What is a cooling off period, and how do they work?

A cooling off period is a length of time that follows signing a contract to purchase property, during which a buyer can choose to terminate the agreement without being in breach of contract and losing their deposit. This gives you a window of opportunity to change your mind about a property purchase if your circumstances change, or you decide it’s not right for you.

For example, if you signed a contract with a five-day cooling off period to buy a house, then changed your mind about the purchase, you could exercise the cooling off period to withdraw from the agreement within five days. You’d get your deposit back (minus a small fee), so you could still go out and make an offer on another property if you wished.

The exact rules around how cooling off periods work varies from state to state, so it’s important to check the facts before you sign on any dotted lines.

When should I use a cooling off period?

Some common reasons why a buyer might use the cooling off period include: 

  • If the building and pest inspection, or strata report, reveals issues with the property
  • Your mortgage finance is not approved by your lender (even if you had preapproval)
  • Your financial positions changes (e.g. you lose your job) and you can no longer afford the purchase
  • You change your mind about your purchase (maybe a better deal comes along, or you rethink your decision to buy)

What happens if I cancel a contract after the cooling off period expires?

The exact consequences of breaking a contract will vary, depending on the state or territory where you’re located, and what terms and conditions you’ve agreed to. You can often expect to lose your deposit on the property, as well as any other fees and charges you’ve paid during the purchase process.

There may be other legal repercussions for breaking a contract, so consider seeking legal advice before you consider doing so.

When does a cooling off period apply?

Not every real estate transaction comes with a cooling off period. Sales by private treaty often include cooling off periods, while cooling off periods are often waived when buying a property at auction. In these cases, it’s especially important to check the details of the contract before you sign, as you may not be able to easily back out of the deal. For example, you may want to organise building inspections and/or strata reports early, so you can find any problems before you buy.

What does a cooling off period cost?

While cancelling a contract during a cooling off period typically lets you get your deposit back, you may still need to pay a fee to the vendor as compensation for their inconvenience. This fee is typically a percentage of the sale price.

Cooling off periods state by state

Australia’s states and territories follow different rules when it comes to cooling off periods:

 State/Territory Cooling off period 

Fee 

NSW  5 business days (10 for sales off the plan) 0.25 per cent of the purchase price
QLD 5 business days 0.25 per cent of the purchase price
VIC 3 business days $100 or 0.2 per cent of the purchase price, whichever is greater
ACT 5 business days 0.25 per cent of the purchase price
SA 2 business days Your holding deposit, up to $100
NT 4 business days None
WA No mandatory cooling off period, but you can have one added to your contract -
TAS 3 business days (optional) None
  • IMPORTANT – Check with your solicitor, conveyancer, or legal advisor for more information around cooling off periods and contract law in your state or territory, as they can advise you how specific details in a real estate contract may affect your unique circumstances.

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Learn more about home loans

What is a cooling-off period?

Once a home loan’s contracts are exchanged between the borrower and the lender, a five-day cooling-off period follows, during which the contracts may be cancelled if needed.

What is breach of contract?

A failure to follow all or part of a contract or breaking the conditions of a contract without any legal excuse. A breach of contract can be material, minor, actual or anticipatory, depending on the severity of the breaches and their material impact.

What is a low-deposit home loan?

A low-deposit home loan is a mortgage where you need to borrow more than 80 per cent of the purchase price – in other words, your deposit is less than 20 per cent of the purchase price.

For example, if you want to buy a $500,000 property, you’ll need a low-deposit home loan if your deposit is less than $100,000 and therefore you need to borrow more than $400,000.

As a general rule, you’ll need to pay LMI (lender’s mortgage insurance) if you take out a low-deposit home loan. You can use this LMI calculator to estimate your LMI payment.

What are the pros and cons of no-deposit home loans?

It’s no longer possible to get a no-deposit home loan in Australia. In some circumstances, you might be able to take out a mortgage with a 5 per cent deposit – but before you do so, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons.

The big advantage of borrowing 95 per cent (also known as a 95 per cent home loan) is that you get to buy your property sooner. That may be particularly important if you plan to purchase in a rising market, where prices are increasing faster than you can accumulate savings.

But 95 per cent home loans also have disadvantages. First, the 95 per cent home loan market is relatively small, so you’ll have fewer options to choose from. Second, you’ll probably have to pay LMI (lender’s mortgage insurance). Third, you’ll probably be charged a higher interest rate. Fourth, the more you borrow, the more you’ll ultimately have to pay in interest. Fifth, if your property declines in value, your mortgage might end up being worth more than your home.

How do I know if I have to pay LMI?

Each lender has its own policies, but as a general rule you will have to pay lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI) if your loan-to-value ratio (LVR) exceeds 80 per cent. This applies whether you’re taking out a new home loan or you’re refinancing.

If you’re looking to buy a property, you can use this LMI calculator to work out how much you’re likely to be charged in LMI.

What happens to my home loan when interest rates rise?

If you are on a variable rate home loan, every so often your rate will be subject to increases and decreases. Rate changes are determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, however often when the RBA changes the cash rate, a number of banks will follow suit, at least to some extent. You can use RateCity cash rate to check how the latest interest rate change affected your mortgage interest rate.

When your rate rises, you will be required to pay your bank more each month in mortgage repayments. Similarly, if your interest rate is cut, then your monthly repayments will decrease. Your lender will notify you of what your new repayments will be, although you can do the calculations yourself, and compare other home loan rates using our mortgage calculator.

There is no way of conclusively predicting when interest rates will go up or down on home loans so if you prefer a more stable approach consider opting for a fixed rate loan.

What happens when you default on your mortgage?

A mortgage default occurs when you are 90 days or more behind on your mortgage repayments. Late repayments will often incur a late fee on top of the amount owed which will continue to gather interest along with the remaining principal amount.

If you do default on a mortgage repayment you should try and catch up in next month’s payment. If this isn’t possible, and missing payments is going to become a regular issue, you need to contact your lender as soon as possible to organise an alternative payment schedule and discuss further options.

You may also want to talk to a financial counsellor. 

How personalised is my rating?

Real Time Ratings produces instant scores for loan products and updates them based what you tell us about what you’re looking for in a loan. In that sense, we believe the ratings are as close as you get to personalised; the more you tell us, the more we customise to ratings to your needs. Some borrowers value flexibility, while others want the lowest cost loan. Your preferences will be reflected in the rating. 

We also take a shorter term, more realistic view of how long borrowers hold onto their loan, which gives you a better idea about the true borrowing costs. We take your loan details and calculate how much each of the relevent loans would cost you on average each month over the next five years. We assess the overall flexibility of each loan and give you an easy indication of which ones are likely to adjust to your needs over time. 

How often is your data updated?

We work closely with lenders to get updates as quick as possible, with updates made the same day wherever possible.

How can I get a home loan with no deposit?

Following the Global Financial Crisis, no-deposit loans, as they once used to be known, have largely been removed from the market. Now, if you wish to enter the market with no deposit, you will require a property of your own to secure a loan against or the assistance of a guarantor.

How much of the RBA rate cut do lenders pass on to borrowers?

When the Reserve Bank of Australia cuts its official cash rate, there is no guarantee lenders will then pass that cut on to lenders by way of lower interest rates. 

Sometimes lenders pass on the cut in full, sometimes they partially pass on the cut, sometimes they don’t at all. When they don’t, they often defend the decision by saying they need to balance the needs of their shareholders with the needs of their borrowers. 

As the attached graph shows, more recent cuts have seen less lenders passing on the full RBA interest rate cut; the average lender was more likely to pass on about two-thirds of the 25 basis points cut to its borrowers.  image002

What is 'principal and interest'?

‘Principal and interest’ loans are the most common type of home loans on the market. The principal part of the loan is the initial sum lent to the customer and the interest is the money paid on top of this, at the agreed interest rate, until the end of the loan.

By reducing the principal amount, the total of interest charged will also become smaller until eventually the debt is paid off in full.

How common are low-deposit home loans?

Low-deposit home loans aren’t as common as they once were, because they’re regarded as relatively risky and the banking regulator (APRA) is trying to reduce risk from the mortgage market.

However, if you do your research, you’ll find there is still a fairly wide selection of banks, credit unions and non-bank lenders that offers low-deposit home loans.

How do I take out a low-deposit home loan?

If you want to take out a low-deposit home loan, it might be a good idea to consult a mortgage broker who can give you professional financial advice and organise the mortgage for you.

Another way to take out a low-deposit home loan is to do your own research with a comparison website like RateCity. Once you’ve identified your preferred mortgage, you can apply through RateCity or go direct to the lender.