Eight steps to buying a house
Are you looking to buy a house? Perhaps you are looking to buy a unit or townhouse. It’s important to understand the processes involved and, by reading our eight steps to buying a house, you will gain the necessary knowledge to make the right decisions. After all, buying a house or any other property isn’t something you can undo easily.
Buying a property involves much more than an everyday transaction. Not only does it involve significant financial decisions, but also important legal aspects.
The following is a fundamental guide to the eight steps to buying a house.
The REIQ strongly recommends the use of a qualified conveyancer before undertaking the purchase of any property.
1. the first of your steps to buying a house – Determine borrowing power
Ideally, the first step to buying a house should be to determine your borrowing power. You should save the largest possible deposit before deciding to buy property to minimise the amount you need to borrow. This will also minimise the amount of interest that will eventually be paid and means you may avoid extra charges such as mortgage insurance.
Other elements to consider are:
- Interest rates (fixed versus variable loan)
- Additional costs of buying (bank fees, stamp duty, legal fees, etc.)
- Consider speaking to a mortgage broker or other finance professionals
2. Research the market
When buying a home, it’s important to consider the future value of your house. There are a number of factors influencing a property’s price potential, but location stands out as the key to future capital growth. Elements to consider are the safety of the neighbourhood, and whether it is close to:
- Medical services
- Shops or
- Reliable public transport
Market research is very important in your steps to buying a house as it will give you the information you need to make a smart decision. A house may look good initially, but your research may show you there’s a low chance of the property growing in value. Alternatively, your research could show you the possibility of growth and this could give you the confidence you need to take the next step. If you’re unsure where to start, a buyers agent could be very useful for you. To learn more about how a buyer’s agent could help, click here.
3. Inspecting a property
The next of your steps to buying a house involves physical or virtually inspecting the property. An agent will often provide a buyer with a brochure or some form of marketing material when being shown a house. This is a great way for a buyer to remember the appealing features of a home.
Taking notes will make it easier for a buyer to compare properties through details such as the date the property was inspected, the address, the listed price or price range, and any key features of the property that caught interest.
Don’t forget to ask the agent…
Remember to ask the agent if there are any special conditions the vendor wants to place on the sale, such as an extended settlement due to their next residence not being available.
Inside the Property
- Check for signs of rising dampness, such as rotting carpet or mould on the walls and ceiling.
- Check the walls and ceilings for warps, cracks and any obvious damage.
- Test all light switches.
- Test the water pressure in hot and cold taps and check to see that water drains well – slow-flowing water may indicate blocked drains.
Outside the property
- When attending an open house, a buyer will often be asked by the agent to provide their contact details. Agents are required under the National Privacy Act to have available for perusal a copy of their privacy disclosure, outlining how they collect, use and store any personal information that is obtained through such registers.
- Inspect fences for stability and any obvious faults.
- Large trees around the house may have large root systems that can cause structural problems.
- Check that the land’s water run-off is adequate and drains away from the dwelling.
- Water staining on the eaves may indicate damaged or blocked gutters.
- Look at the roof for any broken tiles or capping.
- If the property has a pool, check the legality of its fencing via the Pool Safety Council. Pools in a Community Titles Scheme (body corporate) are the responsibility of the body corporate.
Most agents will ask a potential buyer if they would like to be contacted later if similar properties become available. If a buyer does not wish to be contacted for anything other than the attendance at the open house, they can clearly outline this to the agent at the time of the inspection.
4. Clarify inclusions
Make sure you know what comes with the property as part of your steps to buying a house.
A buyer should always ask the agent to clarify any inclusions or exclusions that may be part of the contract of sale. Unfortunately, buyers sometimes move into their new property only to find features that originally ‘sold’ them on the property are now gone.
In general terms, fixtures are defined as anything on the property that is ‘screwed in’, ‘glued on’, ‘nailed on’, ‘bolted on’, or ‘plumbed in’ to the structures of the property.
Are the fixtures included?
Typical fixtures include:
- Hot water systems
- Fixed carpets
- Clothes lines
- Television antennae
- In-ground plants and trees
- Ceiling fans
- Built in air-conditioning or heating systems
Clarify the inclusion of chattels
Freestanding movable items are called chattels and they can be included; however, they must be noted in the contract of sale. Pool and spa equipment, potted plants and washing machines are good examples of chattels and should be disclosed separately on the contract of sale.
Items such as gas bottles, sprinkler systems, dishwashers and light fittings often cause debate and are grouped in a grey zone that should always be clarified before entering into negotiations.
5. Deciding on your offer
Deciding on the price and conditions of your offer is one of the critical steps to buying a house and it requires careful thought. Make an informed decision by researching how much the property last sold for and when, plus recent sale prices of comparable properties in the area (using a service such as CoreLogic RP Data, for example).
Getting an independent valuation by a professional valuer should be considered a valuable step to buying a house (please note, real estate agents are not registered valuers). Keep in mind that sellers may consider conditions (or lack of) as well as price.
6. Making an offer
Putting your offer in writing shows the seller that you are serious and avoids the confusion that can occur with verbal negotiations as a key part of your steps to buying a house. The real estate agent will present a buyer with a number of documents and is obliged to go through these documents to avoid any confusion when making an offer. If a buyer still has queries at this stage, they are encouraged to seek independent legal advice.
The REIQ Contract of Sale (approved by the Queensland Law Society) has provision in the schedule for the contract to be subject to finance, a building inspection and/or a pest inspection if these are required. However, parties may also agree to vary the standard conditions in the contract.
Visit the research section: Multiple offers for more information on what happens with multiple offers on a property.
Or if you’re buying at auction, visit the research section: Tips for buying at auction to learn more about this process.
Pay a deposit
A buyer will be encouraged to pay a deposit when signing the offer. If the deposit is greater than 10 per cent of the price, the contract becomes an ‘Installment Contract’. Whilst paying a deposit is not something that is legally required, by doing so buyers show the seller that they are making a serious offer and showing their goodwill. Deposits can be paid by way of cash, cheque or electronic transfer of funds. They can also be paid using deposit bonds or bank guarantees. Buyers should seek advice from their financier as to any associated costs with deposit bonds or bank guarantees before paying a deposit in this form.
If a buyer terminates the contract under the cooling-off period or another legitimate way, the deposit is refundable (excluding the termination penalty of the cooling-off if the seller elects to charge it).
It is important for a buyer to ensure building and pest inspections (if applicable) are carried out within the time frame set out in the condition. With regards to finance, if an independent valuation is required as part of the finance process, buyers should ensure their financer has this arranged within the time frame of the condition.
If a buyer feels that any conditions may not be finalised by the applicable end date, they should seek legal advice from their solicitor as soon as possible. Commonly, a solicitor may suggest a buyer requests from the seller an extension to the condition date. It is the seller’s discretion to grant, or not grant, the request.
What is conveyancing?
Conveyancing is the legal transfer of a property’s title from the seller to the buyer and is a vital part of buying a house. It is important that buyers research who they wish to use for conveyancing when they have a contract of sale.
Use a solicitor
The REIQ recommends the use of a qualified solicitor (for details of qualified solicitors contact the Queensland Law Society) for any property matter, including conveyancing.
Using a solicitor often saves time on paperwork such as title searches and stamp duty and can often provide peace of mind when making what may be the largest single financial transaction of one’s life.
Conveyancing will incur costs such as searches of the:
- Titles office,
- Certificate of rates,
- Transfer duty
- Registration fees
- Standard professional services costs
Council and property searches can identify any planning issues or problems and highlight what the area might look like in five to 10 years. They ensure major changes like new freeways and major road upgrades are not planned for a property’s backyard.
Searches for zoning and titles will determine whether the property has any restrictions such as adverse planning, demolition orders, outstanding taxes or encumbrances on the title (for example, easements or caveats).
Most of these searches are standard in the conveyancing process but are often overlooked when buyers elect to do the conveyancing themselves.
The final piece in the puzzle in your steps to buying a house is the settlement. Once a contract has become unconditional it is time to start packing! It is important for a buyer to keep in touch with their solicitor through this time with regards to any issues that may arise approaching the settlement date.
Buyers are encouraged to arrange a pre-settlement inspection with the agent to ensure that everything is per the contract conditions, noting any included chattels or excluded fittings. Pre-settlement inspections should be conducted once the property has been vacated by the seller or its occupants.
Commonly, the solicitor will attend the actual settlement on the buyer’s behalf and both the seller’s and buyer’s solicitors will notify the agent once settlement has occurred. Only after an agent has received notification from both parties, can keys be released to the new property owner.
We hope our eight steps to buying a house has completed your quest of buying a house, unit, townhouse or any other property – enjoy!
Learn More About Buying Your Next home
If you follow these 8 steps to buying a house carefully and get the assistance of experienced professionals, there’s a good chance that you have been able to buy a home. However, the REIQ has a plethora of information that will help you learn more about the real estate industry. This bonus step may give you an edge over your competitors in this busy market to help you make the process of buying a house easier.
The REIQ Property Brief podcast is an excellent place to start if you’re looking to learn more about the industry. From insights into how real estate salespeople operate to new legislative changes that could impact you, there are over 40 episodes to choose from that you can listen to anywhere, anytime.
We also have a wide variety of articles that can help you learn more about the industry. If you’re looking to buy at an auction, we have an article that can help you – read it here! If you’ve already perfected the buying process and are looking to sell, we have an article that covers the eight steps for selling property!
For everything else related to the real estate industry in Queensland, you can view all of the REIQ’s articles here!