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Conveyancing Resource Centre

What are conveyancing searches and why do you need them?

Property searches are enquiries made by your solicitor to find out information about a property you plan to purchase. Searches are undertaken in a conveyancing process either for general information regarding a property or for the purposes of making adjustments to the purchase price at settlement (an example includes water, rates, body corporate fees, to confirm the seller has the legal right to sell a property and so on). In most cases, searches are undertaken to ensure there are no serious issues or defects with the property you are intending on buying, which could seriously affect you at a later time. When purchasing a property, it is important to ensure that all standard conveyancing searches have been ordered. When you engage us, we will also provide you with a search checklist so that you can choose the types of searches that best suit your needs. Generally, you will be given two options as to when you want us to order them; immediately or at the time the contract becomes unconditional. Searches are also important to confirm all features related to the land and buildings. They can also help you verify that the buildings on the property are constructed and approved. We recommend calling your local council to make verbal enquiries in relation to the property you are purchasing as this can also be a very helpful mechanism to find out information. Your local council should also have information in relation to any building approvals and/or plans. There are many different searches from local authority searches to obtain detailed information about the property and the surrounding areas to water, drainage and other property searches for confirmation of amounts payable or confirmation of sewers, drains and piping to environmental searches to identity previous land use and environmental risk information or contamination, mining searches, land charges and so on.


What are some common searches?


As part of the conveyancing process, we will carry out a variety of essential 'searches' with the local authority and other parties. We can also undertake various additional searches depending on your concerns.


The main searches when buying a property are:


  • Title Search – this is an official record of ownership of property and will inform you of any mortgages, easements, caveats, covenants, leases, charges or other encumbrances or administrative advice.


  • Plan Search – this is a registered plan that shows the exact surveyed boundaries and dimensions of lots on which houses, or buildings, are to be built amongst other things. It is important so there can be no confusion about the boundaries amongst other issues.


  • Rates Search – this reveals amounts payable for the quarter or half-year. It shows whether the rates have been paid up to date and whether an amount is outstanding, which will need to be adjusted at settlement. This adjustment will ensure that each party is responsible for their own portion of rates.


  • Water Meter Reading – this search provides a current water meter reading including the last water meter reading. This is used to apportion water use up to, and including, settlement. It is very important so that water and other adjustments can take place at settlement for any period that does not relate to you.


  • Land Tax Clearance Certificate – this determined whether there are outstanding amounts payable for land tax, which could be passed onto a buyer if the seller does not make payment of the overdue amount at settlement.


Other additional searches typically include whether planning permission may be granted for a future development that would negatively impact the property, the quality of the land and whether it is on the contamination register, or details of common drains and access rights over the property. We always advise our clients that the conveyancing searches should be completed before exchanging contracts and legally committing to the buyer to purchase a property. This is because they can highlight significant issues including potential limitations and costs you could face in the future, which would have otherwise caused you to change your mind about the property.

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