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Buying property? Tips on what to look out for

If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to resist a look at houses for sale and think about “what if”. But if you’re taking things a step further and seriously looking at buying a new property, what are some of the things you should look out for? From many years in the development business, we have a few tips to share!

Certificate of Title

Your first “check” should be the sites certificate of title. Is the site freehold, lease hold or a cross lease? Are there land covenants, consent notices, easements that restrict use and development of the land? Check these documents so you’re fully aware of the legal restrictions affecting the land. It’s easy to order these online, and it only takes a day or so for the documents to arrive via e-mail. We talk about this more in our blog from last week.

Planning Provisions

Make sure you have a clear understanding of the planning provisions affecting your site. Can you subdivide, build new houses, extend the buildings there, are your earthworks or tree removal restricted? What requires a resource consent? There are a multitude of potential restrictions or opportunities in the local District Plan - give your local Council or a planner a call to make sure you’re well informed.

Natural Hazards

Natural hazards aren’t always evident when you visit a site. For example, is it in a floodplain or is there an overland flowpath? You might not be able to tell if you visit in the summer. You can however often find this information on the local Council’s GIS records; our blog last week discussed GIS and how to use it. You can also locate old geotechnical reports by doing a Council property file search (and remember the Council are still working during the lockdown period, so you can still order these). Being fully informed on the natural hazards that affect your site is very important; they can affect not only future development but how you use the site now. You need to know if areas flood or are unstable, for example, so you can go into any purchase with your eyes open.

Is it legal?

You can’t assume that everything on a property has been legally established. Does it have a building consent or a resource consent? Make a formal request to your local Council to view the property file; this will have all the Council consents, permits etc for the property. This will allow you to check if everything is legally established. If you need help understanding what’s in the file, ask for help from a professional such as a planner.


We always recommend a building inspection; as with planners, most people aren’t builders and you’d be well advised to use independent professionals. You can’t tell from looking at a building if it has any defects or damage. Does it have water tightness issues? A building inspection will help identify these issues.

A more recent consideration is also methamphetamine contamination; you can easily arrange for a pre-purchase inspection to check these issues. Our colleagues at EWB Consultants can help with this if required.

Need more help?

If you’re looking at buying a property and would like pre-application advice, give our team a call. We can review the Council property file for you, advise you on what’s legally established, review consent notices and provide details of planning constraints and opportunities. You can then be confident you’re making an informed decision. Knowledge is power after all!

We can be contacted on and 09 427 9966.

Disclaimer As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.

Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plus™ and has over 17 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. This includes five years at Rodney District Council in roles including Senior Planner and Team Leader. Hannah has a wide range of experience including commercial, rural, residential and coastal development and subdivision on small to large scales and appearances at both Council and Environment Court as an expert witness for mediation and hearings. Hannah has assisted Councils with policy development and has also assisted private individuals with submissions to Council.

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