Things to look for before your property settlement

The pre-settlement period between signing the contract of sale and actually getting the keys to your new property can often feel anything but settling. And it’s easy to see why: on the one hand you’ve undertaken to pay a significant amount of money for a house, but at the same time, you actually have no control over what happens to that house until the day you finally settle. Unfortunately, a lot can happen in that period, which is why it’s important to do a pre-settlement inspection if you can.

In Victoria, purchasers are automatically entitled to inspect the property in the week prior to settlement, on the condition that it’s done at a reasonable time of the day. (Note, in some states, a pre-settlement inspection can only happen if it’s specifically included in the contract.) Always try to arrange a mutually convenient time to visit, and you may need to liaise with a property manager if the home is being rented.

The first thing to be aware of, if the property is still inhabited, is that it probably won’t look as smart as it did during your pre-purchase viewings. There may be the usual mess, chaos and untidiness that comes with moving out of a home. You need to look past these transitional things and focus on ensuring that the property itself is fundamentally the same as when you signed the contract.

During your pre-inspection remember to check that:

– All included appliances and features, such as in-built dishwashers, heaters, air conditioners, spa units, swimming pool equipment etc are still in place, work and are (or will be) cleaned
– Doors, windows, locks and door handles are all in place, are undamaged and function as expected
– All the light-fittings and window furnishings included in the contract are still in place and in appropriate condition
– Plumbing, electricity, gas, NBN and other utilities are all working
– Fire alarms and smoke detectors function properly
– There are no new holes or breakages
– Rubbish and discarded items are removed or plans have been made for them to be removed before settlement
– The gardens and yard structures are as you expected and all specified inclusions are still in place
– All other special conditions in the contract of sale are being met.

It’s worth asking your real estate agent to come with you, and make sure you take a copy of the contract to check off all the inclusions and conditions of the sales agreement.

If there is an issue, get in touch with your conveyancer straight away, and try to provide as much detail as possible (even photos if you can). Your conveyancer will then contact the vendor or their conveyancer and either negotiate to have the problem fixed before settlement or negotiate a reduction in the sale price to cover the cost of repairs or replacements.

During the pre-settlement period, if you have any questions at all about the property contract or purchase, your conveyancer should be your first point of contact as they’re the specialists in this highly technical and critically important part of the property buying process.