Buying Off the Plan – This Is How to Manage the Risk

10th Aug, 2018 | Refinance

In this article:
Prepare for unpleasant surprises when buying property off the plan.

Buying off the plan can go horribly wrong or wonderfully right, so what can you do to ensure the scales tip in your favour?

When buying a property not yet built, it’s vital to prepare before you commit. Knowing what you’re up against and what might go wrong can give you the winning edge.

Rather than relying on the facts from a property developer, do enough research to understand the fundamentals of the purchase. Learn from unbiased sources, rather than those keen to convince you of a specific purchase because they have a vested interest.

Here are some of the risks you may encounter and precautions you can take.

Drop in value

If property values fall in the period between deposit and settlement, your property may end up valued at less than you paid for it. This outcome requires you to top up your deposit to meet the loan to value ratio (LVR) or make a new arrangement with your lender.

Avoid this scenario by buying well in the first place. Research the growth potential and trends for the location, looking at statistics on employment, demographics, median apartment price growth, vacancy rates and rents. Is there growth drivers such as good amenities, transportation and infrastructure?

The right choice of an apartment within the development is also an important consideration. Maximise the potential for capital growth and rental yields by considering issues like its outlook, its susceptibility to noise and how much storage is available.

Be wary of buying in an area where there is a lot of high-density housing development planned. When there’s an oversupply in one suburb, this can slow capital growth and restrict rental yield. Lenders may be reluctant to finance the purchase, and your pre-approval may be subject to later reviews or LVR limits.

Get it right from the start with professional help.

Variations in design and quality

The finished project may differ to what you anticipated. Even if you view display suites and artists’ impressions, the developer may later change the design and finishes.

To safeguard against disappointment, have a comprehensive contract that sets out in plain English the details of the proposed development and quality of fixtures and fittings. The brand and model should be outlined clearly, as well as information about whether the buyer can select appliances and what happens if an item is unavailable.

The contract should answer questions such as what are my rights if the design is altered? Can I make changes to the finishes? Can I visit the site during construction? What do I become liable for if I withdraw from the contract?

Obtain legal advice on the terms of the contract and the benefits and restrictions they contain. The developer gets considerable flexibility on how the project is completed, so it’s vital that your legal representative works to protect your buyer’s rights before you sign.

Construction delays

The development may never get off the ground, or it may be delayed by planning approvals, poor weather or bankruptcy.

It’s important to check out the credentials of the developer, builder, architects and directors of the company. Find out about past projects and financial performance, including any penalty notices, license cancellations or disciplinary determinations.

Use online forums to find out the kind of experience other investors from previous projects have had with this developer. Research resales in those developments to see if there has been price growth. Also, obtain proof of insurance from the developer and know that the builders are licensed and qualified.

If the developer goes bust before completing, you may not get your deposit back. The terms of your contract will dictate the outcome, so it’s essential to seek independent legal advice.

Financing the purchase

Talk to your Yellow Brick Road mortgage broker about the best approach for funding an off-the-plan purchase. Some lenders may offer conditional approval before construction commences but won’t approve the loan formally until they have performed a valuation of the finished apartment.

Blemishing your credit record with a loan rejection or losing your deposit because the deal doesn’t go through are risks we can help you to manage.


You’ve heard about the risks of buying off the plan, now here are the benefits.

  • Government concessions
  • Capital gains from the property value rising during construction
  • Low initial outlay with a deposit as low as 10%
  • More time to save with balance paid when construction is complete
  • Choice of apartment type and option to customise floor plans and finishes
  • Potential tax and depreciation benefits if purchased as investment.