How does buying off-the-plan work?

How does buying off-the-plan work?
How does buying off-the-plan work?

Buying off-the-plan allows property seekers to purchase brand new apartments and townhouses well before they have been built. off-the-plan homes also give buyers the flexibility to customise their home prior to construction and the ability to often secure property a lower cost that a pre-existing house. To help you gain a better understanding of the off-the-plan process, here is a timeline outlining building concept to completion. You'll also learn at what stage of the process you can place an Offer.


First, the developer will acquire land to develop. This can involve cold calling property owners to scope their interest in selling (even if they haven’t considered it) or utilising traditional purchase methods (such as going through an agent). Sometimes developers will offer slightly more than the RV* because they will be able to recoup the additional funds once the development is completed and goes to sales. Once a site has been purchased, the developer will then get an initial plan drawn up by an architect, with the help of engineers, building surveyors, interior designers and landscape architects. The design team will usually go through a number of design iterations to gain approval by the council. As soon as a developer submits plans to council, the project is then listed on

*Rateable value


Once the development application has been submitted by the developer, the council will publish this information online and begin their routine checks. The proposed building must be compliant with local building codes and fit within the covenants on the site title (eg. The building must not exceed a certain height, there must be a certain amount of green space within the public realm, the heritage façade of the pre-existing building must remain intact, etc.). Once the council and the developer have reached a decision on the final design, approval is then granted. At this stage, will notify any followers of the particular project that the project is likely to be coming soon.

How does buying off-the-plan work?

Stage Three – “COMING SOON”

There is a period between “approval” and “registration and sale” before the project goes to market. This is time for the developer to offer the first pick of apartments/townhomes offshore or to VIP buyers. By this stage, many prospective buyers will be keeping an eye out for the date when the development goes to market. is always one of the first to notify interested buyers.


The official registration and sales period will often include a public launch and the opening of a display suite. The development will then enter a marketing phase, where a website is launched, as well as advertising across the broad spectrum of property marketing websites. Buyers will have the opportunity to visit the display suite and make a formal offer on the apartment/townhouse of their choice. During this stage, buyers will also pay their deposit to ensure they secure their new home.  

How does buying off-the-plan work?
Browse Urban's range of apartments and townhomes for sale


Prior to construction, the site will be cleared and prepared for building. Once this is complete and the development is ready to commence construction, a ceremonial ‘groundbreaking’ or ‘sod turning’ ceremony is held on-site. The event will see a group of key dignitaries take shovels to the soil, marking the first phase of construction. will then document the construction process with photos, videos, and articles; keeping buyers in the loop of the progress of their new home. During this phase, we have also noticed a lot of engagement from buyers who visit to ask questions about their new home and to interact with other buyers.

How does buying off-the-plan work?
St Leonards groundbreaking. Read the full story here.


As the development reaches competition, another ceremony will be held to mark the ‘topping out’, which is when the tower reaches its highest point. At this point, the settlement will take place, giving buyers the opportunity to check their new home to ensure it is exactly what they had paid for in the early stages of development.

Also during settlement, the remainder of the sale price is paid, and keys are exchanged.

How does buying off-the-plan work?
Aurora Melbourne Central topping out ceremony. Read the full story here.

Stage Seven – BUYERS MOVE IN

The final stage of the process is where buyers move into their new homes. This can be staggered throughout construction (eg. as soon as lower levels of a tower are built, residents may be able to move in early).

If you've just bought a new apartment and are ready to move in, you may be interested to learn how to make your apartment feel like home

Lead image credit: Marvin Meyer

Olivia Round

Olivia Round

Olivia Round is the Features Editor of Olivia specialises in news reporting, in-depth editorial content and video + podcast interviews with industry experts.


Comments (1)

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John Murphy's picture
What you have outlined is not what really happens.
An architect draws up a design from which glossy brochures promising things like luxury sophistication oversized are derived for marketing purposes.The agent will promise anything to get you to sign the contract .Thereafter every attempt to cut costs is
made :cheap labour cheap materials within the definition of the contract eg if it says bluestone tiles they will be the cheapest grade.
The end result is a product that falls well short of your expectations for all the reasons mentioned and you then realise you have been conned,defrauded by the difference between what you paid and what the apartment is worth.And don’t forget the inevitable delays that will mess with your planning.
It’s an exercise in being messed around ,disappointed conned ripped off and it need not be but for the intention of the Developer to maximise profit at all costs .525 High st is a good example.
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