenance costs. Correct, searches can come with the price of a few hundred pounds, but not purchasing the searches recommended, only to later find out about defects which could cost you a fortune, or a severe diminishing of property value, is just not worth the risk.

We hope this article has provided you with some tips on the process of purchasing a property. If you would like to discuss this further, please contact Abby Kwan or call 01752 388883 to find out more. We have an excellent team of property experts in both Residential and Commercial Conveyancing, and we are more than happy to help.