Buying interstate? The information you need to know

Jessie RichardsonApril 15, 2021

As many property investors know, the city you currently call home isn’t always the best place to invest.

You’ve done your research – picked out the potential growth areas, drawn up your budget and growth expectations, and are now preparing to invest interstate. But there are many steps to the buying process, and they can differ from state to state. Here are some key differences in purchasing properties interstate.

Inspecting a property

Assuming that you’ve picked out the area and property type you want to purchase, the next step is inspecting potential properties. Victorian investors will be aware of Section 32, a mandatory vendor’s statement which provides buyers with a range of information about the property before the sale.

The Section 32 document is prepared by a lawyer or by the vendor under legal instruction – and if the vendor knowingly provides any false information, they have committed a criminal offence, and face fines.

The document will include any mortgages or debts charged against the land, planning information, disclosure of services connected to the property and any registered building work that has been carried out in the last 10 years. Registered building works will be covered under warranty for 10 years, even if the property has changed hands multiple times.

Section 32 is generally considered the most comprehensive vendor disclosure statement in the country, and must be provided before the auction or before a contract is signed in a private sale.

In New South Wales, sellers are required to provide Schedule 1 Prescribed Documents, but these generally only include mortgages on the property, deeds and restrictions on the use of land. NSW Fair Trading recommends that buyers carry out an independent pre-purchase inspection report.

Your inspection report should be carried out by a licensed builder, surveyor or architect – and make sure they have professional indemnity cover, in case you want to seek compensation for any errors they make. You’ll have to weather the cost of the report yourself, which will vary depending on the consultant and the size, age and condition of the property.

The report won’t cover information on any hidden or structural problems with the property, as it’s generally just a visual assessment. It also won’t cover electrical wiring, plumbing or gasfitting, or fireplaces and chimneys. If you are concerned about any aspect of the property in particular, you should engage a specialised inspector before purchasing.

Sellers in South Australia are required to provide a Form 1 disclosure statement to the purchaser, through the seller’s real estate agent. The Form 1 must be available to buyers before the auction date. If a property is being sold through a private sale, the Form 1 must be provided at least 10 days prior to the settlement date. The provision of the Form 1 also affects a buyer’s cooling off period. A Form 1 generally covers similar information to NSW’s Schedule 1 Prescribed Documents, so an independent inspection report is recommended.

Queensland currently doesn’t have compulsory disclosure statement for all residential properties. Body corporates should provide information for townhouses, apartments and units. Again, the Queensland Office of Fair Trading advises buyers to carry out independent inspections. The same goes for buyers looking to invest Tasmania, or in the Northern Territory after vendor disclosure legislation was dumped in 2012. Sellers in Western Australia aren’t required to provide a disclosure statement to any prospective buyers, but should prepare a Seller’s Disclosure Statement for their agent.

When selling property in the ACT, vendors are required to provide documents prior to sale including an assessment of the physical condition of the property, an asbestos assessment report, and any restrictions to development on the land. ACT vendors are also required to provide an energy efficiency rating statement, and a pest inspection report (neither of which are required in a Section 32 document).

Cooling off period

Not all buyers have the luxury of a cooling off period, with legislation changing from state to state. During a cooling off period, a buyer can change their mind about purchasing a property and only face a small fee (0.25% of the purchase price or less) so long as they provide written notice to the vendor or their agent.

In Victoria, there is no cooling off period for properties purchased at auction. There’s a three day cooling off period for private sales of residential properties of less than 20 hectares, but this is waived if the property is sold three days before or after a scheduled auction. The cooling off period is also waived if a buyer is represented by an agent.

The ACT, NSW and Queensland all have five day cooling off periods for residential property purchases at private sales, but not for auction sales. Generally the cooling off period begins from the day that the buyer or their agent receives a copy of the sales contract that has been signed by both the buyer and the seller.

South Australian property sales come with a cooling off period of two days. If a Form 1 is provided before the sale, then the cooling off period commences on the date the contract is signed. If the Form 1 is served after the contract is signed, the cooling off period begins on the day the form is served.

Investors buying in Western Australia and Tasmania aren’t allowed cooling off periods.

Stamp duty or land transfer tax

Don’t forget that stamp duty or land transfer taxes change from state to state, and depend your property’s intended purpose. Each state’s revenue office website has a stamp duty calculator that can help you estimate how much you’ll be charged.

Who can help?

Purchasing a property interstate can be a difficult task, especially if you’re not an experienced investor and you’re looking to invest in a state you haven’t lived in before. The best way to ensure you have all the aspects of your investment covered is to engage a local conveyancer.

A specialist lawyer, your conveyancer can prepare and lodge your legal documents, such as your contract of sale. They can also calculate your expenses, put your deposit in a trust account, and research the property for you. A conveyancer should also handle your property’s settlement, including liaising with your financial institution. As always, seek out a reputable conveyancer, and make sure their firm is not also representing the vendor of the property you’re hoping to purchase.

Purchasing interstate is a great way to spread risk across your property’s portfolio or capitalise on growth areas – just make sure you do your homework.

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