The pros and cons of buying off the plan

The pros and cons of buying off the plan

Australia’s capital cities have long been plagued by a shortage of properties, helping drive up prices – which is great if you’re selling, but not ideal if you are in the market for your first home and facing the prospect of a daunting-sized first mortgage.

One solution being encouraged by state governments is high-density living and new apartment developments. So as the Central Park precinct in inner Sydney nears completion, capital cities around Australia are likely to see more such developments – with more off-the-plan apartments going on sale.

Buying off the plan simply means buying an apartment before it is built, based on an architect’s design and floorplan. It can be a leap of faith – you are placing your trust in the architects and developers to deliver what they promise – but there are also many pros to buying a home this way.

For starters, you are buying a brand new property that no one has lived in before. And in many developments, you can choose your own finishes, floorplans and other details.

But for most off-the-plan buyers, the most appealing benefits are of a financial nature. For example, you are buying a home at today’s value when it won’t be completed for several years – conventional thinking is that it will be worth more once the development is completed, therefore earning you an easy profit before you even move in.

Next up, you pay a deposit to secure your home, but you don’t have to start paying the mortgage until the apartment is built, according to Fair Trading NSW. This buys you more time to organise your finances, compare home loans and choose a mortgage to suit your needs.

If you are buying an off-the-plan investment property, there may also a tax advantage. Check with your accountant as you may be eligible to claim depreciation on your tax for “capital works” (such as walls and windows) and “plant and equipment” (such as carpet and appliances).

On the flip side, the cons include the possibility of delays and the uncertainty of not knowing when you’ll be able to move in. Or the finished product may not resemble what was promised. Worse, there is the risk that you may pay too much if property market prices fall in the time it takes your apartment to be built.

If you are considering buying off the plan, here is a handy checklist to help you along:

  • Visit other projects built by the developer to inspect the quality of the work.
  • Research market conditions and property prices in the area.
  • Check the contract to determine whether you can visit during construction, make changes to fittings and fixtures, whether you are entitled to resell before you complete the purchase and other considerations that may be important to you.
  • Ask questions to determine whether there will be additional costs to the sale price.
  • Ask what happens to your deposit if the developer runs into financial problems.
    Inspect the site – are there other construction projects that may affect your view or the appeal of the area?
  • Use a licensed valuer to value the property.

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What is bridging finance?

A loan of shorter duration taken to buy a new property before a borrower sells an existing property, usually taken to cover the financial gap that occurs while buying a new property without first selling an older one.

Usually, these loans have higher interest rates and a shorter repayment duration.

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.

Does each product always have the same rating?

No, the rating you see depends on a number of factors and can change as you tell us more about your loan profile and preferences. The reasons you may see a different rating:

  • Lenders have made changes. Our ratings show the relative competitiveness of all the products listed at a given time. As the listing change, so do the ratings.
  • You have updated you profile. If you increase your loan amount, the impact of different rates and fees will change which loans are the lowest cost for you.
  • You adjust your preferences. The more you search for flexible loan features, the more importance we assign to the Flexibility Score. You can also adjust your Flexibility Weighting yourself, which will recalculate the ratings with preference given to more flexible loans.

How long does NAB home loan approval take?

The time required to get your home loan from NAB approved can vary based on a number of factors involved in the application process. 

Once you have applied for a home loan, a NAB specialist will contact you within 24 hours over the phone to take down relevant information, including your total income, debts (existing loans, credit cards, etc.), assets (car, shares, etc.), and your monthly expenses (food, utility bills, etc.). Your lender might also ask for information related to the property you want to purchase, including the type of dwelling and preferred postcode.

NAB will then verify all your information and check your credit score, and if the details stack up, you should be given a conditional approval certificate. This certificate stipulates how much money NAB is willing to lend you and is typically valid for 90 days. 

Once you have your conditional approval, you can start browsing for properties that you like and that fit within the budget that NAB has provided. After you find a suitable property, you’ll need to give a copy of the signed deed to NAB, following which you should get full approval and access to the funds. This process can take up to 4-6 weeks. 

Mortgage Calculator, Repayment Frequency

How often you wish to pay back your lender. 

How much deposit do I need for a home loan from NAB?

The right deposit size to get a home loan with an Australian lender will depend on the lender’s eligibility criteria and the value of your property.

Generally, lenders look favourably on applicants who save up a 20 per cent deposit for their property This also means applicants do not have to pay Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI). However, you may still be able to obtain a mortgage with a 10 - 15 per cent deposit.  

Keep in mind that NAB is one of the participating lenders for the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, which allows eligible borrowers to buy a property with as low as a 5 per cent deposit without paying the LMI. The Federal Government guarantees up to 15 per cent of the deposit to help first-timers to become homeowners.

Mortgage Calculator, Interest Rate

The percentage of the loan amount you will be charged by your lender to borrow. 

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. 

Mortgage Calculator, Repayments

The money you pay back to your lender at regular intervals. 

Can I take a personal loan after a home loan?

Are you struggling to pay the deposit for your dream home? A personal loan can help you pay the deposit. The question that may arise in your mind is can I take a home loan after a personal loan, or can you take a personal loan at the same time as a home loan, as it is. The answer is that, yes, provided you can meet the general eligibility criteria for both a personal loan and a home loan, your application should be approved. Those eligibility criteria may include:

  • Higher-income to show repayment capability for both the loans
  • Clear credit history with no delays in bill payments or defaults on debts
  • Zero or minimal current outstanding debt
  • Some amount of savings
  • Proven rent history will be positively perceived by the lenders

A personal loan after or during a home loan may impact serviceability, however, as the numbers can seriously add up. Every loan you avail of increases your monthly installments and the amount you use to repay the personal loan will be considered to lower the money available for the repayment of your home loan.

As to whether you can get a personal loan after your home loan, the answer is a very likely "yes", though it does come with a caveat: as long as you can show sufficient income to repay both the loans on time, you should be able to get that personal loan approved. A personal loan can also help to improve your credit score showing financial discipline and responsibility, which may benefit you with more favorable terms for your home loan.

What is a redraw fee?

Redraw fees are charged by your lender when you want to take money you have already paid into your mortgage back out. Typically, banks will only allow you to take money out of your loan if you have a redraw facility attached to your loan, and the money you are taking out is part of any additional repayments you’ve made. The average redraw fee is around $19 however there are plenty of lenders who include a number of fee-free redraws a year. Tip: Negative-gearers beware – any money redrawn is often treated as new borrowing for tax purposes, so there may be limits on how you can use it if you want to maximise your tax deduction.

What is the average annual percentage rate?

Also known as the comparison rate, or sometimes the ‘true rate’ of a loan, the average annual percentage rate (AAPR) is used to indicate the overall cost of a loan after considering all the fees, charges and other factors, such as introductory offers and honeymoon rates.

The AAPR is calculated based on a standardised loan amount and loan term, and doesn’t include any extra non-standard charges.

Do other comparison sites offer the same service?

Real Time RatingsTM is the only online system that ranks the home loan market based on your personal borrowing preferences. Until now, home loans have been rated based on outdated data. Our system is unique because it reacts to changes as soon as we update our database.

What happens to your mortgage when you die?

There is no hard and fast answer to what will happen to your mortgage when you die as it is largely dependent on what you have set out in your mortgage agreement, your will (if you have one), other assets you may have and if you have insurance. If you have co-signed the mortgage with another person that person will become responsible for the remaining debt when you die.

If the mortgage is in your name only the house will be sold by the bank to cover the remaining debt and your nominated air will receive the remaining sum if there is a difference. If there is a turn in the market and the sale of your house won’t cover the remaining debt the case may go to court and the difference may have to be covered by the sale of other assets.  

If you have a life insurance policy your family may be able to use some of the lump sum payment from this to pay down the remaining mortgage debt. Alternatively, your lender may provide some form of mortgage protection that could assist your family in making repayments following your passing.