Note: There have been significant changes to off the plan loan policy so please read below about when to apply for finance.
These ‘off the plan’ purchases are a popular choice because the investor will often get a significant discount below the market value and the property may appreciate in value before settlement occurs.
How much can you borrow?
- First home buyer: 95% of the property value (restrictions apply) or up to 105% with a guarantor.
- Investor: 95% of the property value.
- 100% loans: Available with some of our lenders if you have a guarantor.
- Low doc: 80% of the property value.
- Discounts: Competitive professional package and basic loan discounts are available.
Please call us on 1300 889 743 or complete our free assessment form and one of our mortgage brokers will help you to get your mortgage approved.
Don’t forget to read our tips on buying off the plan!
When can I apply for my mortgage?
Most lenders can issue an indicative approval at the time you sign the contract.
If your situation has remained relatively unchanged by the time settlement comes around, you’ll have a better chance of getting unconditional approval.
However, if your situation or the lending criteria has changed, you risk being declined, default on the building contract and possibly lose your deposit.
The key factor is how long until the settlement date.
More than 18 months until settlement?
You can’t apply for your mortgage if settlement is over 18 months away.
3-18 months until settlement?
Previously, one of the lenders on our panel could issue a formal approval with less than 18 months until settlement.
Unfortunately, this option is no longer available.
Less than 3 months until settlement?
When the building is close to completion, you can apply for formal approval with most lenders.
Some lenders will require the building to be complete before they order a bank valuation.
The lender will ask for a certificate of occupancy prior to settlement, which is typically issued by the developer two weeks before the settlement date.
Valuation or purchase price?
With a normal purchase, banks tend to use the lesser of the purchase price or valuation when determining how much you can borrow.
However, with an off the plan purchase it isn’t uncommon for more than 12 months or even several years to have passed between when the price was agreed and when the settlement occurs.
Because of this, some banks will use the market value rather than the purchase price when assessing your loan to value ratio (LVR), lenders mortgage insurance (LMI) premium (if applicable) and final loan amount.
Can I get multiple valuations?
Some people choose to get valuations from multiple lenders and then apply with the lender that has the highest valuation.
This can allow them to borrow more money or reduce the LMI premium they’d pay.
In theory, this works just fine, but in practice most lenders require you to apply for a loan before they will do a valuation.
If you apply with multiple lenders then you are almost certain to fail the credit score of the lenders due to having too many enquiries on your file.
However, some lenders can allow you to order a valuation prior to submitting a loan application.
Call us on 1300 889 743 or complete our free assessment form and we can help you to order valuations prior to applying for a loan so that you can maximise the amount that you can borrow.
Why are the banks so conservative?
Banks tend to be more conservative with off the plan sales because, in some cases, properties are sold for more than they’re worth and the bank valuers have failed to notice the discrepancy.
Although you may make a small fortune from your investment, the bank is only concerned about their risk.
As a result, many banks tend to limit their mortgage loans to 80% of the property value.
By using a mortgage broker, you can find a lender that is willing to take a common sense approach to your off the plan purchase.
Am I paying too much for my property?
We know some people who’ve been sold overpriced off the plan properties by sophisticated marketing companies.
Whilst we can’t give you investment advice, we strongly recommend that you do your own research into the location, the reputation of the developer and the value of the property before you sign the contract of sale.
In particular, you should look at comparable properties that have been sold in the last six months that aren’t in the same development that you’re buying in.
You can refer to our how to value a property page for more information.
Have you considered the benefits of buying existing?
The biggest benefits is avoiding the risk of the market going and having to provide a larger deposit.
That’s because the valuation on an existing property is done at the time of buying the property, not in several months time after you’ve paid a deposit.
It can be difficult to find the right property at the right price in a seller’s market but it usually just means spending a bit more time searching.
Best of all, it’s common to get a much better property at a more competitive price than buying an off the plan property.
Note: This shouldn’t be considered as investment advice. Predicting property prices is fraught with speculation and heresay. You should take into account your own financial situation and seek other professional advice before making an investment decision.
The real risks of buying off the plan
The risk of oversupply
Because there’s such a delay between starting construction and actually completing your property, there’s the risk that the market goes down.
As a result, the valuation may not come in undervalue by the time settlement rolls around.
You’ve already agreed to the purchase price in the Contract of Sale so you’ll need to come up with a bigger deposit.
We’ve seen this happen time and time again when markets start reaching their peak and there are development projects just about everywhere.
Over the past few years in Sydney and Melbourne in particular, hundreds of thousands of units have been given Development Approval (DA).
Many of these units may not even be built!
In the lead up to a “market correction” following a long period of real estate boom, development finance is difficult to get approved.
That’s because developers need a certain number of presales to get approved for a loan.
Without demand, there are no presales. Without presales, there is no development finance.
Without finance, there are no units meaning you will have forfeited thousands as part of your part deposit.
Foreign investors can suffer from policy changes
In recent years, the Australian Government has been pushed politically to prohibit foreign investment in real estate.
Recently, foreign buyers who signed an off the plan contract 12-18 months can no longer qualify for a home loan at the time of settlement.
As of June 2017, foreign investors will no longer be entitled to the 12-month deferral of payment of stamp duty for off the plan purchases in New South Wales (NSW).
That’s just how quickly lending policies can change!
Beware of property spruikers and seminars
When it comes to off the plan properties, it’s easy to get swept up in the slick sales techniques and even slicker marketing campaigns of property investment seminars.
Many people sign up to these events under the pretence that they will learn valuable tips and insights on buying real estate.
The reality is that they tend to be a huge sales pitch where property spruikers make grand promises about the fortune you stand to make.
These sales pitches start as brochures and pamphlets and then move on to emails and phone calls.
The high-pressure sales tactics reach their peak at investment seminars.
Picking a dodgy investment seminar
In 2016, investigative journalist and real estate reporter Annabel Hennessy went out to uncover some of the more outrageous things that can happen at so-called ‘free’ property investment seminars.
At one particular seminar, she was asked to put her hand through a block of wood, imagine that she was at her own funeral, give massages to attendees, chant and dance.
All of these activities are designed to amp you up and impair some of your rational thought.
Some property developers spend millions of dollars hiring marketing companies that understand the psychology of property investors and know how to get them to act.
Creating a sense of “fear of missing out” is one way.
If that doesn’t work, Hennessy found that some seminar hosts would tell personal stories of successful investors.
The problem was that some of these testimonials came from people who actually worked for, or were at least affiliated with, the developer or the education provider.
For all the stories of success, she found that the spruikers didn’t mention how much investors were in debt after buying into a development.
The investigation found that some sales contracts came with a time limit on special deals.
For example, if you signed the building contract now or before a certain time, you could get 50% off or a $10,000 discount on their next education course.
All of this is designed to pressure you into signing!
It’s always important to get independent financial advice before making any significant financial decision.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Try to read between the lines whenever anything is advertised as ‘free’.
If it’s free, ask them where they are earning their money and what are their motivations?
More often than not, they’re not financial professionals and they’re not providing financial advice that’s in your best interest – they’re there to sell.
Disturbingly, there are groups of financial professionals out there that work together to recommend each other’s services, giving you the illusion that you’re making an informed choice.
These professionals include developers, accountants, lawyers and solicitors, financial planners and even mortgage brokers.
The good news is that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is working tirelessly to remove these individuals from the industry.
What you can do in the meantime is be vigilent, don’t believe everything you’re told and ask the spruikers:
- Why are you recommending this off the plan development?
- Who do you work for?
- Who are you affiliated with?
- Do you receive any benefits if I sign up to this contract?
The good news with off the plan: Sunset clauses have changed
Since November 2015, there have been significant changes to sunset clauses in New South Wales that you need to be aware of!
A sunset clause allows the seller (vendor) or you as the buyer to effectively cancel the off the plan contract if the property hasn’t been completed by a specific date.
The sunset date is chosen by the vendor and is usually set for 12 months ahead of the likely project completion date.
Although it was designed to benefit both parties, there was increasing concern by the NSW Office of Fair Trading that projects were being deliberately delayed to turn a bigger profit.
When the contruction passed the sunset date, there were reports of contracts being rescinded and then sold shortly after for a higher price.
Luckily, the NSW Government responded with an amendment to the Conveyancing Act 1919 (NSW) and now requires the developer to give 28 days’ written notice of a recission of a contract.
If you don’t agree to the recission or don’t respond to the notice, the developer will have to obtain an order from the Supreme Court to proceed.
The Supreme Court will take into account several factors such as whether the developer or vendor acted in good faith, the reason for the delay and whether the property has in fact increased in value.
It basically makes it harder for an off the plan developer to back out of a contract and take advantage of buyers. It’s a win for both homebuyers and investors.
Still want to buy off the plan?
Here are some golden tips:
- Save as much as you can between signing the contract and settlement.
- Before signing the contract, consider asking your parents if they can act as guarantor on your mortgage if you’re unable to come up with a larger deposit at settlement, if circumstances demand.
- Make sure you’re up-to-date with your financials for the purposes of verifying your income at settlement, in paricular when it comes to your tax obligations as a self-employed applicant.
- Pay your mobile phone bills, rent and other debt facilities on time to avoid getting black marks on your credit file and potentially stopping you from borrowing.
Do you need help to get your home loan approved?
Please call us on 1300 889 743 or fill in our free assessment form and one of our mortgage brokers will help you to choose a suitable lender and loan product.