Karen Walsh: 10 questions to ask your accountant before selling land

It’s a deal! But some of the groundwork before you sell land can take months to complete.

Karen Walsh: 10 questions to ask your accountant before selling land

Ten legal tips for selling agricultural land:

1. Check where your title deeds are located, in advance of securing a purchaser, in order to avoid delays.

The deeds may be with your solicitor or, if your property is mortgaged, they are usually retained by your financial institution.

If you are in negative equity, you will need written consent from your bank for the sale.

This usually takes months, so it is prudent to apply for it immediately.

2. Providing clean title is extremely important.

If issues are identified early on, it is easier to explore potential solutions.

Instruct your solicitor to review your title deeds as soon as possible, to ensure there are no defects with the title. When you are aware of inadequate title at an early stage, then there is time to rectify any problems, so that a potential sale will not be delayed or lost.

3. Ensure that you furnish your solicitor with all planning documentation for all buildings passing with the land. 

If you do not have copies, you can obtain same from your Local Authority.

If the buildings were constructed prior to 1964, it is not necessary to furnish planning documentation.

It the buildings were constructed after 1964, then it will be necessary to furnish the purchaser with certificates of compliance and planning permission and building regulations, if applicable, as evidence that the buildings are in compliance with same.

If buildings are exempt from planning and building regulations, a competent engineer will need to certify same.

If there is a building constructed on your property that does not have the benefit of planning permission or is not exempt, then it will be necessary to instruct your engineer to lodge an application for retention of planning permission.

An application for retention planning permission can take at least three months to finalise from the date it is lodged.

Furnish all planning permission documentation in your possession to your solicitor, and he or she will review the paperwork and advise you accordingly.

4. Ensure that the map is correct, and accurately reflects the property being sold.

5. Consult with your accountant or tax consultant in advance of selling, to ensure that you are aware of any potential capital gains tax liability.

It is a good way to avoid a last-minute surprise.

6. If you access the property through a right of way, check that your right of way is registered.

The presence of a right of way that is not registered can delay a mortgage, sale or gift of all or part of the property for the benefit of which the right of way is claimed.

7. If you have a tenant on your property, ensure that you serve them with a valid notice of termination of tenancy

and afford them sufficient time, as per their legal entitlements, to vacate the property.

8. Be sure that you are ready emotionally to sell your agricultural land.

Will the memory of your father be violated?

Does your son or grandson expect to receive the land?

These are real issues I deal with every day, and I suggest you examine these matters before going to market.

It takes honest communication with both yourself and family members.

My experience is that emotional conflict will derail your intention to sell every time.

9. Get an independent market valuation of the value of your land.

Too often, landowners’ opinion of the value of land is based on farmer talk, or what a neighbour received for their land.

It is almost impossible to be impartial about the value of your land. Speak with an auctioneer and get some facts that you can work with.

It is a small price to pay for confidence when the time comes for hard decisions.

10. Be sure that all owners are committed.

Talk to your family. Ensure everyone is behind the decision. Sometimes, several family members have the say-so in the decision to sell land.

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