Tips for when building a new home or buying off the plan (Part 1/2)

22-March-2019 Commercial Disputes By Mark Streeter

Buyer Beware – Building a new home or buying off the plan is arguably the biggest financial investment in your life. It should be the most exciting time in your life, but if you are unprepared and do not understand the financial and legal steps involved – you may be biting off more than you can chew.

This is Part 1 of 2 of the expert guides for buyers who are looking at buying non-established dwellings from our experienced Team of Accredited Specialists in Dispute Resolution and Commercial Litigation. Part 2 focuses on dispute resolution after purchase.

Avoiding disputes is not difficult. The majority of contractual disputes are caused by a party not understanding, underestimating or overestimating their rights and obligations – the balance of disputes are caused by inadequate or no preparation.

Here is a list of some common questions you may want to consider based on real experiences.

The Contract – What are you signing?

You are being encouraged to pay a deposit and sign the contract quickly because it is the last lot.
Buyer beware! There may be a reason it is the last lot. Obtain legal advice, you may find that the building may not be completed when you expect to move in, there may be delays, issues with the valuation and several stages to the development which have warned off other buyers. Do you know when it is due for completion or what a sunset clause is? If you do not, then you should!

Does the brochure look too good to be true?
Buyer beware! Obtain legal advice, you may find that what you are told about the size of the lot, the type of finishes and the colourful floor plans and brochures may not be what you are purchasing, as defined by the contract. Furthermore, that the size, fixtures and even location (ie: of your apartment lot) may be subject to change.

Research the Builder, the Developer and your team

No one has ever heard of the Developer?
Buyer beware! A new developer or unknown builder is always a risky investment. You should conduct your own enquiries into previous developments – wouldn’t you want a brand with demonstrated experience that you can trust? This particularly important when it comes to any defects.

The Developer/Builder company looks like another company that no longer trades or is in external administration?
Buyer Beware! Stop. We will tell you why.

Is your builder licenced or the subject of investigation?
Buyer Beware! Red Flag. Stop and Check. We will tell you why and how.

Have you decided upon your team of advisors who will guide you?
If not, we recommend that you consult financial planner, accountant, broker, agent and of course, solicitor. There is no such thing as being over-prepared.

Know Thy Neighbour

Deposited Plan – What is the demographic of your suburb? Who are your neighbours? What is the entitlement to access the lot? Easements? Right of carriage? Are there any disputes about boundary lines? Fence disputes any privacy issues? Have you visited the deposited plan? Does your plan for the property align with Council regulations? If you have answered no to any of those questions- obtain legal advice.

Off the Plan Apartments – Strata – What is your lot entitlement? What is your entitlement to vote on the body corporate? Do you understand the decision-making processes involved regarding the building? Do you understand how much you will be paying every quarter? Do you know what a special levy is? If you have answered no to any of those questions – obtain legal advice.


Do you understand the different types of insurance coverage associated with the property – some of which is obtained by others working on site on your behalf and your own insurance coverage? Do you understand the terms of the policy?
If the answer to any of those questions is no – Buyer Beware. Builders and tradespersons are required to hold contract work insurance. This does not mean that they always do. The Home Building Compensation Scheme protects homeowners for coverage for rectification and defects in limited circumstances. It is often a last resort for Homeowners seeking compensation who have already unsuccessfully tried to enforce orders through a Court or tribunal for rectification.

What can I do?

Contact our Accredited Specialists via the webform below or call us on 8197 0105 for pre-contractual advice or for advice in respect of your dispute resolution options.  Alternatively, we can be contacted via email on

Part 2 of 2 of this Expert Guide focus’s on Dispute Resolution and can be found here:

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Written by Mark Streeter

Mark Streeter

The Director of Streeterlaw, Mark has been practicing Law since 1994. He has attained his Masters of Law in 1999 and in 2006 was awarded his Specialist Accreditation in Commercial Litigation. Mark is a member of ARITA, a graduate of the AICD and a member of AICM. A member of STEP, Mark enjoys working in the area of Wills and Estates. In 2020 Mark is the Chair of STEP NSW.

Call us on 02 8197 0105 to book an appointment with Mark Streeter!

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