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What you need to know: Buying Property off the Plans

With residential land and housing in short supply, and an incredibly competitive housing market, buying a new home off the plans is becoming more and more common. Here we look at what you need to know and when to seek legal advice, so you don’t end up out of pocket.

Developer house and land packages are the most common type of property deals we see where clients are buying off the plans.

This involves signing a sale and purchase agreement for a property sight unseen, before construction has been completed (or in same cases, before it has even started).

Rather than going to an open home and physically seeing what you’re buying, you’re basing your entire purchase decision on the plans and specs provided to you by the developer / housing company.

Depending on when you sign on the dotted line, you may get the option to alter the homes design to fit your tastes or needs.

How is it different to buying an existing dwelling?

Buying off the plans is different to purchasing an existing home.

Unlike getting a builders report on an existing home, you need to pay close attention to the plans and specs to ensure your home will meet your needs. This includes thinking about the property’s location, outlook and position on the site.

What is the process for buying off the plans?

Sometimes you can visit a show home or an existing build completed by the same developer, to give you that visual perspective and check their style and workmanship.

Normally you’ll pay a 5-10% deposit of the purchase price when you decide to proceed with a purchase off the plans.

Then you wait for construction to be completed and a code compliance certificate to be issued before you pay the balance of the purchase price to the developer and move in. Some buyers like this as they have longer to save while construction is taking place.

Sunset Date

In some cases, the agreement may have a deadline date by which you can withdraw from the purchase and have your deposit refunded if construction has not been completed. This is known as a sunset date.

What are the benefits to buying off the plans?

1.     Fixed Pricing: Normally the purchase price is locked in when you sign an agreement, so you have budget certainty for your project. This might even mean your property increases in value before you take ownership, growing your equity in the house.

2.     Brand new, built to latest building standards: Your new home will be brand new and built to the latest building code, so there is little to no maintenance or repair work for the first few years of ownership at least.

3.     Eligibility for Kāinga Ora First Home Grant of up to $10,000: By purchasing a new home you may be eligible to use the Kāinga Ora First Home Grant of up to $10,000 per person.

What are the risks / pitfalls to buying off the plans?

1.     Longer timeframes: Often buying off the plans means the timeframes for handover are quite long – if you need your home sooner rather than later, it may not be the right option for you.

2.     No try before you buy: You don’t get to walk through the home you’re going to buy, which means you need to pay close attention to the plans including the site position and outlook, room dimensions and layout.  

3.     The fine print: Seek legal advice early to ensure you cover yourself. This includes detail like whether the purchase price can be increased by the developer, what happens if construction takes longer than expected, whether there is a sunset date and conditions for withdrawal from the purchase.

Thinking of buying off the plans?

Talk with us ASAP and ask around about the developer including visiting some of their other builds, to make sure you know what you’re buying.

Get in touch with our property team

Get in touch with our team for expert legal advice on purchasing property off developers and plans.