Eight steps to buying a house

Buyers, Investors, Property Market,  Buyers and sellers,  Principals

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:

  • Schools
  • 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.

Inspection checklist

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:

  • Stoves
  • Hot water systems
  • Fixed carpets
  • Clothes lines
  • Television antennae
  • In-ground plants and trees
  • Ceiling fans
  • Mailboxes
  • 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.

7. Conveyancing

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 costs

Conveyancing will incur costs such as searches of the:

  • Titles office,
  • Certificate of rates,
  • Zoning
  • 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.

8. Settlement

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!

Here’s what others have to say

Had Melissa Sullivan conducting the sales registration course for the past two days I have to say I think this woman is inspiring she kept the class focused and engaged throughout the two days. I dont normally complete surveys but felt that I wanted to share that this lady has inspired me to give sales ago and I never thought i would say that as i have been a PM and honestly never thought I could see myself as a sales agent... Thanks Mel for such a great two days
Karen Riddell
Karen Riddell
07:04 03 Aug 17
I found the REIQ Real Estate Licence Online Training Course was very good, easy to access, with brilliant course materials to read and assignments that really checked on your understanding of the details of every aspect of real estate practise. I enjoyed the course even though it took a few months due to working full time and found the support of the trainers and assessors very helpful and encouraging. Thanks REIQ Training team for helping me through!
Lindy Lear
Lindy Lear
10:47 18 Oct 20
Jacqui McKeering
Jacqui McKeering
02:01 08 Mar 18
Adam Milton
Adam Milton
01:52 22 Nov 17
Great staff that are always helpful.
Kensington Ràpoza
Kensington Ràpoza
11:20 28 Dec 19
Just done two days interactive training with Melissa Sullivan. Sensational! Such a great presenter and electric delivery of material. Quick paced and hands-on!Very glad to have been in this class!!! Awesome
Miles Griffiths
Miles Griffiths
07:01 26 Jun 18
Tina Nenadic
Tina Nenadic
12:57 02 Mar 18
Jodie was an amazing help throughout the training. We had a few technical issues and I knew that I could call and get it sorted alongside her. She was always supportive and no task was ever a bother for her. Thanks again Jodie !!
Kirsty Bohn
Kirsty Bohn
04:40 30 Jun 21
I would like to share with you our experience that we have recently had through the REIQ Professional Development Team.We have had an awesome start to 2020 thanks to the great service provided by the REIQ Professional Development Team. Congratulations to Liz who started and finished her Certificate of Registration Course with the REIQ in December 2019. She loved the training, particularly the fact the trainers are experienced and still walk the talk and are active in real estate. Fast turnaround for marking of the assessments with help on hand by way of tutoring if needed meant she could get the Application to Office of Fair Trading for her registration happening quickly. We are thrilled, from start to finish with the course and application to Fair Trading she had her Certificate of Registration within 5 weeks. Really impressed with the training, help and support team REIQ gave Liz and the quick processing time by the Office of Fair Trading.We also regularly use the Property Management Support Service and General Agency Advice Service and believe it offers great value for our membership. The PMSS team provide practical advice by practising property management professionals who can relate to the everyday challenges property managers face.Keep up the good work Team REIQ,
RE/MAX Ignite
RE/MAX Ignite
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Liam Hanlon
12:06 05 Sep 17
Great friendly environment
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David Priest
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01:34 05 Mar 18
Proud to be a member of such a prestigious organisation. Thank You for the support 🏡
Jamie Smith
Jamie Smith
07:28 07 Mar 18
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Eagle Real Estate
Eagle Real Estate
02:27 25 Jul 18
Recently completed my Licence course and thoroughly enjoyed the in-class tutorials taught by highly professional trainers with many years of industry experiences. The student support that is available every Tuesday is an extremely helpful resource, again with very experienced trainers to ensure you get the right advice the first time. REIQ has really structured the entire full Licence course end to end thoughtfully, especially when you’re new to this industry. Highly recommended!
Julian Phua
Julian Phua
07:01 02 Oct 19
Recently I completed the Real Estate Licensing course at REIQ and was blown away by the help and support provided by Ms. Connie McKee who is a trainer at REIQ. Connie is very professional and has years of knowledge and work experience in the Real Estate Industry.I am glad I chose REIQ as my pathway into the Real Estate Industry.
Kaizan Irani
Kaizan Irani
00:23 30 May 19
I cannot recommend REIQ enough. The training, environment & staff were beyond my expectations. A special mention for Rachael who is a trainer at REIQ. Rachael knows her stuff. Her knowledge of the industry and style of delivery helped me get across the line and score my dream job.
Paul Conway
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Good course. Materials and tools given to finish the course easily. Was no problem to finish. Support is there if needed it.
Jade Dodds
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09:11 09 Oct 20
Welcoming and friendly staff, always available to support their members. The Property Management Support Team is particularly helpful. Well worth the subscription fees just to have access to advice from these experienced practitioners.
Laura Valenti
Laura Valenti
21:29 16 Jun 18
I wasnt sure that I would get through the Agents and Licence course with everything I had on, made an attempt a year ago with another provider that went totally pear shaped but the REIQ course is structured in a way that made sense. While all of their trainers are experts in their field, they offer onsite student support on Tuesdays with Rachel providing the right advice and reassurance to get you there, even if you havent studied for a while. If you've ever wanted a career in Real Estate this is where you get started!
Lynette Nitson
Lynette Nitson
01:48 13 Jan 20
Michelle Wright
Michelle Wright
04:07 26 Feb 18
I contacted REIQ, as I wanted to upgrade my real estate licence to a full licence. I have now completed the necessary upgrade and I just wanted to thank all the staff and trainers who were my guides during this time. Particular mention to Rachael Wilschefski who did everything she could to help me and was a joy to talk to, Trudi Fleet was a fantastic support to me and a big thank you to the assessing team. If anyone is considering using REIQ to get their licence or upgrade, I highly recommend using REIQ. Once again, thank you. Helen Knight
Helen Knight
Helen Knight
00:31 05 Mar 21
Very impressed with the trainers that I have had for the past 3 days. Each individual trainer was very helpful and made sure that everyone in the class understood everything before we progressed through the modules.
Shannon Goldsworthy
Shannon Goldsworthy
04:34 23 Oct 19
In February I decided to take steps to buy management rights to a unit complex. As I have not studied for some time I chose REIQ to do my RLA course. Initially I didn’t engage the help through student support but it came to a point I needed some assistance. Selina Randall and Connie McKee were wonderful help. I personally feel they went over and beyond to help me complete the course and enable me to follow through with final settlement of the new business in just a few weeks Thank you so very much ladies. You were both amazing
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Jason Bond
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10:29 19 Jun 18
Great training course was very informative. I feel I gained lots of knowledge and there is a lot of support from the REIQ team online, via phone and in person and am looking forward to starting my career in the real estate industry!
Laura Stills
Laura Stills
08:14 22 Oct 20
Haydn Denovan
Haydn Denovan
02:51 20 Mar 18
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Gerry MacKenzie
06:53 12 Oct 20