The buying process
1. Organise your finances
How much can you afford in mortgage repayments, as well as other ongoing costs associated with owning a property, and how much is your lending institution willing to lend you.
2. Find a property
Determine what kind of house and where you would like to buy. Attend open inspections and auctions to get an idea of how much properties are selling for and to get an idea of what the buying process is.
3. Engage a conveyancer
It is recommended that you engage the services of a professional conveyancer or solicitor as early as possible in the house buying process. They will help you with the legal documentation and the settlement process.
4. Research the property
When you find a property you are interested in you should do some background research to help you identify any building issues or other factors that may affect whether you buy the property or not - eg easements. Certain documents must be given to you (link to below: Documents to be given to a buyer) by the vendor or their agent to help you make this decision.
5. Making an offer
If the property is for sale by private treaty you can make an offer to the vendor or their agent. This should be in writing and must be signed by you. You can make an offer in the form of a contract of sale which will become legally binding if the vendor signs it. If you are planning to make this kind of offer it is recommended that you include a condition in writing that if it isn’t signed by the vendor by a particular date the offer and the contract become invalid. Your conveyancer or solicitor will be able to help you with the wording of this condition.
The vendor's agent may ask for a holding deposit of up to $100 at the time of making an offer which is held in a trust account.
6. The auction
If the property is up for auction you can attend and register as a bidder. If you are successful at the auction you will be expected to sign the contract of sale and pay the deposit as soon as the auction finishes.
You should organise for any building inspections or for your financial institution to conduct a property valuation before the auction day as you will not be able to make the contract of sale subject to any conditions and are not entitled to a cooling off period.
7. Contract of sale
This is the legal contract which will become binding once you and the vendor have both signed it. If you are buying a property through private treaty you may make the contract subject to certain conditions - eg subject to formal approval of finance, subject to receiving a satisfactory building inspection report.
If you are buying through private treaty your financial institution may want to conduct a property valuation at this point to ensure that the property is enough to act as security against the amount you want to borrow.
If you are buying a property at auction you will be expected to sign the contract immediately after the auction finishes and it can’t be made subject to any conditions.
8. The deposit
The deposit is payable after the contract of sale has been signed. Usually this is up to 10% of the purchase price. You will need to organise for the transfer of the money to the vendor’s agent or conveyancer who will hold it in trust until settlement. If you have engaged a conveyancer they will organise for this on your behalf.
If you are buying a property at auction you will be expected to pay the deposit as soon as the auction finishes.
9. Cooling off
If you buy a property through a private treaty you will have two business days, known as the cooling off period, in which you can change your mind and withdraw from the purchase without any legal repercussions.
This period is usually for two business days from either the date the contract of sale was signed by both you and the vendor or from the date you received the vendor’s statement, whichever happened later.
If you decide to withdraw from the purchase, any holding deposit you paid is forfeit to the vendor, but any larger deposit you have paid will be returned to you. There are no other consequences from withdrawing during the cooling off period.
If you buy a property at auction or on the day of the auction you are not entitled to a cooling off period.
This is the date on which all legal documentation is transferred from the vendor’s name into yours, the adjustment of rates and taxes are calculated, and the balance of the price of the property is to be paid to the vendor. If you are using a conveyancer they will attend the settlement and represent you throughout the process. This is a complex legal process and it is strongly recommended that you engage a conveyancer or solicitor to represent you.
After this date you will be given the keys to your new property and you can take possession.
Documents to be given to a buyer
You must be given certain information about the property you are interested in buying. This is a legal requirement that all vendors, sales representatives, agents and auctioneers must comply with.
When buying a property you must be given a copy of:
If you are buying a residential property at auction you must also be given a copy of:
Usually an agent will not be able to act as a representative for both the buyer and the vendor. In certain situations this may be acceptable but the agent will have to give you a copy of the warning notice for purchasers for you to sign.
For an alternative version of these documents contact the Consumer Affairs.
The buyer’s information notice
This contains general information about the property for sale that may affect:
- your safety
- your enjoyment or use of the property
- the value of the property - eg presence of asbestos, salt damp or easements.
The warning notice for financial and investment advice
This document should be given to you by any agent who provides you with financial or investment advice. It outlines your responsibility to obtain independent financial and legal advice when considering either the purchase or sale of a property.
Assessing the suitability of a property statement
This document provides more detailed information on the issues raised in the buyer’s information notice, and where you can find further information on those matters.
Also referred to as a form one, this document gives important information about a property. It must be provided to the purchaser before settlement but may be supplied to prospective buyers on request. The cooling off period for the buyer begins once either the contract of sale is signed or the vendor’s statement is given to them, whichever happens later.
All information on this form must be factually correct and accurate and signed by the vendor. Any incorrect or insufficient information could mean you could withdraw from the sale and could potentially take legal action against the vendor.
Information on this form includes:
- particulars about the property’s certificate of title
- details of any mortgages registered on the property
- caveats, easements, covenants or other encumbrances
- zonings and outgoings - eg water rates
- the condition of the buildings and whether they comply with all relevant regulations.
It is your responsibility to conduct research on the property, including around any information not included on this form. A conveyancer or solicitor will be able to do this for you.
Contract of sale
This is the legally binding contract signed by both you, as a buyer, and the vendor. It states that the ownership of the property is officially transferred from one person to another. Two copies are drawn up, one for you and the other for the vendor.
Information detailed in the contract includes:
- the name and address of both the vendor and the buyer
- details of the land
- chattels included in, and excluded from, the sale
- the price
- information about the deposit
- the settlement date
- any exceptions
- tenancy details if the property is currently being rented
- conditions of the sale - eg subject to the buyer receiving a satisfactory building inspection report.
If the property is currently being rented to a tenant you may be able to ask for vacant possession as a condition of the contract of sale. This will depend on the type of lease agreement the tenant has signed.
If something goes wrong
If you want to withdraw from the purchase after the cooling off period has expired there can be legal repercussions - eg you may have to pay compensation to the vendor, the deposit will be forfeit.
It is strongly recommended that you seek independent, professional legal advice before you decide to withdraw.
Similarly, if the vendor decides to withdraw from the sale they will also be faced with legal repercussions.
If you have any questions or concerns about the vendor, their representative or the buying process, Consumer and Business Services can provide information and advice.
On this siteContract terms and conditions Finding a house to buy Loans and mortgages Grants for people buying property Engaging professionals How properties are bought and sold The settlement process
Other websitesHomeStart Finance Buying a home
- Legal Services Commission Home buyer's guide
on the Australian Government's Your Home websiteMy Start
- a Homestart website to help you achieve your home ownership goals
DownloadsAssessing suitability of a property statementWarning notice for independent financial and investment adviceIts about the houseMaking an offer to buy a homeFirst home buyers guideAdvertising and property prices
For an alternative version of these documents contact Consumer Affairs