"The contracts for off-the-plan dwellings come with the thickness of a copy of War and Peace and are incredibly onerous to the purchaser."
Off-the-plan properties are a risky acquisition
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It is often said that Australia has a housing shortage – which may or may not be the case – and governments have taken an active hand in pushing first-home buyers towards the purchase of off-the-plan sales by way of various incentives and handouts to aid increasing supply.
Sales of off-the-plan properties may do the hard yards when it comes to increasing stock, however in the short term they lock the buyer into a risky acquisition with a heightened potential of no short-term growth – and depending on location – poor long-term growth to enable an upgrade.
In addition, purchasers may not understand what they are getting. The contracts for off-the-plan dwellings come with the thickness of a copy of War and Peace and are incredibly onerous to the purchaser.
Imagine for example, the local council disagrees with the planned development, or aspects of it. Unless the developer can resolve the issue or draw a compromise with the town planner, the whole project is under threat of demise. Considering the amount of investment the developer has made in this project, he can’t risk a “fussy” purchaser withdrawing from a contract based on this alone. Therefore the contract puts in place “special conditions” to protect the developer – conditions that can’t be altered by the purchaser and lock them in for the duration.
Developments can take many months and even years to come to fruition, and the developer has the entire period to resolve any disputes, during which the purchaser is tied in.
Apartment sales come with additional considerations that should be taken on board before buying into one of the many off-the-plan blocks commencing construction in our capital cities.
For example, owners’ corporation fees stated on the contract at the time of signing are also subject to change. The fees for each lot are generally not finalised until completion of the contract, therefore there’s significant risk they can blow the budget further down the line. The intricacies contained in the special conditions generally allow no provision for dispute resolution or a “change of mind” – the purchaser is locked in.
Also – exemptions do apply – for example, unit blocks higher than three storeys (in Victoria at least) are exempt from providing a warrantee period and in some instances, the warranty is only applicable for works valued in excess of $12,000.
Rental guarantees are typically added onto the purchase price. The developer may promise a 7% yield for the first 12 months or more, however once this period has expired, it’s highly unlikely the purchaser will be able to attract a similar amount on the open market. The tenant renting the unit in the interim will not be paying the equivalent of 7% yield – rather the developer will be making up the shortfall (all accounted for in the asking price) for the period specified.
The shock to the purchaser’s budget once the guarantee has expired and the unit only attracts comparative rental can be significant. Some may find they’re unable to meet their mortgage repayments.