Get good advice before you buy a section - Fair Go's tips after Christchurch couple found material buried on their lot

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The case of a Christchurch couple who bought a section for their dream home only to find the land had material buried on it, prompted Fair Go to come up with a checklist for others who might find themselves in a similar situation.

What can go wrong when you buy land? Can you assume it’s fit to build on? How can you find out first?
Source: Fair Go

Sheree and Ryan Brinch were facing a potential bill in the tens of thousands of dollars if they wanted to build their dream home after the find.

The developer of the land, who denied liability for the trouble, made a generous offer to pay for earthworks, so the couple could make progress on their home. 

See Fair Go's full story here.

Here's the due diligence checklist:

MOST IMPORTANTLY, GET GOOD ADVICE - probably from a lawyer.

What follows is just some general guidance that you may want to include in conversations about your prospective purchase BEFORE YOU SIGN AND BUY.

We note that Fair Go aren’t property experts and none of this should be confused for advice, it is just intended to help you ask the experts the right questions.

A LIM report - from the council. Make sure it is addressed to you.

Building inspection and surveyor report - same as for the LIM report, get it in your name. Also be aware what that doesn’t cover - like the drains. Where exactly do they run and what shape are they in?

Title, easements and covenants review - in case there’s anything you can’t do on the land, or anything you must let someone else do (access for fibre, drains, future road widening).

Insurance -  can you get insurance for it? What are the hidden costs like retaining walls?

Finance and funding - If you’re just chinning the bar to afford the purchase, you may be tempted to cut costs on things like the geo-tech advice… Risky.

Personally visiting and inspecting the site - talk to the neighbours if you can.

Reviewing the relevant District Plan for land use rules - not only to see what you can do but also what others might be able to. What could the neighbours build right next door, or in between you and that view?

Request and review any EQC and private insurance assignments - what’s the history and are any repairs up-to-date? Not just for Christchurch as EQC handles slips country-wide.

An independent valuation - so you’re comfortable with what it is worth.

If you are buying bare land - where do the services like power, fibre, and so on, stop and how much will you pay to hook up your section?

And of course - a geotechnical report if you are buying bare land, to check the surface and subsurface conditions and materials. Don’t just assume your bit is as good as the neighbours, or as good as new because it has just been subdivided.

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