The hammer has fallen on your bid, or your offer has been accepted, and soon you’ll be the proud owner of a new home or investment property. In a matter of weeks you’ll be moving in, but a few things need to happen in the meantime.

Fortunately, a lot of the work is often taken care of by your legal agent (a conveyancer or solicitor). Here’s how the process typically plays out.

Sign contracts & pay a deposit

If you’ve bought at auction you’ll need to be prepared to sign a contract of sale and pay a deposit (usually 10%) on the spot. Your legal agent should have already examined the contract and negotiated any changes. You should also have done pre-purchase pest and building inspections.

Generally, you’ll need a cheque for your deposit payment, and ideally you’ll have already arranged conditional pre-approval with your lender. If you’ve bought by private sale, once the vendor has accepted your offer you might need to pay a 1% holding deposit (for example) to show good faith, but the deal isn’t done until you’ve signed the contract and paid a bigger deposit (usually 10%).

It’s important to sign the contract as soon as possible. While it’s unsigned, the vendor can still sell to another buyer – known as “gazumping”. Of course, you should ensure your legal agent inspects the contract before you sign it.

Settlement is usually three to six weeks after contracts are exchanged, though the terms can be extended if seller and buyer both agree.

Cooling-off period

If you’ve bought by private sale there may be a cooling-off period written into the contract, allowing you to change your mind. The cooling-off period is generally up to five days, depending on your state or territory.

There’s no cooling-off period for properties bought at auction.

Finalise your home loan

If you haven’t already got an unconditional loan offer, now’s the time to tell your lender about your purchase and get your conditional pre-approval turned into a formal loan approval.

Your lender will perform certain checks, such as a property valuation, before issuing a loan contract. They may also ask you to take out building insurance for the period between signing the contract and settlement.

Final inspection

In the week before settlement, you should inspect the property to make sure it’s in the same condition in which it was sold and that everything is as the contract states.


Settlement day is when the sale is completed. Your lender or legal agent will pay the balance of the purchase price  to the seller, plus any additional costs such as adjustments for council rates that have already been paid, in exchange for the title deeds.

Once everything is settled, your legal agent will get the keys and give them to you. Enjoy! Your title deeds, transfer and mortgages will then be registered at the land titles office, and stamp duty and registration costs will be paid to the government on your behalf.

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Things you should know

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. As this information has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should, before acting on this, consider the appropriateness to your circumstances. You should also consider seeking professional financial, legal and/or tax advice before making any decision based on this information.