The process for buying a property from start to finish

Buying a property is a complex process that requires many steps all done in the right order. You also need to get a great team on your side to get you through it. In this article, we’ll walk you through the whole process step by step.

1. Get qualified

There’s usually a difference between what you think you can afford and what the lender will let you borrow. Sometimes they even offer you more than you want to borrow.

You should talk to a finance broker before you go any further. They will recommend various lenders who will be suitable for you – not just one bank’s product. (Perhaps start with Tag Finance on (08) 93671227.)

After this step, you’ll know exactly what you can afford!

2. Find areas to buy in

Most people buy property in the area close to where they live, their parent’s home or their work because they’re familiar with the properties in that area.

However, if you’re new to an area, you should start by getting onto a major real estate portal, such as:

In their search bar, you can type in a suburb and filter by price (plus/minus 10%). Also filter by your preferred property type and number of bedrooms.

If you can’t find anything that meets your criteria, you might need to:

  • move 1 to 2 suburbs further out
  • lower your property expectations, such as from four to three bedrooms.

Eventually, you’ll have some suburb options and property addresses.

While you’re on the portals, you can set ‘alerts’ for your property criteria. When a property is listed that meets your criteria, you’ll get notified. This will put you ahead of the game.

3. Drive around your ideal suburb

Once you’ve found your ideal suburb, take a drive around the streets. Look at the properties and get a feel for the area. You want to be sure it’s a suburb you’d be happy to buy into.

  • What’s the general appearance of the suburb?
  • Does it feel like people care about their homes?
  • What do the lawns look like?
  • Is there a high percentage of occupiers rather than tenants?
  • Do you see derelict houses or cars?
  • Is a lot of building or renovation going on?
  • What do the local school and shopping centre look like? Are they well maintained and thriving?
  • Are there parks, playgrounds and communal spaces?
  • Would you feel comfortable and proud to live in the suburb?

If you like what you see, it’s time to go look at properties!

Download our booklet, goodbuy, which will help you with this step.

4. Attend open homes and talk to agents

It’s unlikely that you’ll buy the first home you see, and there are many potential buyers for each home on the market. So you should attend as many open homes as you can. 

Take notes about what you like and don’t like about each one. Once you’ve seen 6–12 properties, you’ll forget the first one. So give each one a title based on an obvious feature, such as ‘red door’, ‘pool with slide’, etc. This way, you’ll remember them later!

Some homes will be a big ‘No’ immediately. Others will be a ‘Maybe’. You’re looking for a property that’s a solid ‘Yes!’

While you’re viewing a property, take the opportunity to talk to the agent. Ask them questions like:

  • What other properties do you have coming up?
  • How long has this one been on the market?
  • How many offers have you had on this property?
  • Why is the seller selling?
  • Does the seller have a desired timeframe?

5. Figure out the property’s value

When you find the property you want, you’ll need to decide what to offer. To make an appropriate offer, you’ll need a good idea of the property’s value.

You can ask the agent to provide a list of recent sales that are comparable to this property that you can drive by.

You can also go to the Sold section of the real estate portals to check recent sales and how the final selling prices compare to yours.

6. Prepare your offer

This is the part that you really want to get right. If yours is the only offer on the property, you’ll need to decide where to start and finish. (Tip: Not too low!)

If yours is one of several offers, remember that you don’t have the luxury of starting low. It will be make or break, as the best offer will be considered and the others ignored.

At this stage, you’ll need to determine your offer amount, as well as your conditions and timeframes.

Conditions

These are the usual conditions you might put on an offer for a property (excluding high-rise apartments and land):

  • Subject to a satisfactory building report by a qualified builder or certified building inspector. Use the standard REIWA wording here, as it’s been approved by the WA Law Society. You can get this from the agent.
  • Subject to a timber and pest clearance certificate by a pest inspector. This is a written report to an Australian Standard (4349) about termites and other pests, and any wood rot in the building structure. Use the REIWA condition wording again.
  • All gas, electrical and plumbing appliances to be in good working order at settlement. You can get this form from REIWA. You’ll get the chance to inspect these appliances seven days before settlement to check they’re all working.

Timeframes

  • Finance – Banks usually need four weeks to approve a loan.
  • Building and pest inspection – These reports should be due seven days after finance is approved.
  • Settlement – This should be four weeks after the building and pest inspection reports have been completed.

Your offer then looks like this:

Step 14 weeks
Step 21 weeks
Step 34 weeks

Finance period /  Building and pest checks  / Settlement

7. Submit your offer and negotiate

So you’ve established your strategies for making an offer and determined all your conditions. Now it’s time to negotiate.

Be aware that the property will usually cost a bit more than you expect, especially if you’re in competition with another keen buyer. Remember the words of Aldo Gucci: The quality lingers on long after the price is forgotten!

So don’t skimp for $1000 or $2000 – just secure it!

Collect the paperwork

You can submit your offer with your conditions, price and timeframe using REIWA’s ‘Contract by way of offer and acceptance’ form.

Sign the form and make a copy of it. Also make sure you get a copy of the ‘Joint form of general conditions of sale 2018’.

If you’re buying a strata title property, you’ll also get:

  • a copy of the strata plan
  • a seller disclosure form about the unit.

Present the offer

Your agent will now present your offer to the seller. Hopefully it’s so attractive that they accept it immediately. If they don’t accept your offer, they can counter-offer or reject it.

If they counter-offer, they will return the offer to you with a higher price and terms that they will accept. You can accept this offer by initialling amendments to your offer and the property is yours.

If their counter-offer isn’t what you wanted, you can counter-counter-offer by initialling the seller’s number and resubmitting to the seller. Hopefully then you’ll have a deal!

Unfortunately, if they reject your offer, you’ll have to start over again with another offer.

8. Get a settlement agent

Once your offer is accepted, you need someone a settlement agent to do the transfer of title for you.

Your agent can probably recommend settlement agents, so call them and get some quotes. The quotes probably won’t be that different.

Tell your agent which settlement agent you’ve chosen and they’ll send the contract to them to start the paperwork.

9. Organise your finances

Earlier we discussed getting a finance broker. At this point, they will come in handy.

You need to: 

  • complete a bank credit application form
  • sign a bank privacy form
  • provide your last three months of payslips as proof of income
  • provide a balance sheet of assets and liabilities
  • estimate your monthly living expenses
  • advise what credit cards you have and their limits.

Once you submit that information, you’ll need to wait 3–4 weeks for the finance to come through. The bank may ask you for more information during this time.

10. Get the inspections done

This is time to get your building and pest inspection reports done. Your agent can recommend some reputable companies who do this work. 

Don’t just Google and choose the first ad at the top of the page. Go with a recommended company with a long history of doing great work.

If the building or pest inspection report identifies a problem, you’ll need to tell your agent.

However, if the inspections all check out, it’s time for paperwork!

11. Complete final paperwork

At this point, your settlement agent will:

  1. check council and water rates, and apportion these for your ownership period
  2. prepare a transfer of land document to transfer the property from the seller’s name to your name
  3. prepare a settlement statement outlining how you’ll pay the seller; stamp duty, council and water rates; and how much money you’ll need at settlement.

12. Enjoy settlement day!

On this day, all money is transferred and the property title is officially in your name. It’s important to know that settlement happens at a very specific time, such as 12 noon. 

Does this mean you can move in at 12 noon? Not necessarily. If the seller is still in the property, they have until 12 noon the day after settlement to vacate. Then you can move in.

If the property is vacant, you can move in straight after settlement. So ask your agent whether the sellers are still in the property before you make moving plans.

You can download our helpful:

  • moving tips
  • packing tips
  • redirection advice.

Congratulations, you’re now a property owner!

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