Legal searches in property purchases-the essentials

One of the tasks that must be carried out on closing day of a property transaction is the carrying out of legal searches by the purchaser’s solicitor. He will then send these searches to the vendor’s solicitor for certification and explanation of any acts arising on those searches.

The searches that are typically carried out in a residential property transaction are

  • A property registration authority search against the Land Registry folio of the property that is being sold, or a Registry of Deeds search if it is a Registry of Deeds property
  • A search against the vendor as to judgments, bankruptcy, EU personal insolvency, Insolvency Service of Ireland
  • A companies office search if the vendor is a limited company or there is a management company involved-for example, the purchase of an apartment in a multi-unit development
  • Sheriff’s search, Revenue Sheriff’s search, proceedings search (High Court)
  • A planning search in the local authority planning office
  • Searches against the purchaser if there is a mortgage involved

These searches would be carried out by professional legal searchers who serve the legal profession and should be fully bonded.

Any acts affecting the vendor or the property itself would need to be explained and certified by the vendor’s solicitor. Acts could include judgments registered against the vendor or the property or Lis pendens registered in the last 5 years (Lis pendens means ‘litigation pending’).

If satisfactory explanations of any act appearing on the searches are not furnished by the vendor’s solicitor to the purchaser’s solicitor, the sale will not complete.

The object of these searches is to ensure the purchaser gets good, clean title. This is vital for the purchaser and for her solicitor who will have given a solicitor’s undertaking to the lender to obtain good title and certify to that effect.

This would not be possible if there was, for example, a judgment registered against the property or there was an outstanding charge or mortgage in respect of previous borrowings.

The cost of searches will be borne by the purchaser and will usually range between €60 plus vat to €150 plus vat, depending on how many searches are required. For example, you could have a good number of owners, including limited companies, and folios affected by the one purchase. All folios and owners would need to be searched against.

Find out more about what happens on closing day of a property transaction here.