I'm ready to buy, whatshould I do first?
If you don't have a conveyancer in mind, then you can find a member of the Australian Institute of Conveyancers (such as Balben Property Transfers) on their website www.aicnational.com.au, under AIC members.
All members are licensed by the Office of Fair Trading and all licensed conveyancers who are members carry Professional Indemnity Insurance to protect you against any errors or omissions. All members are professionals and deal only in property law.
Why consult a Conveyancer first?
Your conveyancer can guide you through the occasional mine field of buying real estate. You will need to know what you can and cannot do when dealing with an Estate Agent and you should be aware of your cooling off rights before you enter into a contract to purchase property. You should also be aware of all the costs involved before you commit yourself to anything, so you can work out a budget and know exactly what you can afford, before you commence negotiating a price with your agent.
You will be able to clarify any matters that you are not completely aware of and your conveyancer can help you with any and all matters relating to your property transfers.
Contract for sale of land
The law provides that the Real Estate Agent must have available, at all times, a complete contract for the sale of any residential property. A copy of the contract is to be made available for any prospective purchaser to look over and receive advice on.
The contract will contain all the details of the property and will include a zoning certificate showing how the property is zoned, for example if it is zoned in a residential area or a commercial area. It will also include a full title search showing any easements or restrictions that effect the use of the property or any mortgages and other matters affecting the title of the property. A sewer diagram must also be included so that you can see if, and or where, the sewer main crosses the property.
Not all things that effect the sale will be written into the contract. There are several matters enshrined in legislation that effect the contract for sale of land that are not spelt out in the written contract and it is best that you have your conveyancer explain the effect of the contract before you sign and commit yourself to it.
The contract date will determine the date of settlement or completion. The contract will normally have a specified time for settlement to take place after the date of the contract, this time is normally within 30-90 days. The time for settlement will be negotiated between both parties and your conveyancer will notify you.
The contract also contains a description of all inclusions that are to be sold with the property. These things should be confirmed with or negotiated through your conveyancer before the contract is signed.
Building and pest inspections
Before you commit yourself to the purchase of a property you need to decide whether you want to obtain any professional inspections on the property. The contract does not cover the quality of the buildings on the property, only title matters.
When buying a house you should make every effort possible to ensure the building is structurally sound and that by way of example, it is not infected by white ants or serious asbestos issues.
An inspection by a qualified builder will show these matters but most importantly the inspector will advise on any structural problems that may not be obvious to the untrained eye. It will also report on any obvious drainage problems.
A pest inspection will report on any structural pests that may be present or advise on any pest activity affecting the property. This report is for the activity of structural pests it will not normally advise on the presence of cockroaches, mice etc.
It is recommended that you obtain both a pest and building Inspection as they will give you peace of mind. The price of your purchase compared to the cost of these reports is minimal.
You should choose an inspector who has Professional Indemnity Insurance so that if they miss something detrimental on the property, you have a chance of being compensated for any error or oversight. Try and use someone who has been recommended to you so you have some knowledge of their work and competence.
When buying a unit, townhouse or villa you are buying into a strata scheme. Whether you obtain a pest and building inspection for your property transfer is your choice, it is nice to know that the lot you are buying is clear of any structural or pest problems.
You should obtain an owners corporation certificate, commonly called a Section 151 Certificate. Usually a managing agent is appointed by the owners corporation to keep these records so that the inspection is done at the office of the managing agent. The owners corporation should be active, incorporated and signed with a seal by the manager authorised to do so.
The Owners Corporation Certificate will tell you of things such as:
What insurances are in place
What the quarterly levies are
What the financial position of the scheme is
If there are any ongoing maintenance problems
If there are any special levies struck for the cost of any works to be done
And any other matters that may be reported in the records or minutes of meetings.
If a lot owner has any structural or maintenance problems with their lot they are usually reported to the managing agent and they should record those reports, however this cannot always be relied upon.
Before you apply for a loan you should work a budget out to assist you in knowing how much you can afford to pay each week on loan repayments.
You should ensure there is a finance clause in the Contract of Sale to allow your financial institution sufficient time to obtain valuations, financial assessment in order to issue you with formal unconditional loan approval.
There are many places you can apply for a loan such as with banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders or finance brokers. It is wise to shop around and do your homework before you apply so you have an understanding and comparison of different offers and rates. There are various types of loans to choose from so ensure you have enough time to research all options available.
If you have decided on which type of loan you require you can apply direct to your chosen finance provider. If you are unsure then it may be a good idea to consult a finance broker. Finance brokers have access to many banks, credit unions and mortgage lenders and can find the loan that best suits your needs. Normally there is no extra cost for using a broker because the finance provider pays the broker a fee for referring the loan.
Normally you do not pay a fee to a finance broker if a loan is not, or cannot be, arranged for you. Be aware that different institutions pay different commissions to brokers so that it is always a possibility that the loan you are referred to may not be the best for you, but in fact be the best commission paid to the broker. For this reason you should ensure you research all offers made extensively.
When obtaining 100% finance for purchases, or lending an amount above 80% of the valued purchase, beware that almost every lender will require subsequent mortgage insurance which can be expensive. This insurance insures the lender, not you. The premium depends on the loan to valuation ration and increases, as the loan gets closer to the valuation. It is an extra expense that you may not have allowed for and can be several thousand dollars depending on the amount you are borrowing.
In property transfers contracts are signed by all parties involved in the transaction once the seller and buyer have mutually agreed on a price and the conditions of the sale. The signed contracts are then exchanged and dated and the deposit paid by the buyer.
Contracts are drawn up in triplicate, all copies are signed by the seller and buyer. One copy is then given to the Vendor's conveyancer, one copy to the Buyer's conveyancer and the other copy is usually for the Real Estate Agent's records. Once all parties have a fully signed copy of the Contract, then "exchange of contracts" has formally taken place.
The contract can be exchanged in one of two ways:
By the estate agent. In this case the contracts are signed and exchanged shortly after the sale price has been agreed to. The agent will send the appropriate copy of the contract to the parties conveyancer and the buyer will have a 3 working day cooling off period in which to obtain any reports, finance approval and have the contract explained by their conveyancer. The seller does not have the benefit of the cooling off period.
By the conveyancer. In this case it would be normal for the buyer to have all reports done, financial approval and the contract explained by their conveyancer before the contracts are exchanged.
Until such time as the contracts are exchanged either party can withdraw from the transaction, it is only once contracts are exchanged that the parties are bound to proceed, and in the case of the buyer having a cooling off period the buyer is not bound until the cooling off period expires.
Every contract for the sale of residential property (less than 20 hectares) has a cooling off period of three working days, then the cooling off period ends at midnight on the third working day.
This means that after entering into the contract the purchaser has three working days in which to "cool off". The seller is locked into the contract and cannot withdraw from the sale. If the purchaser finds that for any reason he or she does not want to proceed with the purchase they can rescind the contract within the three day period. If they do rescind the contract they forfeit to the vendor $100.00 or 0.2% of the sale price. The contract is then at an end and neither party has any further claim against the other.
There is no cooling off period if the property:
Is sold at a public auction or on the same day as the property was listed for auction, sale or 3 clear business days before or after the publicly advertised auction.
Is mainly for industrial or commercial purposes.
Is more than 20 hectares in size and is used mainly for farming.
Payment of Deposit
It is an essential term of a contract that the deposit is paid on or before the date of the contract (exchange of contract). The deposit paid can vary but it is usually 10% of the sale price. It is normally paid to the estate agent who holds it in trust pending completion as stakeholder.
If a holding deposit has been paid before the contracts are exchanged then it becomes part of the 10% deposit and it is the 10% less the holding deposit that is paid at exchange of contracts.
The agent holds the deposit in trust for both the seller and purchaser and cannot release it without consent from both parties. It is normal practice for that consent to be handed over at completion so that the agent can account to the seller. The agent will deduct his commission from the deposit.
If the purchaser does not pay the deposit on exchange or if the deposit cheque is not honoured by the bank the seller can rescind the contract at any time up until the purchaser makes good the deposit.
A Deposit Bond is a guarantee that while the deposit is not paid at the exchange of contracts it will be paid on completion and if the buyer is in default the underwriter guarantees payment. A deposit bond is often used when the buyer is selling and all proceeds are coming from their sale, or the buyer is borrowing 100% of the purchase price, or perhaps for some other reason the buyer does not have a cash deposit.
The risk of damage to the property is the seller's up until completion or until the purchaser takes possession of the property, if that happens prior to completion.
The seller is liable to take care of the property up until completion and the property should be handed over at completion in the same condition, subject to fair wear and tear, as it was at the date of exchange of Contracts.
If the property is substantially damaged before completion the purchaser has a right to rescind and have the deposit refunded provided they do so within 28 days of becoming aware of the damage. If the damage is not substantial then the purchaser may choose to proceed with the purchase subject to an adjustment of the sale price to account for the cost of repairing the damage done.
Stamp duty is payable on the Contract.
The duty payable on the contract is calculated on the sale price, the higher the price the higher the duty. It is the purchaser's responsibility to pay the stamp duty and this must be done before completion if you are borrowing money and in any event within 30 days of settlement otherwise a fine is payable for late payment.
The Contract provides that council rates be adjusted between the vendor and purchaser as at the settlement date.
Council rates are levied for the financial year. They will be adjusted so that the vendor pays the rates up until the day of settlement and the purchaser will be liable from then until the end of the rating period, in this case 30 June. They are adjusted as if the rates are paid in full regardless of whether they are in fact paid or not. Any outstanding rates are paid from the sale proceeds (being the vendor's money).
Council rates may be paid by instalments but are an annual levy and hence it is normal practice to adjust the rates for the next full year not according to what instalment may be due next.
The rates are a charge on the land and any outstanding rates become the liability of the purchaser, so it is essential that they are paid up to date at settlement. One of the inquiry certificates the purchaser's conveyancer will obtain is from council and sets out the amount of the annual rates, what payments have been made and what is outstanding.
An adjustment of any relevant water and sewer rates must be made at settlement. Water rates are usually quarterly rates and the adjustment made will only be for the current quarter. The same principals apply to water rates as they do for council rates.
A water usage charge may have to be paid by the vendor. To assess whether a charge is payable or not it is recommended a meter reading be organised via the water authority. Any usage advised from the meter reading can then be allowed for in the Statement of Adjustments and paid in full by the seller at settlement.
Strata Levies - Unit / Townhouse / Villa
If your property transfer is the purchase of a lot in a strata scheme the quarterly strata levy will need to be adjusted. This levy is adjusted in the same manner as council rates except that they are usually adjusted on the quarterly not annual rate. The quarter for strata levies may begin at any time, they are not necessarily the quarters of the calendar year. Because the levies commenced on a date determined at the first annual general meeting held by the Owners Corporation the quarterly levies can commence at any date but for convenience it is usually but not necessarily from the beginning of a month.
There may also be special levies to take into consideration. A special levy is struck when and if there are not enough funds held by the owners corporation to cover either the normal running expenses or a special job has to be carried out and there are not enough funds held to cover the cost of that job.
Normally a special levy struck before the date of the contract has to be paid in full by the seller. Sometimes the special levy may be paid by instalments, if this is the case all instalments must be paid by the seller. If however a special levy is struck after the date of the contract then that levy is adjusted between seller and buyer. Hopefully any strata inspection would show if it is intended to raise a special levy that may be struck after the date of the contract but this cannot be relied upon.
As a purchaser you are entitled to do a final inspection of the property before you make the final payment and take occupation of the property. We strongly recommend you take advantage of this and do so for your own benefit. You need to organise this with your agent prior to settlement.
Once settlement takes place it is too late to be finding that some of the inclusions are missing or that something has been damaged. It is extremely difficult to be able to have repairs done or inclusions returned after the seller has left and settlement completed.
The ideal time to do the final inspection is immediately before the settlement, however this is usually not very practical. It is usually done within 7 days before the settlement. This way if there is a problem there is some time to sort out the problem before settlement. If there is some concern that something may go missing or damage be done between the inspection and settlement then you have no alternative than to re-inspect just before settlement takes place.
What you need to do before settlement
Prior to the settlement date you should make a list of all those places you need to advise your change of address and see that this is done immediately settlement takes place.
As settlement will normally take place at a venue not necessarily close to your conveyancers office, any final moneys that need to be paid by you will need to be drawn and given to your conveyancer the day before settlement. You should be advised by your conveyancer who to make this payment in favour of a couple of days before it is due. However, you should be aware that because of the procedures followed by some financial institutions the final cheque details may not be known until the day before settlement. You should be prepared to receive the details and be able to provide your conveyancer with the final cheques on short notice. While this is not very convenient it is in most cases unavoidable in property transfers.
The day of settlement is determined firstly by the date of exchange of contracts and is normally 30 -90 days after that date. It is possible for settlement to take place on an earlier or a later date if both parties agree.
Contracts normally have a condition that if settlement is delayed through no fault of the vendor then the purchaser will pay interest to the vendor in compensation for the delay in settlement. There is normally no penalty on the vendor for delaying settlement.
If when signing the contract, you consider the settlement date is not convenient to you it should be discussed with your conveyancer at that time. It is too late to realise the settlement date is not convenient after the contract is exchanged, unless by chance the vendor agrees.
The settlement time is determined by the availability of all parties to the transaction.
Your conveyancer or your conveyancer's agent will attend the settlement on your behalf. There is no need nor is it normal practice for you to attend the settlement. As there will normally be four parties attending a simple purchase settlement the time of settlement is made according to when all parties are able to attend a certain venue at the same time. This means that while you may prefer a morning settlement it may not be possible.
The settlement venue is determined by the person or institution that holds the deeds to the property, normally a discharging mortgagee.
The parties normally attending a settlement will be the conveyancer for the buyer, the buyer's lender, the conveyancer for the seller and the sellers discharging lender.
It is at settlement that the deeds to the property are handed over for payment of the sale price.
The title deeds and any related documents will be held by your lender until such time as the loan is repaid.
It is your lender who attends to registration of your ownership of the property and the Land Titles Office and they should do this shortly after the settlement date.
It is normal practice that occupation of the property is not granted until after the settlement has been completed, unless some other arrangement is made. You should not assume that the seller will allow you to move in before settlement even if the property is vacant.
Because you may not have a firm time and date for settlement when you want to book the removalist it is difficult to organise the time for the removalist to arrive and load and then to arrive at your new property coinciding with the settlement time. Unfortunately this is a fact you just have to deal with and it may be best to arrange for the removalist to do an afternoon move in preference for paying the removalist to sit and wait for confirmation to unload.
Buying with an existing tenant
If a tenant occupies the property and they have a current lease than you take over the vendor's role as landlord, immediately settlement has taken place.
There is no need to enter into a new lease as the current lease remains in force and as the new landlord you are bound by the terms of that lease.
If you want to have the tenant vacate the property then you will need to serve on the tenant a notice of termination which must allow the required period of time depending on when it is issued.
When the fixed term period is due to run out either party can give 14 days' notice to end the tenancy and it can be served at any time up to the last day of the fixed term.
When the fixed term has expired, if the tenant wants to give notice to terminate then at least 21 days' notice must be given. The landlord on the other hand must give at least 60 days' notice.
If the property is sold and the fixed term has expired then the landlord must give at least 30 days' notice of termination, after the date of the contract.
When the tenant remains in the property the rent needs to be adjusted. If the rent is paid in advance then the seller will give you a credit in the settlement figures for that portion of the rent already paid to the seller that applies from the day after settlement.
If the rent is in arrears then no adjustment is made as the purchaser is not expected to take over a debt that is owed to the prior owner.
Quite often the adjustment of rent will be made by the managing agent as they often collect the rent weekly but account monthly to the landlord so they could be holding rent in their trust account. Your conveyancer will determine the best way for the rent adjustment to be carried out.
Immediately following settlement the estate agent will be advised and subsequently authorised to release the keys held to the buyer. It is the seller's conveyancer who must notify the agent that settlement has been effected and to release keys accordingly. This will usually be done in writing by fax.
Your conveyancer will send you final letters of confirmation of your purchase together with final statements and any other documents they hold.
You will not receive a Certificate of Title (Title Deed) if you have borrowed any money to assist with the purchase because all title documents are retained by your lender. It is the lender who will register the transfer into your name at the Land Titles Office.
Your conveyancer will notify Council and Water Authorities of the change in for your property transfer following settlement by lodging a Notice of Acquisition giving the Authority your details.
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