Buy or Build

  • Generally, when buying an existing house, First Home Buyers are not eligible for the First Home Owner’s Grant. We always recommend that people who are planning to buy always do their own research into the different suburbs, how close they are to work, nearby schools, shops and transport.

    While you’re thinking about where to buy it’s also important to think about what you can and cannot afford and the biggest question – finance. Check out our finance page for more information or give us a call!

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    Making an offer

    Many home buyers, especially first home buyers, feel stressed and uneasy when they go to make an offer on a property because they don’t realise that to make an offer, they usually must put it in writing, on a formal contract. People often think that when they sign a contract, they are always locked in straight away, but that is not the case.

    You can make a formal offer, without being locked into the purchase, so long as it is a conditional offer. The most common condition is finance. There are usually a certain number of days that the finance condition will last for and this is noted in the contract when you make the offer.

    For example, an offer that is subject to a 21-day finance clause, means that if the seller accepts your offer, you’re not locked in for at least 21 days. This then gives you, the buyer, 21 days to get a formal finance approval from a lender. If you need more time, you can request it, and the seller can choose to give you the extra time or cancel the contract.

    There are some differences between Queensland, NSW and Victorian purchase contracts so always best to consult a professional solicitor or conveyancer before you get to this part – they will also take care of settlement for you.


    Once the seller has accepted your offer, it’s always a good idea to get a building and pest inspection done on the property. If you’re buying a unit, townhouse or villa, you’ll also want a strata title search.

    Even if you’re completely sold and certainly going to buy the place, knowing what’s wrong with the property could help you negotiate a better deal.

    A building inspector will look all through the property both inside and out (including the roof space, under the floor, anywhere access is available). Keep in mind the building inspector won’t always be able to identify every problem, especially if they haven’t been able to gain access to certain areas, or if some faults (such as leaks) are not visible.

    Going unconditional

    After you have applied to a lender (we strongly recommend using a finance broker, read the stats here) and received an unconditional finance approval – you have now reached the point of no return. This is the point just before the contracts become binding.

    If you still want to proceed you must tell your conveyancer to let the seller know that the finance condition is now over, and the contract becomes unconditional. Depending on the contract, there might be an additional deposit that’s required to be paid at this point. Once you give notice that the contract is unconditional, the clock starts ticking to settlement. The contract will allow a certain number of days until both sides must settle – again an extension can be requested, but the seller may choose to impose penalty interest or other fees.


    Settlement is when you take legal ownership of the property – it’s the final step in the process. On or, ideally before the day, there are a few things that you’ll have to make sure you’ve done:

    • Get an insurance policy on the house (if you’re buying a unit this will be
    done for you in your body corporates)
    • Signing mortgage documents
    • Obtain funds for and pay stamp duty
    • Pay balance of purchase price.

    Usually your conveyancer/solicitor will handle the actual settlement for you, so you don’t have to be present on the day. They will also give you a settlement statement, which will give you a details breakdown of the costs on the day of settlement. This will include stamp duty, any concessions, the First Home Owner Grant (if applicable), the cost of the property and usually the conveyancing fees.

  • When buying a brand-new home or building a home to live in, First Home Buyers are eligible for the First Home Owner’s Grant. The biggest question for most First Home Buyers is finance – what can I afford? And often the First Home Owner’s Grant is what gives them the opportunity to get into the market. Because of this more First Home Buyers are choosing to build new homes than ever before. Keep in mind, when building, the biggest unknown – what is under the ground.

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    What is a house & land package?

    The process of purchasing a brand-new home is very similar to buying an existing home, but if you’re planning on building there are a few more things to consider. You will need a land contract to purchase the land and you will also need a build contract with building plans and building specifications. Often these 4 documents come pre-packaged for you in a “House & Land Package”.

    There’s nothing stopping people from creating their own house and land package by:
    • finding a suburb, estate or specific piece of land that they are interested in, and;
    • finding a builder to provide a build contract, plans and specifications.

    Long before trying to combine these two things it’s best to talk to a finance broker or give us a call so we can explain how they might be combined in your specific situation and hopefully guide you through the process.

    Comparing land

    Finding and comparing blocks of land is relatively easy because there are constant factors that can be easily compared between various blocks and estates. Things like the distance to schools, shops, transport, the overall size of the block and price can be quickly identified and the block or estate that best suits your needs can be determined.

    There can be some minor differences that may make a certain block easier to build on than another, such as, the slope or gradient of the block, zoning and the soil type or conditions. Also, if you’re not planning on building in an established estate then you will also have to consider access to sewer, water and other services which can sometimes blow the budget if you haven’t planned for it.

    If you’re looking for land, it’s best to start judging your options based on the things that can be easily identified, like the distance to schools, shops, transport, the overall size of the block and price. Once you’ve got a selection of a few blocks or estates that meet your needs, then consult a professional to assess the finer points.

    Comparing builders

    Comparing builders can be very difficult for a number of reasons:

    • Different builders use different types of contracts, which means some things might be included in one price but not in others

    • Some builders advertise a ‘Base’ price (which doesn’t include tiles, carpet and much more)

    • Some builders make the buyer put down a non-refundable deposit of up to $2,000 before getting a final price

    • Depending on the build contract, even once you’ve got a ‘fixed’ build contract, you may still be liable for some costs during the build that the builder hasn’t allowed for.

    The best way to compare builders is to try to first understand what they do/ don’t include. The easiest way to do this is to compare type of contracts that the builder uses. There are generally two main types; “Turn Key” and “Standard”.

    A “Turn Key” build contract is a contract that includes everything you need in a home, so all you have to do is to ‘turn the key’. Also, a turn key contract is fully-fixed which means the price you see is the price you pay, any unforeseen costs are paid for by the builder. These builds include everything, such as:

    – Landscaping
    – Fencing
    – Airconditioning
    – Floor Coverings
    – Flyscreens
    – Roller Blinds
    – Driveway
    – Letterbox
    – Clothesline

    Most First Home Buyers are best suited to using a ‘Turn-Key’ build contract, because as most don’t have a spare $10k – $15k to use in case of unforeseen costs throughout the build.

    Although the price of these builds includes everything listed above, with most ‘turn-key’ builders there are still options to upgrade some items; such as, higher quality floor coverings, ducted air-conditioning, security screens and solar panels.

    Occasionally builders will often try to put extra conditions into these contracts so that if the earthworks or landscaping is more than what the builder has allowed for then the buyer must pay the difference. Be sure to read all the special conditions closely or give us a call so we can recommend a reputable builder who can meet your needs.

    A “standard” build contract is a contract that only includes the minimum works needed for the builder to complete under the law, which means that there are a lot of extra costs that can arise throughout the process. The final price that you pay will vary depending on many different factors and often you may not know the final price until construction is underway. These kinds of builds are better suited to second or third home buyers who have large deposits or equity in another property.

    A builder using a ‘standard’ build contract can’t just advertise a price for the home, instead they take the buyer through a process to try to get an ‘estimate’ on what the home will cost. Keep in mind, when building the biggest unknown is what’s under the ground. A general buying/quoting process has been outlined below:

    Advertised Price

    The builder normally advertises the “Base” price of home which doesn’t include tiles, carpets, driveway, letterbox and usually allowances a small amount for the earthworks.

    Contract Price

    After seeing the low price advertised, the buyer calls up and the builder’s consultant presents the various floorplans for different sized blocks of land to the customer. At this point they usually explain that the advertised price doesn’t include a lot of things so they allow an extra $20k or $30k as an estimate for all the additional items, which they can choose later.The consultant sends this information to the builder’s estimating team who make allowances for the earthworks and any other costs like travelling to a remote site. The builder then provides a ‘tender’ or ‘formal quote’. If the buyer wants to proceed, they must put down a $2,000 non-refundable deposit and book a time to finalise the additional item selections like colours, tiles, splashbacks, taps etc. At the end of this process, which can take up to 3 months, the customer will then receive the ‘Contract Price’.

    Actual Price

    Even after entering into a contract the ‘Actual Price’ that the buyer ends up paying can still be much more than the ‘Contract Price’ that they agreed to. This really depends on what is included and the specific type of build contract that is being used. For example, one of the largest builders in Australia only cover the earthwork costs down to 1m. If more than 1m of excavation is required, then the customer is liable for these extra digging and retaining costs.