Ask questions
Ask questions before you hire an agent or broker. Image – Canva.
  • Buying property is the largest investment most people will make
  • Choose your settlement agent and broker carefully
  • Time is of the essence, so all parties must be proactive and act promptly

There are many settlement agents, mortgage brokers and lawyers.

Ask some of the following questions when choosing one, rather than always going for the cheapest quote. ‘Cheap’ may land up costing you much more. Be prepared to pay for the service you expect, as you are buying your largest asset.

You should consider inter alia…

  • What is included in the service?
  • Do you charge extra to verify your identity?
  • Are you available after hours?
  • Are you available to take your phone calls for your queries?
  • Are you suited to attend to your matter?
  • Will your broker follow up with the bank to ensure settlement occurs on time?

Lots of parties are too busy and do not have the attention to deal with your matter. If they do not follow up, the result may be you paying penalties. Then the blame game begins.

Advise your settlement agent/solicitor once you have purchased so they can get a copy of the contract and check the conditions. Many real estate agents wait until finance is approved to send the contract. The contract needs to be lodged for stamp duty within two months of signature, otherwise penalties are payable.

Some practical tips for both parties

Appoint your settlement agent/solicitor before you sign your contract.

They can offer valuable input and ensure the correct details of entities are inserted correctly. I suggest you use a settlement agent who does settlements regularly.

Decide the entity/name you wish to purchase in as you cannot merely cancel a contract because it does not suit you. Speak to your accountant who is proficient in details for self-managed super funds. If the contract is incorrectly worded or has the incorrect entity, it may cause unnecessary stress and double transfer duty.

Avoid public holidays when signing a contract. Christmas, Easter, end of financial year – banks are very busy and may not be ready (only applicable if finance is applicable). Even though most settlements are done electronically, the banks still deal with large volumes.

Read and understand the Joint Forms of General Conditions and, if in doubt, ask your settlement agent. These form part of your contract and you need to read them.

Arrange to obtain reports (e.g. white ant or structural reports) as soon as practically possible.

Ensure you have sufficient funds to pay your mortgage or complete your purchase. If your settlement is going to be delayed, ask the agent to arrange an extension. Do not leave this until the day before finance is due as it’s frustrating for the seller.

If you need to get independent legal advice for your loan, do so urgently as the bank will still need to process the documents which may take few days.

As a seller, you need to get your foreign residents declaration (that you are not a foreign resident) and sign your discharge of mortgage to avoid delays. Sign all documents as soon as possible and ensure all details are correct. Consider getting a pre-approval for your finance.

The above is not an exhaustive list and circumstances may differ from matter to matter. Doing your research, preparation and due diligence should ensure a smooth process for one of the largest commitment you will make.

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Before making any decisions, please do your own independent research, taking into account your own situation. This article does not purport to provide financial or investment advice. See our Terms of Use.

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