Off the plan - is it worth trying to change the design?

Buying off the plan has escalated in popularity in recent years, partly because it allows buyers to lock in a property purchase at today’s prices often with only a small down payment required.

Buying of the plan allows some scope to personalise a property but be sure to read the contract carefully.

Buying off the plan has escalated in popularity in recent years, partly because it allows buyers to lock in a property purchase at today's prices often with only a small down payment required. There can also be savings on stamp duty as duty is levied on the land value only – it may not include the final value of the buildings.

Despite the pluses, buying off the plan involves a leap of faith. You're putting money down on a property, usually an apartment, that is not yet completed. In some cases, construction may not have begun.

The developer will usually provide a display suite that aims to replicate as closely as possible the finished dwellings, and this can give would-be buyers a reasonable idea of the scale and dimensions of the place they plan to buy. But remember, the display suite is essentially a sales tool and it may not be truly representative of what the finished product will look like.

Depending on the developer, an off the plan property may also provide opportunities to customise the interior fitting to your liking – to a certain degree at least. For instance, buyers can often select tiles, carpets, interior paint colours and even kitchen or laundry white goods from a range provided by the developer.  The choice, where it is available, may not be extensive but it does mean the interior will veer more towards your taste rather than the developer's.

The contract dictates your options

The level of flexibility buyers have to make any changes or exercise individual choice will typically be spelt out in the contract of sale. These contracts can be extremely complex, and it is essential to seek legal advice so that you know exactly what you are signing up for. Don't simply assume you will be able to make personal choices over various aspects of the property.

In particular ask about whether you can make any changes to the finishes in the kitchen and bathroom. Enquire if you can select appliances, such as stoves and dishwashers, and items such as floor and wall tiles. Note too, where a choice is given, the final price may vary if you opt for top of the line fittings rather than base options. This is another factor to be quite clear on as it could impact your home loan requirements and this is something worth speaking about with your Mortgage Choice broker.

Can unspecified changes be made?

A critical issue to discuss with your legal advisor is whether the contract of sale allows the developer to make changes to the design of your property – with or without your consent.

For a whole variety of reasons, building plans may be changed during construction, and this can mean the finished development is not exactly as described in the original plan. Developers often reserve the right to alter designs, though on the flipside the sale contract may give purchasers the opportunity to rescind (bail out of the purchase) if the changes are extensive.

The further out the building is from completion, the greater the odds that any fittings or finishes you have selected may not be available at the time of construction. The developer is often entitled to substitute fixtures and fittings for items of equal quality. As a buyer, it can pay to specify a particular brand of appliance so that you have a close approximation to your preferred fittings.

Your local Mortgage Choice broker has experience arranging loans for off the plan property purchases and can help guide you through the funding process. Call 13 77 62 to book an appointment or request further information.

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Posted in: Home loans