First Home Owners – Tips from Your Lawyer -By Jonathan Green

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Today guys, we have something extra special for you. Here is a guest blog from one of our favourite lawyers. I read this article and thought a lot of my clients could benefit from this, first home buyers, and investors alike, I know I did. Enjoy!

 

“First Home Owners – Tips from Your Lawyer”

By Jonathan Green, Principal of McSwiney, Green & Roman Lawyers

It’s not something you think about: one of the biggest and most exciting times of your life requiring legal representation. But it’s one of the best things you can do to guarantee yourself a hitch-free first ride into the property market.

Buying your first home is often also the first time a person comes into contact with those big, scary things called ‘contracts’. They are imposing, frightening and somewhat bamboozling documents somebody will inevitably put under your nose and ask you to sign. Yes, it often does feel like ‘signing your life away’, while simultaneously being one of the most exciting few seconds of your life!
Engaging a good conveyancing lawyer early on in the home buying process is a great first step toward making sure you go into things with your eyes wide open, and will ease the anxiety you may feel when it comes time to close that deal with the seller.

Here are my tips for those looking to buy their first home.

Get a ‘Vendor’s Statement’ Early On

Be sure to ask the selling agent for a ‘Vendor’s Statement’, or colloquially called in Victoria a ‘Section 32’ (named after Section 32 of the Sale of Land Act), or a copy of the proposed Contract of Sale if you’re in New South Wales (as governed by the Conveyancing Act), before you make any offer. The seller of a property in both Victoria and New South Wales must disclose vital information about a property before marketing of the property commences, such as the rates charged by Council and Water Authorities, a copy of the current Title information (who owns the property), any planning or zoning restrictions on the property, any permits affecting the property, any leases currently affecting the property, and so on. You having this document will help you identify what it might cost you to own the property in the long term, and will help you get a far better idea of what you may or may not able to do with the property (such as building restrictions, renovation restrictions, subdivision restrictions or whether you can run a home business there, to name a few). A good lawyer will be able to go through the information and let you know if the property is suited to what you wish to do with it.
Don’t be afraid to ask the real estate agent for this extremely vital information early on!

Check out the Contract

This paragraph concerns first home buyers in Victoria far more than buyers in New South Wales, but if you’re happy with the property and the required disclosed information, and you’re considering making an offer, it is always a good idea to ask for a copy of the proposed Contract of Sale (sure, it might be absent a few details such as the price and settlement date) for your lawyer to have a look at and give you some quick advice. Any problem areas, such as proposed conditions you may not have considered, or GST and stamp duty issues, can be identified at an early stage and ‘nipped in the bud’, which can help you put your best and smartest offer to the Vendor and avoid issues later on.

Making an Offer and Putting Pen to Paper:

So, you’ve made the offer and it has been accepted by the seller. Congratulations! So now what?
One of two things will probably happen:

1. You will sign a contract there and then with the real estate agent; or

2. You will take the contract away with you unsigned and see your lawyer for some more advice before you sign.
If you sign the contract with the real estate agent before you get legal advice:-

It is very important you get some legal advice within 24 hours after signing. You may have the legal right to ‘cool off’ for 3 full business days following the signing of the Contract – or 5 days if you’re in New South Wales. There may be things in the contract you didn’t consider – or something wrong about the property you only realise after you sign. ‘Cooling off’ generally allows anybody who has purchased residential property in Victoria or New South Wales to change their mind and withdraw from the purchase within the allowable timeframe (again, 3 days for Victoria and 5 days for New South Wales). There is a small financial penalty for doing so, but it could be a very small price to pay to avoid a far costlier error in finalising a purchase you do not want to proceed with!

A good lawyer will help you pinpoint any things you should be aware of if this is the case.

Make sure you see your lawyer immediately after signing any Contract to buy your first home.

If you see your lawyer for advice before you sign the contract:-

First of all: great move! This is the best way to ensure things run smoothly.

A good lawyer will make sure all bases are covered – we will ensure all the details such as price, settlement date, the parties’ names, the future ownership structure, the taxation implications, and so on, are right.
The most common set of clauses most first time buyers need in their contracts are the following:-

1. A ‘subject to finance’ protection clause
If you are borrowing money from a bank to fund your purchase, you will definitely require one of these clauses. This allows you a reasonable amount of time to get your unconditional finance approval from your bank before you elect to proceed with the purchase. Your lawyer will be able to ensure this is present in the contract for you.

2. A ‘subject to a building and pest inspection’ protection clause.
It’s also a very wise decision to include a clause allowing you to undertake inspections of the property by a registered building inspector and a registered pest inspector to ensure the house is structurally sound and free of termites or other major pests.

If either of these reports show major defects in the building or major pest activity, you may be able to withdraw from the purchase penalty free.

Again, ask your lawyer how!

Other Issues:

First home buyers in either Victoria or New South Wales may also be able to claim for a range of benefits such as stamp duty reductions (a state government tax on land transfers), or a first home owners grant (in limited circumstances). Your lawyer can advise you on these benefits.

Summary:

Lawyers in the conveyancing game love helping first home buyers. Seeing a client, no matter what age, go into the property market for themselves for the first time, and being privileged enough to shepherd them through the process can be such a rewarding job. What I’ve described above are just a few of the many things that need to be considered – but I hope this gets you moving in the right direction.
If there’s one lesson here we’d like to convey to you, it’s this: don’t be afraid to ring your lawyer. Get on the phone, pop in or send us an email. We’re here to help you!

My firm, McSwiney Green & Roman Lawyers, are experts in conveyancing and acting for first home owners. Our fully qualified Practising Conveyancer, Rachael Devine, along with expert lawyers Jonathan Green and Alecia Roman are more than happy to meet you for a chat.

You can get in touch with any of us us by phone on (03) 5721 2149 or email Rachael at rachael@mgrsolicitors.com.au.
Good luck, and happy house hunting!

Jonathan Green is an expert commercial and property lawyer, and Principal Lawyer of McSwiney, Green & Roman Lawyers. Find his details at www.mgrsolicitors.com.au, give him a call on 03 5721 2149 should you wish to have a chat about anything and everything legal.

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