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Who Pays for Searches When Selling a House?

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Selling a house involves many different steps, some of which can be more complicated than others. Professional help, such as that of a solicitor or estate agent, may be necessary.

Questions often arise regarding the searches that need to be done when selling a house. What are searches, and who pays for them?

No need to worry! In this article, we have the answers to these questions so you can understand the process of searches when selling a house.

Table of Contents

What are searches?

In most cases, the solicitor of the person buying a house will be responsible for carrying out any searches. However, the type of searches you need will depend on the area you’re purchasing in.

Searches can provide potential homeowners with information about aspects of the property that they wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise. Standard searches conducted on a house typically include:

  • Environmental searches, which cover topics such as pollution, subsidence, and contaminated land.
  • Water and drainage searches, to determine who supplies, owns, and maintains the water and drainage supplies.
  • Chancel searches, to check for chancel liability.
  • Local authority searches, to look into issues such as planning and highways.
  • The seller’s solicitor should also carry out a bankruptcy search on the buyer. Although bankruptcy is not necessarily an issue, the lender must be made aware of it.

Am I legally required to complete searches?

When buying a property with a mortgage, searches are a must. Mortgage lenders demand them. Even if you buy a property with cash, it is highly recommended to do searches to avoid unpleasant surprises after the purchase.

Your solicitor or conveyancer will usually include searches as part of their service. In the UK, the average cost for a residential purchase or sale is between £500 and £1000.

Plus, you will have to pay additional legal costs, known as ‘disbursements’, that cover search fees, registration fees, documentation fees, land registry fees, and CHAPS payment fees.

Who Pays For Searches When Selling A House
Environmental searches, which cover topics such as pollution, subsidence, and contaminated land.

Why are searches carried out?

Searches are conducted so that you have all the information about the property you are buying. This way, you won’t be confronted with any unpleasant surprises after investing in your home.

Who covers the cost of searches when selling a house?

The prospective property buyer is responsible for paying for searches. Generally, you will pay your solicitor an upfront fee and the cost of the searches is taken from this. Usually, paying your search deposit will cost around £250-£300.

How do I understand the results of the searches?

Hiring a solicitor when buying a house can make the process much simpler. They can explain the search results in an easy-to-understand way, so you can be aware of the implications for you as the homeowner. 

Don’t be scared to ask questions; it is your choice whether you want to purchase the property or not. Make sure that you comprehend everything that is happening before you make your final decision.

Who Pays for Searches When Selling a House
Your solicitor must inform you if any of the search results could be a problem.

How do I deal with problems found in the searches?

After you’ve paid for searches to be done by your solicitor, the process is still not complete. When the results come back, you may need to address any arising issues.  So how long after searches to exchange?

Your solicitor must inform you if any of the search results could be a problem. For example, something may not legally prevent you from buying the house, yet it could be a deal-breaker for you.

Some search results that may be problematic include:

  1. Flooding risks or subsidence,
  2. Debts on the property,
  3. Neighbourly disputes,
  4. Japanese knotweed on the property,  
  5. Future development that could interfere with your property.

Each situation must be dealt with on an individual basis. Removing Japanese knotweed, for example, will require an expert.

Role of Property Searches in Satisfying Buyer's Due Diligence

Property searches are essential for buyers to fulfil their due diligence. They review the property to evaluate its suitability, any potential risks, and any legal or environmental obligations.

By providing the necessary search reports, sellers show their commitment to being open and honest, which helps the buyer make an informed decision.

Complying with the buyer’s due diligence increases the chances of a successful sale, and also bolsters the seller’s reputation and credibility.

Tips for Negotiating Payment Responsibilities

  • Understanding the Market and Local Norms

It is essential to understand the market and local norms in the UK before entering into negotiations around payment responsibilities for property searches.

Research common practices in the region where the property is located and consult with local estate agents, solicitors, or conveyancers familiar with the local market to gain insights.

  • Seek Legal Advice and Guidance

To ensure a successful negotiation of payment responsibilities, it is highly advisable to seek legal advice and guidance from a qualified solicitor or conveyancer. They can provide valuable insights into the legal aspects of the transaction and make sure that any agreements reached comply with UK property laws.

A legal professional can review the contract, spot any potential issues, and guide the negotiation process.

  • Communicate Openly with the Buyer or Seller

Open and transparent communication is essential for a successful negotiation of payment responsibilities. Make sure to discuss your expectations and concerns with the buyer or seller involved in the transaction.

Be clear about your understanding of the payment responsibilities and be open to their perspective. It is important to address any potential misunderstandings or disagreements early on to avoid any complications later in the process.

  • Consider Potential Cost-Sharing Arrangements

It may be possible to negotiate cost-sharing arrangements for property searches. This could involve splitting the costs evenly between the buyer and seller or allocating specific searches to each party.

For example, the seller may agree to cover the cost of local authority searches while the buyer covers the cost of environmental searches. 

Determining who pays for property searches when selling a house in the UK can vary. Factors such as search type, local practices, negotiations and legal obligations can influence the cost.

While there are some basic principles and common practices, it’s best to speak to a solicitor or conveyancer for tailored advice based on the location and situation.

To make the process easier, sellers should gain a thorough understanding of the cost breakdown of property searches, negotiate if possible, and seek professional advice. By doing this, they can navigate the selling process with confidence.

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