Five tips for protecting yourself when buying an off the plan property

Five tips for protecting yourself when buying an off the plan property
Five tips for protecting yourself when buying an off the plan property


Not so long ago it was considered a wise investment to buy an off the plan property.

I’m not sure if this premise stacks up now. As shared in a previous article, overseas investors (OI) are paying premium prices for property and the notion of “buying at a cheaper price point” to assist the builder/developer no longer exists. With the new trend of having guaranteed purchasers predominantly from Asia, purchasers pay future prices for property thus allowing for add-hock construction and for builders to push property out quicker than ever.

This new trend of quick development and guaranteed sales is fuelled by the high commissions payed to real estate marketers and agents that have a reach into the off shore investor markets. Investors that by nature I have come to identify as highly speculative risks takers. Why not, when the current market conditions in Sydney is hot and Sydney is seeing as a safe haven politically and with respect to property?

Ove the last 18 months I have been a witness to properties sold to OI with commissions as high as 8-10% and with these attractive rewards, the agents have made sure the projects are sold in record time. With the high returns developers and builders are achieving, comes (in some but not all cases) the temptation to lodge what is known as a Section 96.

A Section 96 is a variation to the building, primarily to increase the unit lots in the project. With the current property climate, the temptation is for developers and builders to cut corners in the construction phase.

Is it any wonder that when builders lodge the section 96s for variations, major changes to the unit complex come to the point where there are reports of units disappearing to make room for more car spaces, as commented on Radio 2UE a few weeks back.

However, this discussion fails to consider the real estate agent’s duty of care to the purchaser, as well as his client, the vendor.

The key to this is the solicitors acting for the purchasers. They have a duty to be on side of the purchaser and to be thorough and act swiftly when required. Once again in some cases but not all, the solicitors acting for the OI purchasers have the same unique relationships with the agents and developers.

Five tips on how to protect yourself when purchasing off the plan properties:

  1. Insist all variation clauses in off the plan purchasing contract are looked at methodically.

  2. Check proposed location of unit and car space and storage on proposed strata plan. Have these identified and signed off by vendor.

  3. Carefully check that list of inclusions is detailed and very descriptive and not vague;

  4. Discuss in detail what the tolerance percentage allowable for variations to unit size will be. Keep it as minimal as possible. Developers typically want a 5% variation. This could be the loss of a laundry or a linen cupboard, or even a bathroom. 

  5. Don’t accept the unit before completing an independent building inspection, done at your cost. Make the vendor aware this will take place as a condition of purchase. Builders will rely on their own reports and their foremen will not have the eye for detail, particularly when inspecting a hundred units or so. 

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EDWIN ALMEIDA is managing partner and licensee-in-charge of Just Think Real Estate.

Edwin Almeida

Edwin Almeida

Edwin Almeida is managing partner and licensee-in-charge of Just Think Real Estate.

New Developments Investor Tips Edwin Almeida

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