Buying land can be an excellent investment, but you need to be sure that you can use it in the way you want. There are often rights and liabilities attached to land and you should ensure you fully understand these before you buy. That’s why you really do need experienced solicitors when buying land.
How our Solicitors can help you in buying land
Here at Bonallack & Bishop, our 28 strong property team regularly represent clients nationwide in wide-ranging transactions when buying and selling both land and property. This includes:
· Buying land for development, including brownfield land purchase and greenfield land purchase
· Buying land to build your home
· Buying land for investment
· Buying agricultural land
· Buying land next to your home
· Conditional contracts
· Dealing with finance for purchase of land
· Option agreements – click here to read more about Land Option Agreements
· Overage agreements
· Promotion agreements
· Selling land
We look at why it is so important to have an expert solicitor for buying land to represent you and some of the points to be aware of.
For no strings attached FREE initial phone advice about any aspect of buying land, call our specialist property team now on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544.
What do I need to know when I buy land?
Land in the UK is expensive and you need to have as much information as possible before you go ahead with any purchase. This includes considering data from a surveyor, reports such as an environmental report, and legal details provided by your solicitor, which will be a combination of information from the title deeds, search results and the seller’s replies to enquiries.
Key issues to consider before going ahead include:
· Land use
· Survey results
· Market research
· Environmental and flooding reports
· Whether the land is a brownfield site or a greenfield site
· Whether the land has planning permission
· Where the boundaries are
· What rights and responsibilities are attached to the land
· What utilities are available
· Whether the land has clear rights of access
· Why the land is for sale
You need to be sure that you can use the land that you buy in the way that you want. For example, you cannot necessarily build on agricultural land. If the land is a contaminated brownfield site, you will need to work to remove hazardous waste before building.
A land survey or topographical survey is essential to avoid nasty surprises later on. A survey can show where the boundaries are on the ground, which might not correspond to those on the legal plan. The surveyor will be able to check this and let you know if there are discrepancies.
A land survey can also show features such as pylons and fences and the slope of the ground as well as connections to utilities, if there are any.
Researching the value of similar land in the area will help establish that you are paying the right price. This includes looking at the property’s location, what facilities are available, both on the land and nearby, and whether it comes with planning permission.
Environmental and flooding reports
Depending on the history and topography of the land and where it is situated, you can commission reports such as an environmental report and a flood risk report. This will help you establish what to expect from the land and whether the level of any risk is acceptable to you.
Whether the land is a brownfield site or a greenfield site
If you want to build on the land, you need to consider whether buying a brownfield site or a greenfield site is best.
Brownfield sites tend to be urban and already developed. It will usually be easier to obtain planning permission for a brownfield site and it may have better access to utilities. A drawback is that you may have to clear existing infrastructure or environmental hazards before starting work.
While greenfield sites are more of a clean slate, they may be harder to access and need more work to get utilities to the site. It may also be harder to secure planning consent.
Whether the land has planning permission
If land comes with planning permission, it will generally be more expensive. But you must check that the consent is suitable for your intended use of the land..
While land without planning permission is usually cheaper, sometimes much much cheaper, it could mean that previous attempts to obtain planning permission have failed. Even if this is not the case, securing planning consent is often a lengthy process and you may need to amend your plans more than once before you receive approval.
Where the boundaries are located
Your solicitor and surveyor will be able to give you information about the boundaries in the legal title to the property and where they are on the ground. You need to check these carefully to ensure you will buy the area of land you intend.
What rights and responsibilities are attached to the land
Your solicitor will be able to let you know what legal rights and responsibilities come with the land. Some will be registered against the legal title while revealed searches and enquiries will reveal others. For example, a local search can reveal public rights of way.
The seller may also have granted rights over the land, such as the right for a utility company to lay pipes or cable across it. The land conveyancing process will reveal these types of issues.
What utilities are available
If you plan to build on the land, you will also need to consider what utilities are available nearby that you can connect to. Sometimes, you may need to approach adjacent landowners to request permission for utilities to cross their property to reach yours. This is something you will need to explore before committing to a purchase.
Whether the land has clear rights of access
You need to check that the property has the access that you will need. If there is currently a path across someone else’s land, you will not necessarily be able to drive over this. You also need to be wary of issues such as ransom strips. These are small areas of land owned by a third party and needed for access. Without consent to use the ransom strip, the owner can prevent the development from going ahead – or may offer to sell it to you, but for a hugely inflated price.
Why the land is for sale
Wherever possible, you should establish why the land is being sold and how long it has been on the market. If it has been up for sale for many months, or even years, this could indicate a problem. A little digging might turn up the reason and this could save you from wasting money on a survey.
Do I need solicitors when buying land?
While you could purchase land without a solicitor, we really don’t recommend it. An expert land purchase solicitor will look at many legal issues including the raft of information provided by the seller’s own solicitor, the title deeds and other legal documentation.
Key points they will examine include:
· The legal title
· Any rights registered against the legal title
· Whether the seller has experienced any problems with these rights
· The location of any common land or rights of way that could affect the property
· Other rights and easements over the land
· Restrictive covenants that could prevent you from using the property in the way that you want
· Whether the seller is involved in any disputes relating to the land
· Where there are protection notices to be aware of, such as tree preservation orders
· What planning consents are in place
· Whether there are planning consents in place to develop adjacent land
· Whether information revealed in the local search gives cause for concern
Your solicitor will have the expertise to spot potential problems and ask the right questions. Buying land is expensive and it is crucial to protect your investment as far as possible.
In any event, if you are getting a mortgage to finance your land purchase, your lender will insist that a solicitor represents them.
What will your solicitors do when buying or selling land?
Your conveyancing solicitors will obtain the contract package from the seller’s solicitor. This will generally include:
· A copy of the legal title as registered at HM Land Registry
· A copy of the legal plan
· A copy of all of the documents referred to in the legal title, such as old conveyances and easements
· A property information form
· Copies of planning consents that are granted over the land
· Other relevant information
The solicitor will go through this information and ask the seller’s solicitor a range of questions and order searches. This could include a local search, an environmental search and a flood report.
Depending on the area, other searches may be needed and your solicitor will know which are necessary. For example, you might need a coal report, a stone mining report or a radon report.
Exchanging contracts and completing your purchase
Once the replies to enquiries and search results are available, your property solicitor may have more questions for the seller’s solicitor.
If you are obtaining a mortgage, this is sent to your solicitor at this stage.
Once all of the necessary information is available and you are happy with the replies to enquiries, you can sign the contract and mortgage deed.
Your solicitor will then arrange to exchange contracts. You will need to let them have your deposit so that they can pay this on exchange.
On exchange of contracts, the date for completion is set. Your solicitor will order mortgage funds if needed, and you will need to let them have the balance of money to complete the purchase. They will draft the transfer document and send it to the seller’s solicitor for signing.
On the day of completion, your solicitor will send the purchase money to the seller’s solicitor, who will send the signed transfer and title deeds to your solicitor. Your solicitor will then complete the conveyancing process by applying to register your ownership at HM Land Registry.
NB please note, that for some time now there have been significant delays in registration at HM Land Registry. Registration routinely takes months – even years. It is however possible to “expedite” the process if you have grounds to do so