7 things you need to know before buying off the plan

Securing the apartment of your dreams can be tricky - especially if you're buying off the plan.

While buying before the build happens can be attractive for many reasons, there are some ways to work with developers and project marketers to ensure you're not left disappointed with your new home. 

Scott Rudgley, Sales Director at AD Group, shares some things you should think about before buying off the plan

Know exactly what you’re after

"Before you even start your search, you need to be very clear in what your requirements are. This means knowing the price range, the area and what local amenity you’re looking to be located near. Location is one of the biggest considerations in your search, with proximity to schools, shops and transport highly regarded.

"Owner occupiers focus should be on long-term amenity and quality inclusions. Others could include aspect, views, outdoor space, parking and storage. Burn some rubber with your shoes and get a feel for what it’s like living in an area, is it the right fit for you?

"Finally, make a wish list of features that are ‘must haves’, and another list that would be ‘nice to have’ but remember it is a wish list and you might need to compromise – sometimes the right property feels like a unicorn."

Get to know the agent or developer

"Whilst it’s great to search websites like apartmentdevelopments.com.au, we highly encourage you to be proactive in finding your dream home. We send project alerts as soon as properties become available to the public, however developers and project marketers generally offer stock to their database prior to the wider market.

"This means these buyers have access to the apartments of choice with the best views, aspect, size or floorplan and as developers have pre-sales targets to meet for construction finance, you might be able to negotiate. Once finance is in place, the developer might be not be as willing to negotiate. Also, by working closely with the agents they’ll have background knowledge of what you’re trying to achieve and can help narrow down the options by acting as quasi buyers agents."

Size is key, but functionality is crucial

"Australian’s are akin to living in spacious homes and the rise of apartment living is relatively new by world standards. Downsizers should take the time to ensure that the functionality of the floorplan suits their living requirements.

"Utilise recent technology trends such as virtual reality (VR), 3D modelling or even full-size replicas of the floorplan so you can walk through your unit before it’s constructed – there’s businesses that cater for this! Investors should be wary that most lenders shy away apartments with less than 50sqm of floor space."

Ask for a better deal

"I’m not sure developers will love this tip, but ask for a discount. If you can’t get a discount, try asking for an upgrade. Create your dream kitchen or ask for the best appliance package. Buyers should have confidence to ask the question but be rational and fair.

"Also, a lot of people don’t seem to know is that you can include a clause that any interest on your deposit can be given back to you as a rebate on the purchase price. Given that the apartment hasn’t settled until you pay the balance, the deposit amount should still be treated as your own money, not the developers."

Go with a reputable developer

"Opt for a property backed by an established developer with a solid reputation within the property industry. Research how successful past projects have been and consider whether the company is well-known and trusted. This provides the opportunity to check out completed developments by the same company to see how well they have stood the test of time."

Get a solicitor to look at the contracts

"Buying a property off the plan has very detailed and comprehensive contracts that can be complex and lengthy. Engaging a solicitor that has experience in off the plan builds will pay dividends as developers can place unusual conditions on the transaction.

"You need to ask a lot of questions about what is covered by the purchase price and what isn’t. You should ensure that everything your developer agrees to provide is written down in the contract – from things like room sizes, location of car parking, floor coverings, window furnishings, light fittings and bathroom fittings. If appliances are being provided, agree on a make and model number. Be as detailed as you possibly can in every respect.

"Also, it’s crucial to include a sunset clause, which requires the vendor to complete the project by a particular date or within a specified timeframe. This allows you to legally walk away from the contract and retrieve your deposit if the vendor doesn’t deliver on time. On the flipside, it also allows the developer to rescind the contract."

Be prepared

"You’ve gone to all the trouble of finding the property of your dreams, so it’s critical that you’ve got your ducks in a row including the deposit readily available plus any supporting documentation to ensure you don’t lose the property to another buyer. Even before commence looking, make sure you know your borrowing capacity and have obtained pre-approval. It should be noted that even if you have pre-approval on a loan, the lender will still require a valuation on the completed project before they agree on the amount they will allow you to borrow.

"Whether you’re the seasoned investor, first home buyer or looking for that penthouse by the beach, these tips will put you in a great position to secure the best apartment in the block of your choice."

Catch the final season of Buying and Selling, Mondays at 8.30pm on Lifestyle HOME.

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