You are absolutely correct about being able to "just load the properties" and skip the check; you'll end up with the same thing result. One reason why I like it with the check is that the output of the build script will signify if a
local.properties was found and processed. If you "just load the properties," you won't know if it tried and failed. You can, of course, just check the file system to see if it's there and you'll know, as long as you have access to the file system. For me, it all boils down a little sanity check and a little transparency on Ant's processing.