For a long time, the ‘Great Australian Dream’ has been to own property. It is usually the largest asset you will own and provides you with a sense of freedom. However, this could be more akin to a pipe dream for some people due to the huge price tags associated with home ownership. If this is you, you may think an off-the-Plan (“OTP”) property may be the alternative you are looking for. However, OTPs can carry some significant and inherent risks.

What Does Buying off-the-Plan Mean?

When you buy off-the-plan you commit to buying a property before it has been built. In general, prices are cheaper than buying an existing unit. One other benefit is that you will move into a brand new property. Most developers will have mock-up displays or presentations to show you what it will look like once built. However, you can’t be sure exactly what you’ll end up with.

Flexible Contracts

The interests of developers can be quite different to your interests as a buyer. Developers want as much freedom as possible in the terms and conditions of the contract. This is so they can make changes to the plans later. For example, their display model of the building might have parking allocated in a certain way. If this is not specified in the contract’s terms and conditions they can change this at a later date.

Restrictions of Use

Off-the-plan properties often come with restrictions on their appearance (covenants) and use (easements). For example, the external colours might be mandated and cannot be changed even after the property is completed. Make sure you check the contract for these restrictions.

Risk of Delays 

When looking at buying off-the-plan you will be given an estimated time of completion. This could change due to unexpected circumstances. For example, suppliers could be out of stock or renting equipment delayed. Prepare for delays; make sure you have somewhere to live until your property is complete.

Risk of Non-Completion

With OTPs there is also a risk that the property will not be completed and your contract becomes terminated. Lenders such as banks might provide developers with a preliminary loan approval before construction starts. The loan is likely to have conditions, such as selling a minimum number of units. If the developers can’t meet the conditions the loan won’t be granted and construction can’t continue. There are several reasons a contract might be terminated, which you should discuss with a solicitor.

Get legal advice

If you are looking to purchase an off-the-plan apartment we recommend you discuss the risks with a solicitor. We can provide advice and help negotiate the terms of the contract in your favour. For more information, please contact us on (02) 9963 9800 or send a message via our contact form.