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First-time property buyers must be mindful of some pitfalls when purchasing land. There are factors which must be at the forefront of their minds if the process is to be as seamless as possible. In spite of the price of a plot of land and the fact they can afford to purchase the property, first-time buyers should give priority consideration to the suitability of the land for the intended purpose—the house to be constructed on the land.

 

Once it is determined that the land is suitable from a practical standpoint, attention must be turned to issues which must be addressed before signing on the dotted line. Attending to such issues will involve time and possibly additional expenses; however, it is vitally important as they may impact the purchase decision or how this couple can deal with the land post purchase.

In purchasing raw land, consideration must not only be given to the desired purpose, but also potential limitations on the use of the property. This differs somewhat from purchasing a house; as such issues would have been considered and resolved by the prior owners. Such issues include title verification, defining the property’s boundaries, access to the property, restrictive covenants and land-use restrictions, easements and right of way.

Title
Potential purchasers should verify the title to the property by checking the Land Register. Provided the land is registered, the Land Register provides a detailed history of the land since registration. It should also indicate whether the title to the property is un-qualified or if any existing Cautions are attached to the property.  

Access & Right of Way
It is of vital importance that a means of access be established to the property. This access could be by means of a public roadway or via a private driveway— a right of way. A right of way is a legal concept, which gives a person the right to travel across property owned by another in order to access their property. If access to the property is by means of a right of way, then further checks must be made to determine whether or not this is noted in the Land Register. It is not unusual for a right of way to not be registered against a property. However, the issue of access must be satisfactorily determined, as this may prevent legal wrangling down the road. It also has implications for the relationship with future neighbors.

Restrictive Covenants & Land-Use Restrictions
In some instances undeveloped land carries restrictions which prohibit certain uses for the property. It is important that the intended use is not restricted as it would not be worthwhile to otherwise purchase the property. This would also affect any approval from the relevant planning authority for any building to be constructed on the property. Restrictive covenants can also affect the property and can cover a broad range of issues from the type of building which can be built to utilities, sewage disposal, etc. Purchasers should familiarize themselves with any covenants which are attached to the title.

Property Boundaries
A survey report is advised when undertaking the purchase of land. A survey delineates the property boundaries thus ensuring there are no encroachments by adjoining landholders. This could prevent potential problems down the road. Imagine a scenario under which construction has commenced only to later learn that the true boundary is not where you thought it was. Should any encroachment be identified at the purchasing stage, it affords the purchaser the opportunity to resolve them early on and not be entangled in costly activities to remedy them later on.

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With such important issues which warrant due consideration, it goes without saying that a potential purchaser should exercise caution and diligence when purchasing land so as to guard against thorny legal issues which might arise after the purchase. Additionally, it is customary that the purchaser’s legal representative perform detailed preliminary enquiries before the purchaser signs off on the sale agreement. Thus, a potential purchaser could do well to engage an attorney early on in the process so that they may receive proper advice and guidance.  

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