Top 10 Buying a house questions

What is settlement? Should I use a buying agent, what now? Try our Top Ten buying a house questions to help you get started.

1.    Can I rely on the agent's suggestion of a selling price? What about underquoting?
Underquoting happens when a sales agent quotes a prospective price to a buyer (private or auction) that is less than the vendor's asking price or auction reserve, or less than the current estimate of the realistic selling price that can reasonably be determined in the market.

It is in your best interests to check with your State Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs office whether this practice is outlawed in your State. That way you can determine the nature of the suggested selling price.

2.    Do I have to go to the settlement myself?
No. You can have a representative at settlement. This can be anyone who represents you. As long as you send the cheques made out to the right amount it will be fine.

You should give the representative written authority to act on your behalf.

If the seller sends a representative, they should also have a written authority to accept the purchase money from you or your representative.

3.    Do I have to pay for statutory certificates?
Yes. The charges are different for different authorities. To be sure, ring the statutory authority for the right charge and address. If you are using a lawyer or a conveyancing company, they will know these details.


4.    What happens if settlement is delayed?
This depends on why it is delayed. If it's your fault, the seller will probably ask you to pay penalty interest.

5.    Should I use a buyer's agent?
A buyers' agent acts exclusively for the buyer. It appeals to some and not others, and in general you will be charged a fee (which you should be able to negotiate). Some also act as real estate agents – check it out and decide if you are better off than simply using an estate agent, but make sure you do your research.

6.    What sort of special conditions are likely to be in a contract?
They can cover many issues. Some of the conditions you should be wary of include: releasing the deposit before settlement, penalty payments if you don't settle on time, etc.

7.    What if I do a title search and discover a caveat on the property?
A caveat is a warning that another person or company has an interest in the property. For example, it may be to secure a personal loan. If there is a caveat, make sure that it is removed before or at settlement.

8.    When should I get insurance?
You should think carefully about insuring the property after you exchange contracts. Although it is not strictly necessary until settlement, you are entitled to have insurance from the time of exchange. Check with your solicitor or conveyancer.

9.    Can I buy a house with another person?
There are two types of co-ownership. Joint tenants are just that – they own the property "jointly". This is usually the way property is owned by married and de facto couples. Joint tenants own equal shares of the property.

Tenants in common can sell their share of the land or leave it to any person in a will. Tenants in common can own the property in equal shares or on any other basis, e.g. 70% - 30%.

10. Who does conveyancing?
Mainly solicitors. In some states there are also licenced conveyancers. There are also do-it-yourself kits produced for some States.

When you are deciding which to use, some of the issues you should think about are:

  • What's the cost?
  • What protection is there if they make a mistake?
  • Is there indemnity insurance which covers faulty work?
  • Are there other issues that you may need advice about? Does the conveyancing looks straightforward (are there caveats, covenants, has the house been owner-built)?
  • Do you have the time and energy to do-it-yourself?

Last updated - April 2010