Off the plan
Buying off the plan is buying a property based on the designs and plans provided by the developer before it is built. Most developers have a range of house designs that you can choose from and you may be able to choose the finishing touches - eg wall tiles, flooring, paint colours, appliances.
Developers will often sell properties off the plan in order to fund construction. A minimum number of properties may need to be sold before building on your property will begin.
A deposit is normally paid when the contract has been signed and the balance becomes due when the property has been completed.
Buying a property off the plan can be cheaper than buying an existing house but there are risks that should be taken into consideration before you decide.
Things to consider
For most people buying a property is the biggest purchase they will make. It's important to research the property and identify your needs before you decide.
Building a house can take a long time and there are many factors that could cause delays. Although the developer can give you a time frame for the completion of the property, this could change. In some cases the development may not go ahead at all - eg the developer becomes bankrupt.
You should examine all the designs and plans carefully. Ask to see the land your house will be built on and consider the size, location and aspect. The designs may change even after the contract has been signed - eg so development approval can be given.
If the property will be part of a group ask if it will be on a strata, community or Torrens title. If it is on a strata or community title you should check the community or strata group's details, regulations, by-laws and articles as these can affect how you can use the property - eg no pets allowed.
It is a good idea to check the quality of a developer's work. You can ask the developer to provide references or contact details of people who have bought properties from them previously.
As with any legal document it is strongly recommended that you seek independent, professional legal advice before you sign a contract. As the contract will become legally binding once you and the developer sign it, you should read all the terms and conditions carefully and ask for clarification of anything you don't understand. There may be certain conditions included in the contract that can affect your rights. If you aren't happy with a condition you can ask the developer to change it but they can refuse to do this.
Before you sign the contract you should ask the developer:
- if you will be able to make any changes to the finishes - eg paint colours, appliances, flooring
- what are your rights if the house isn't completed in time or at all and what would happen to the deposit
- what changes could you or the developer make to the house designs after the contract is signed
- who would be responsible for repairing both minor and major defects after the house has been completed, what warranties are in place and who are they with
- what are your rights if development approval isn't given or the site becomes unsuitable
- will you be able to visit the construction site while your house is being built
- how and under what conditions can either you or the developer cancel the contract
- will you be asked to pay for anything other than the deposit and the balance for the house - eg costs for building materials?
Always keep a copy of:
- any document you sign
- any promotional material used by the developer - eg leaflets
- the house designs and plans
- any letters sent to you by the developer or associated with the construction.
If something goes wrong
If you believe that your developer has breached the contract you can seek independent legal advice to determine what your rights are. You can also contact Consumer Affairs for advice and information on what you can do.