Tips For Buying Off-The-Plan With Confidence

Buying off-the-plan is becoming a more popular way for people to buy into the most in-demand areas. Enabling you to buy a brand-new property at today’s prices and have sometimes years to sort out your life and mortgage can be hugely advantageous to first home buyers.  

To put it simply, off-the-plan means purchasing property that hasn’t been built yet. It gives you the flexibility to save up any additional funds while your future home is being constructed.  

The journey towards owning property is exciting, but before you dive in, we’ve gathered our best tips to have up your sleeve that will help you secure a property off-the-plan that’s the right fit for you.  

1. Research the developer 

The developer, architect and builder are all instrumental to the delivery of your future property and doing your background research is critical. Making sure you have a look at any previous projects they completed will guide you to a more informed decision. It’ll also help you see if they have a track record of completing projects on time and the overall level of quality they deliver.  

By understanding who the team behind the development is and reading up on their past performances online, it’ll help you feel more confident in who you are buying from. 

Everything looks amazing on computer-generated images in brochures but it’s a good idea to visit some of their finished projects in person to give you an even better idea of what the finished product will look like. 

2. Check the floorplan carefully  

Buying off-the-plan quite literally means relying on floorplans to make your decision, so it’s important you do this with consideration. Detailed floorplans will help you envision your future space and are an essential part of the information needed to make your decision.  

Measurements for all rooms, balconies, storage units and car spaces are usually included in the total area and can be potentially misleading to make it seem like a bigger space, so it’s important to be aware of this.  

Find a floorplan that best maximises your lifestyle, taking into consideration your future needs and the flexibility of having extra rooms for any additional space you require.  

3. Consider future developments in the area 

When buying property, you should always consider the impact of any future developments in the area. Is it located in an up-and-coming suburb? Maybe there is proposed infrastructure coming that will make it faster and easier for you to get around.   

Conversely – is there another development planned for across the street? Will it offer better views or amenity or perhaps block your views or impact you in some way?  

Local Councils are a great starting point to find out more information about approved developments that may impact you.  

For the most part, future planned developments could affect the growth of a particular area, making it a more attractive suburb for buyers. Developers have done their homework and spend years planning development projects, and usually aim to capitalise on an upswing in the market – so it is generally a good sign when a suburb attracts multiple developments. 

Beware of oversupply – created by an influx of new developments that outstrip current and short-term demand and can lead to a drop in property values until the dynamics of supply and demand are rebalanced. 

4. Timing is everything   

The time it takes to complete any project can only be estimated and can experience unforeseen delays – especially in the post COVID-19 world we live in with lockdowns impacting the construction sector. On top of researching who the developers are and before you commit to a purchase, it’s important to know when construction is set to begin and finish.  

Understanding the sunset clauses in your sales contract will let you know the maximum amount of time the developer has before they are required to complete construction. This will give you a set date of when you are able to legally receive a refund on your deposit if your home hasn’t been built yet.   

It also gives you a timeframe to get your life sorted and plan to end leases, buy furniture and get ready to move into your beautiful new home! 

5. Secure your finances 

A smart move is to have all your finances intact and any loans pre-approved before signing any contracts. Although banks and lenders are able to offer conditional approval for off-the-plan purchases, they can’t lend money until the property has been built and a valuation performed.  

Make sure there is no special criteria from your lender about the location. There may be changes to your financial situation prior to the completion date that could affect that amount initially pre-approved, so it’s worth securing your finances in case anything arises.  

6. Source legal advice for contracts   

Purchasing property always requires signing contracts that you may not always understand, so it’s best to leave that to the experts. Getting the help of a conveyancer or solicitor to look after the paperwork will ensure there are no hidden surprises for you in the contract. 

Buying off-the-plan is a different process compared to purchasing already built property, so you’ll need to seek out legal advice in order to understand any of the fine print and clauses in your contract.  

Any legal costs you have to endure will far outweigh the pain of any expensive mistakes that may arise if you haven’t understood the contract properly.  

 7. Check what finishes are included  

One of the many advantages to buying off-the-plan is your property will be brand new and you often get to choose your own colour scheme and finishes.  

Make sure to check out what finishes are offered and consider if any changes or upgrades are needed to suit your taste. From new carpets to fresh paint colours, it can also be useful to picture the finishes against any artist impressions and swatches available.  

Double check what fixtures are already included – usually ovens and dishwashers will be part of the package. Take a look at the display suite and make selections accordingly.  

Choosing finishes are often a process most buyers really enjoy, so have fun with it! Just make sure to consider what’s available that matches your personal taste and furnishings. 

8. Owning pets  

Not every new building will allow your furry friends to stay with you, so it’s important to consider this when buying off-the-plan. Do you have pets or are pets something you would want in the future? 

This can add a layer of complexity to the apartment buying process, so make sure to be aware if the development will be pet friendly. 

9. Talk to the locals 

If the property you purchase is a multi-staged development and partially complete, it isn’t a bad idea to go for a walk around the complex to check out the vibe.  

If you happen to bump into any residents, why not ask them how they enjoy living there? Talk to them and see what they have to say about the building and area.  

The best way to get to know a new area is to speak to the experts who already live there.  

 10. Strata fees and facilities  

So how much are the strata fees for off-the-plan homes? This is the fee the owner of an apartment must pay to the Owners Corporation for the management and general upkeep of the building. It’s wise to enquire about these early on to ensure they are affordable and fit within your budget.  

Most buyers are surprised by the amount of extra costs that are thrown their way when purchasing property. Swimming pools and gyms are nice but can lead to high strata levies. See what facilities are included in the building to avoid being stunned by any additional costs.   

Author:

Tom Ogilvie, BDM, Coposit