General Advice When Buying A Property


It is advisable for a buyer to obtain the professional advice of a surveyor as to the value and condition of the property before exchange of contracts.

A buyer should not rely on a lender's valuation alone when deciding to buy a property. The valuation is generally not as detailed and may omit to mention some items that may be relevant to the buyer although not to the lender.

A survey report should:-

  • Indicate whether the price agreed reflects the value.
  • Point out major structural defects.
  • Provide early warning of potential structural problems or major repair work and also minor repairs needed.
  • Bring to the attention of the buyer's solicitor the existence of unusual factors requiring further investigation e.g. rights of way.
  • Recommend further specialist inspections.
  • If you require any advice about arranging a survey then please do speak to us.

Freehold/Leasehold Titles

In English law there are two main types of legal title - freehold and leasehold. Houses tend to be freehold which means that you own the property absolutely. However, if you buy a leasehold property you own it for a fixed time only and flats are usually leasehold. A lease runs for a certain number of years and you are responsible to a landlord to whom you will pay a ground rent and usually a service charge which is your share of the costs of maintenance to the building and any common grounds. The lease will often stipulate that certain requirements are met prior to any transfer (eg Licence to Assign) and we will deal with such requirements on your behalf.

Whether your property is freehold or leasehold, all land is now registrable at H M Land Registry who issue a Title Information Document which is an official copy of the electronic Land Register. Even if you buy an unregistered title this will be registered once your purchase has been completed.

Planning Matters and Contaminated Land

We will investigate whether the property has planning permission for its present use and that the requisite planning and building regulation consents have been obtained for alterations to this property, as necessary. However, we do not carry out any investigations into past uses of the property or adjacent land to establish whether or not there is any potential contamination from such uses. This is a subject on which your surveyor should advise. You should tell us if you are intending to change the use of the property so that checks can be carried out to ascertain whether planning permission would be required.


  • Local Authority Search

    We will organise a search with the Local Authority, but please remember that this only reveals matters directly relating to the property being purchased. Should you have any queries on possible developments in the immediate vicinity you should make enquiries direct of the Local Planning Office. A Local Authority search will reveal planning permissions, building regulations approval and local plans that affect the property. If an enforcement notice has been served against this property this will also be indicated on the local search result.

  • Drainage and Water Search

    A drainage and water search reveals whether the property's foul water drains into the public sewer, whether the surface water drains into the public sewer, and whether there are any public sewers or drains running under the property. It also provides a plan showing where the sewers are located.

  • Environmental Search

    This search is an investigation into the past use of the property and adjacent land to establish whether or not there is any potential contamination from such uses or sites. Home owners are liable for any contamination which appears within their boundaries, even if the contamination is longstanding or caused by leeching from neighbouring properties.

  • Plans Search

    The plans search provides information on the planning history and proposed developments affecting the property and the surrounding area up to 250 metres from the property. The entries on the plan search are non-exhaustive and planning applications for developments on neighbouring properties, such as conservatories and developments of a minor nature, are not included. However, this search result gives an indication of some of the proposed development in the vicinity.

    This and the environmental search are the only searches that search on an area surrounding the property, as opposed to purely on the property itself.

  • Chancel Repair Liability Search

    This search reveals whether or not a property is affected by a potential "Chancel Repair" obligation to the local Parish Church. Such obligations stem from medieval times where land previously owned by the Church to fund the local rector had been sold and the new owner took on the repairing obligation attached to that land. Basically any property located within the boundaries of a Parish where such a liability exists could be "caught". The penalty is financial in that it involves having to pay for the upkeep and repair of the chancel of the local medieval Parish Church. Where such a search reveals an entry it shows that the property is located within a Parish that could charge for repairs to the chancel. If you are purchasing a property requiring mortgage finance a lender will require that insurance is purchased to cover such possible liability.


This is only a brief outline and for general guidance only. We will be happy to provide specific advice relevant to your individual circumstances.