What are Enquiries When Buying a House?

mariam-abu-hussein
Mariam Abu HusseinLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 16th November 2023

Conveyancing enquiries, also known as pre-contract enquiries or property enquiries are an important part of the house buying process. Buying a home is a long process, so it pays to know how every step in the process works.

If you haven’t heard of enquiries, it’s good idea to arm yourself with the facts so you know what you’ll be facing when it comes to asking the right questions about your potential new home.

what-are-enquiries-when-buying-a-house

In this guide we’ll:

  • Define what enquiries are when home buying

  • Explain when you might raise an enquiry

  • Provide examples of enquiries when buying a home

  • Outline how long enquiries take

  • List the next steps after enquiries 

What are enquiries when buying a house?

When you buy a house, enquiries are the formal questions that need to be asked when researching such a high-cost investment. They are usually raised by your solicitor.

Imagine you’re at a car garage, looking for a new car for everyday trips with your growing family. You would have already seen the car you’re interested in on the showroom’s website - now you will want to chat with a salesperson to get more granular details on the car.

A similar process is carried out when buying a home. Your solicitor will raise questions with the seller’s solicitor with the purpose of solving any issues before contracts are exchanged.

When do you raise enquiries when buying a house?

Enquiries are typically raised after the initial stages of the conveyancing process.

Pre-contract enquiries are usually raised by your solicitor after your offer has been accepted. At this time, you should have received a draft contract from the other side’s solicitors. You should also have received the property’s title deeds and other supporting documents.

Your solicitor will carefully examine the documents to ensure that they are accurate and complete. During this review, they may identify areas that require further clarification or information.

Based on this review, the solicitor will then prepare a list of enquiries or questions.

What does it mean to raise enquiries when buying a house?

Enquiries seek additional details about the property, its history, any ongoing legal matters, and other relevant information. By raising these enquires, any concerns or potential issues can be highlighted and both sides can reach an agreement.

Once the requested documents are raised by your solicitor, they will ask probing questions. They may raise a property search; this process ensures homebuyers have all the facts about a property they need.

Searches include:

  1. Local Authority Search:

    • Provides information about the property's local area, including planning permissions, building control history, environmental matters, conservation areas, and any road proposals affecting the property.

  2. Land Registry Search:

    • Confirms the seller's legal ownership of the property and provides details of any existing mortgages or other charges registered against the property.

  3. Environmental Search:

    • Identifies potential environmental risks around the property, such as contaminated land, landfill sites, and the proximity of flood risk areas.

  4. Water and Drainage Search:

    • Examines the property's water supply, drainage connections, and potential flood risks. It may also include information on sewer adoption agreements and the quality of the water supply.

  5. Chancel Repair Liability Search:

    • Investigates whether the property is subject to chancel repair liability, an obligation to contribute to the cost of repairing the local church chancel.

  6. Coal Mining Search:

    • Relevant in coal mining areas, this search assesses the risks associated with mining activities, such as subsidence and mine entries.

  7. Flood Risk Search:

    • Assesses the property's risk of flooding from rivers, seas, or surface water, providing information to help buyers understand potential risks and obtain insurance.

  8. Energy and Infrastructure Search:

    • Examines nearby energy infrastructure, such as wind farms or electricity substations, and potential impacts on the property.

  9. High-Speed Rail (HS2) Search:

    • Relevant for properties located near the HS2 route, providing information about the impact of the high-speed rail project.

  10. Japanese Knotweed Search:

    • Identifies the presence of Japanese Knotweed on or near the property. This invasive plant can cause structural damage and affect property values.

  11. Radon Search:

    • Assesses the risk of radon gas, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, in the property. High levels of radon can pose health risks.

The specific searches required may vary based on the property's location and characteristics. After these searches have been raised and investigated by your solicitor, they may raise additional enquiries. 

When you, as the buyer, are happy with the answers from the seller’s solicitor, and your mortgage is in place, then you can go ahead and exchange contracts.

Enquiries are usually raised from:

  • Sellers’ property information forms – this form includes important information to know about the property and an itinerary of items that will be left in the house

  • The contract pack – this is sent by the seller’s solicitor and includes the sales contract and title deeds

  • Searches – triggered by your solicitor

Examples of enquiries raised when buying a property

We’ve already mentioned some of the types of enquiries that will need to be raised when buying a new home.

In addition, there are a considerable number of enquiries that are necessary when buying a property, which include: 

  • Boundaries – the exact boundaries of the property need to be confirmed; this can help ease future disputes with neighbours

  • Disputes – are there any ongoing disputes about which fixtures and fittings will remain in the house?

  • Easements and covenants – though intimidating legal terms, this type of enquiry seeks to determine whether there are rights of way through the property, or restrictions on what can be done to the property

  • Fixtures and fittings – what will sellers leave in the property?

  • Leasehold enquiries – you’ll need to know how long is left on the property’s leasehold if it is a leasehold property. Your solicitor will check whether the terms of the lease are correct and the arrangements for management and repair

  • Ownership – this is a vital step. The purpose is to confirm the seller legally owns the property and has the right to sell it

  • Services – confirm that gas and electrical services are connected and in working order

  • Structural enquiries – you’ll need to determine that the house is structurally sound before exchanging contracts. This enquiry will raise any known issues about the house. These include damp and subsidence. Checks on building permissions are also necessary if the house is still being constructed, or extensions are being added

How long do enquiries take when buying a house?

The enquiry process can be lengthy: typically anywhere from one week up to a month (and sometimes longer). This is because there is a lot of back-and-forth communication required between solicitors, the buyers and the sellers.

The timeline will depend on the responsiveness of all parties and complexity of the sale.

Whilst this wait can be frustrating, try to remember a longer process can be a good thing, as a thorough set of enquiries and answers will mean fewer issues down the line. 

What happens after enquiries when buying a house?

After all the enquiries raised have been answered to yours and your solicitor’s satisfaction, the buying process can continue. Both parties will then have clarity on the upcoming transaction.

The next step is for you to read the report compiled by your solicitor based on their enquiries. If you have any further questions, you must ask them at this point.

If you don't have any further questions, you’re ready to sign the contract! This is a momentous time for any first-time buyer. Next - the wait for the exchange of contracts.

Your solicitor and the seller’s solicitor will agree a date for the exchange of contracts. On the agreed date you will pay a deposit, which then legally binds the sale. This means neither you, or the seller, can back out without the potential of being asked to pay costs.    

When the contracts are exchanged, a completion day is set, the remainder of the sale price will be transferred to the seller (your mortgage) and the keys can be collected.

When you’ve reached this point, congratulations will be in order as you will own your first home. Result!

We can help answer any questions you have about conveyancing 

If you need any help with buying a house and the conveyancing process, get a free case assessment and no obligation quote today to see how we can help.


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