The process can vary between states and territories, but typically involves the following steps.
Review the contract
The vendor (or seller) must have a contract of sale prepared and available for inspection before offering a property for sale. The contract usually includes:
- A zoning certificate from the local council
- A copy of the title to the property as recorded in the Land Titles Office
- Copies of documents outlining other registered interests over the property.
After inspecting the property (ideally more than once), if you're still keen to buy you can ask for a copy of the contract and review it with your conveyancer or solicitor to ensure it’s acceptable.
Make an offer
Next, put your offer in writing to the real estate agent. This should include how much you’re willing to pay, any conditions such as repairs or deposit amount and the settlement period. Your solicitor or conveyancer will help you prepare a letter of offer for the property you want to purchase.
Your expression of interest will be passed onto the vendor and they will respond, kick-starting the negotiation process. You may be required to pay a holding deposit at this stage, to prove your offer is serious.
The vendor can receive expressions of interest from other people and even exchange contracts with them if they can get a better deal. If this happens, your holding deposit is refundable. Asking if anyone else has made an offer on the property can help assist with your negotiations.
Once you have agreed on a price with the vendor, you will need to exchange contracts and pay the full deposit, which is usually 10% of the purchase price. Your home lender and solicitor or conveyancer will support you through this process.
You should also arrange for home insurance at this time, as you’re the owner of the property from the date contracts are exchanged. Your contents insurance can begin from the time you move in.
In most states, there is usually a cooling-off period after contracts are exchanged, unless you’ve bought a residential property at auction. You can cancel the contract during the cooling-off period, but you may lose your deposit. It’s important to check with your solicitor or conveyancer about whether a cooling-off period is available or applies to your contact before you sign.
You should also check the property during this time to make sure the condition of the building and inclusions are as per the contract.
Settlement time is determined by the vendor but can be negotiated – usually it’s around four to six weeks. This is when you pay the balance of the property using your home loan, including stamp duty. You’ll then receive the keys and title deed to your new home. Happy days!
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