Importance of Undertaking Searches for Residential Houses

Most people desire to own a house for several reasons, including the pride of ownership, accommodation security, and investment purposes. Government sometimes provides incentives to First home buyers to buy a house. A relevant example is the Queensland First Homeowner Grant Initiative.

Buying a residential property comes with its own risks. If you are considering buying a house, it is important for you to exercise due diligence because of the risks. An essential aspect of this due diligence is to conduct searches in relation to the property.

Searches are important to satisfy yourself that you are getting a good title for the house at settlement. Furthermore, it allows you to verify if the seller's disclosures and representations regarding the house are true. In summary, search allows you to make an informed decision on whether to buy the house and if so at what value. The type of search depends on the type of residential property you are buying.

If you are buying a unit in a townhouse or an apartment or standalone house, you should conduct a title search on the house prior to the contract becoming unconditional. Generally, a contract of sale is conditional up until the last condition is either waived or satisfied. In Queensland, most contracts of sale are subject to the buyer obtaining finance approval, and a satisfactory building, pest and pool (if applicable) inspection.

The title search will reveal the registered proprietors' names, the registered proprietary interests (e.g., mortgage, easements, and other registered dealings) and administrative advice.

After the contract becomes unconditional, you should generally conduct the following searches:

  • Plan Image Search. The plan image reveals the details of the boundaries of the house. This is important to ensure that the measurements on the plan align with the actual fence of the house.
  • Land Tax Search. It is important for you to find out the status of the land tax prior to settlement because land tax attaches to the land and not the seller. Otherwise, you are liable to pay the pre-existing land tax to the relevant tax office.
  • Council Rates Search. A council rates search reveals the amount that is payable for rates on the property per quarter or half yearly. It will also disclose if the rates are up to date or if there is an outstanding amount that needs to be paid by the seller before settlement.
  • Special Water Meter Reading Search. This is important because it allows a council representative to visit the property close to settlement date and take a water meter reading so that water usage is accurately adjusted at settlement. The water meter reading is also beneficial where there is a water leakage at the property, which must be paid for by the seller.
  • Building Approval Search and Building Property Notices Search. This search is particularly important where a property has been renovated or additional features erected on the property, such as carports and granny flats. If the seller has renovated the property or done additional work without council's approval, you (i.e., buyer) may find yourself being issued with a building Show Cause Notice from the council post settlement.
  • Body Corporate Information Certificate Search (only applies to townhouses/apartments). This is essential to confirm that the company is not bankrupt and has the capacity to sell the property to you.

A contract becomes unconditional after the buyer gives notice to the seller that all conditions have either been waived or satisfied. Typically, this is when you have received finance approval from your financial institution.

If you are buying an off the plan residential property, there is not much search you can do because the property is not in existence and usually the title will be covered by the developer's title. However, one of the paramount duties of the seller (developer) is to successfully cause a title registration to happen for the lot it is proposing to sell.


This article does not create a client/lawyer relationship neither is it a legal advice. The information contained in this article is for information purposes only. Readers are advised to seek from qualified Legal Practitioners, legal counselling to any questions or concerns arising from their specific factual situation. You can reach Solomons Legal at or +61 7 3117 9433 and our team will be happy to assist and advise you with your house purchase process.

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