What an off the plan buyer needs to ask when visiting a display suite

Display suites give prospective buyers an insight as to how their apartment will look when construction is completed.

What an off the plan buyer needs to ask when visiting a display suite
What an off the plan buyer needs to ask when visiting a display suite

With so much choice, searching for property can be a long and arduous process for some.

They can consume the whole of a Saturday, driving around properties, cramming through the door and spending five minutes in the property, maybe one minute with the agent in the company of others, before having to make the decision whether you want to buy.

Purchasing an apartment off the plan offers a different approach to property buying, through a more hands on and personable approach at the developers display suite of one of the apartments in the building.

Display suites give prospective buyers an insight as to how their apartment will look when construction is completed.

There are very different questions to ask when talking to an agent about an off the plan property purchase compared to an established property. Urban has wrapped up the top questions to ask when buying an off the plan apartment.

1. Who built the display, and will they be the same builder who will construct the development?

When buying any home, build quality is an important consideration.

The display suites are created to give prospective buyers an insights in to exactly what their apartment will look like on completion. 

What an off the plan buyer needs to ask when visiting a display suite

Wiser developers appoint the builder before creating the display suite and get the builder to construct the space which gives buyers further peace of mind when it comes to signing on the dotted line.

Knowing the builder this early one as well helps as then you can check the builder's track record of developments within the area, or even within the state. Go and visit some of the former developments, and see how close the completed build is compared to the renders which are usually available online.

2. Any developer incentives or stamp duty savings for the apartment I'm looking at buying?

One of the biggest questions - how much money can I be saving?

Agents and developers are in the best position to highlight current government incentives which could help you shave thousands off your apartment purchase. 

There may also be limited-time developer incentives if you buy the apartment before a certain date.

3. Is there a sunset clause in the contract? And when was the last time the developer enforced it?

A sunset clause is one of the most talked about contract stipulations in off the plan property.

Essentially, in the contract a developer will put a date on completion, which usually is well past the date the developers actually think construction will complete.

That's because if construction isn't completed before the date, the buyer, or the developer, have the legal right to pull out of the deal, with the buyer receiving their full deposit back.

The developer doesn't want to run over this date, in case the market dropped during construction and buyers want to pull out because their apartment is now worth less than when they paid.

On the flip side, and there have been occasions when this has happened which is why buyers need to be careful, developers can, and have, purposefully ran over the construction date so they can claim the apartment back. This can be due to price rises over the same period.

The developer would have the right to take the apartment back and then sell the apartment for a higher price.

What an off the plan buyer needs to ask when visiting a display suite

4. What are the strata fees, and are they fixed?

Apart from the mortgage on the apartment, strata fees are one of the biggest ongoing fees for apartment owners.

It is important to know when going in to buying an apartment what the strata fees are, and more importantly whether they are fixed or whether there are plans for them to fluctuate.

The good news for off the plan apartments buyers, compared to those buying established apartments, is that the funds in the strata kitty, generally, won't have to be used to fix issues in the building given it will have only recently have been built and will be covered by a number of insurances.

Those buying apartments in buildings that may be 40 or 50 years old are likely to see the strata fund spent on maintaining and updating the building.

5. Who have been the predominant buyers in the apartment?

If you are intending on living in the apartment you buy and you want to live in the same development as people like you, whether a young professional, down-sizer or family, ask how many apartments have sold and to which demographic.

If there have been a number of investor purchasers in the development, ask how many and why the agent thinks this is the case.

At this point it will also be worth asking what the forecasted rental yield and rental income per week estimate they are quoting. Plans might change during construction of the development and the apartment may become an investment down the line.

What an off the plan buyer needs to ask when visiting a display suite

6. Can I upgrade my apartment?

Depending on how far out the developer is from construction, many developers are open to buyers customising their apartments.

Generally there might not be whole sale changes which are wanted to be made by a buyer. Developers who have a solid pipeline of projects tend to know what they're doing when positioning bedrooms and bathrooms etc.

It might be that you'd rather the built in kitchen appliances located elsewhere in the kitchen as to what has been mocked up in the display suite.

The question is also worth asking because some developers offer extra upgrade packages which could set your apartment from the rest. Think fixed outdoor barbecue kitchens, fireplaces, built-in study nooks or an upgrade in kitchen appliances.

There's of course the potential to buy neighbouring apartments and amalgamate before they are constructed as two apartments. The amalgamation, despite costing more than just a single apartment, will likely become bigger than that of any of the other apartments in the development.

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson is a property journalist based in Sydney. Joel has been writing about the residential real estate market for the last five years, specializing in market trends and new developments across the country

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