Settlement is the big one for excitement, celebrations and nerves for anyone buying or selling property. This is the day the buyer gets the keys to their new property and the seller gets the money in their bank.
Settlement is the day on which the buyer pays the balance of the purchase price, files for a property title and becomes the registered owner.
The settlement will be carried out between the property seller’s conveyancer (or settlement authorised legal representative), the buying party’s conveyancer (or legal agent) and the bank or lender providing the funds.
As well as the remaining amount owing on the property (the deposit will already have been paid in most cases) settlement day is also the time to pay any land transfer duty (stamp duty) and settlement fees. In the case of approved first homeowners, these additional fees will be waived under the first homeowner’s grant. For those paying the tax and additional paperwork fees, it’s important to factor them as part of the expenses for settlement as you won't receive your title until you pay, and hefty fines are applied to late payments (more than 30 days after settlement).
During the settlement period, the seller is still responsible for all costs and responsibilities to the property, including rate payments and any current connections to water and power. As soon as the settlement day (and time) arrives, the new owner pays for the property in full and immediately takes responsibility for the property from that time forward, including rate payments.
When you sign the sale contract there will be a settlement period defined in the details that all parties agree to. While a typical settlement period is 46 days for NSW properties and 60 days for the rest of the Australian states and territories, settlement periods can be anywhere between 30 and 90 days for residential property.
There are a number of factors that can affect the settlement time. For example, there may be a request for longer or shorter settlement periods if a person is looking to buy and sell property at the same time. They may need a little more leeway to finalise both the sale and purchase in a similar timeframe for cashflow reasons or for moving in.
It is negotiable so it’s worth putting your case across for consideration if you want a particular settlement day. In some cases being flexible on settlement periods can help secure a sale if you can assist the buyer to meet their needs.
The settlement day will be a predetermined date and time for a ‘meeting’ when documents are signed and exchanged. At this point the funds will be transferred, the sale is finalised and the property transfer is legally completed. At this point, the new owner will receive the keys to the property and can move in.
We say ‘meeting’ because settlement will be completed online through PEXA, a secure program specifically designed for property settlement. The whole process happens in a virtual space, and because PEXA is an online system you can set a settlement date and time to be anything, including public holidays. Just make sure you factor in key collection arrangements if this is the case and offices are closed.
Settlement Day Progression:
Just note that new homeowners will not have the title just yet, your conveyancer will send the sale through to the titles office to register you as the new owner of the property. In some cases, this can actually occur on the same day, but other times it can take longer, especially if you have delayed your land transfer duty payment.
There are a number of things you can do that are really important leading up to settlement:
You’ll be working closely with your conveyancer to get everything together and stay up to speed. We get started on this process early with you to avoid mistakes and help everything flow smoothly.
Once you have signed the contract on your home you will notice sudden demands for information from different parties to get everything ready at their end. In the panic of wanting to do well and have all the documents correct, many new homeowners get used to jumping through hoops to get everything over the line. During This time it’s so important not to panic. If you are at work or with your kids, take your time. You don’t need to send documents the minute they are requested of you. If you have any questions you have time to call your conveyancer and ask if what’s being requested from your banks or the real estate agents is actually okay.
This is so important when it comes to your financial security.
Property scams are big money so targeted and genuine-looking emails are unfortunately something that can fool people into sending money to scam accounts.
Keep your wits about you. If you get any requests to transfer money, be it for the deposit or for any fees or initial payments with a bank account provided by email DO NOT PAY. Rather pick up the phone and call your conveyancer using a number you trust (so it’s stored in your phone or it’s from a trusted source) and talk to your conveyancer about the message and check that it’s authentic.
It’s good to get started on home and contents insurance early in the settlement as there may be extra information you need to gather to help them cover you correctly. You can put a start date for the insurance to start on settlement day.
A lot can happen between you signing the contract and settlement day. Once settlement occurs the property is yours, along with any faults, even if they occurred in the settlement period. To help with this there is an opportunity for one last look over just before settlement day to make sure the moving out process at the vendor's end went smoothly and there hasn’t been any additional damage due to weather, fire or vandals in the time the house has stood vacant.
While new owners are not allowed to have access to the property during settlement, there is one exception and that is to complete the pre-settlement check. You cannot do this alone, you'll need to make an appointment with the real estate agent and have them attend with you. If you like you can ask a professional to have a look around for you but typically all you are doing at this point is making sure the property is in the same condition it was when you signed the contract.
The reason for doing this check is to make sure that there has been no damage due to weather, vandals or fire as this kind of damage can be expensive and heartbreaking to discover after the sale is official. It’s worth doing, especially if the property was vacant for the settlement period.
Also make sure there is no water damage inside from leaking taps or pipes and that everything that was contracted to be there is, all the things contracted to be removed or fixed have been done. If you notice anything amiss alert the real estate agent with you, get a report written, take photos and contact your conveyancer.
You want to do his inspection within the last week of the final settlement day.
You just can’t get started on packing and cleaning early enough. It’s going to be a bigger, messier and more stressful job than you are expecting so start now. It’s something that people often fail to prioritise because they are so focused on the new property or settlement day. The trouble is that in order to really enjoy your new home, you need to sign off on your current one. Start early by decluttering, packing and cleaning and use it to distract yourself from waiting for settlement day. That way, when the day comes you’ll be finished, or close enough, to really enjoy moving in, rather than stressing about moving out.
If you are buying a home your focus is going to be on cleaning out and getting ready for the move. One thing you will still need to do before your move is to notify your current gas and electricity suppliers of your move-out date and make arrangements for final readings and any new connections you need at the next property.
The same goes for the property seller, you will need to cut off any amenities to the property on your move-out date. You might have already had a conversation with the new owners about leaving the mains connected so they don’t have to reconnect to move in, just take over the meter payments. You can both save money by not having to pay excessive disconnection and reconnection fees if the property will be occupied straight away.
Your conveyancer will be the one to assist you with finalising water and council rates and getting all the paperwork sorted for your rate transfer as well as putting your online applications through and making sure all the figures add up.
You don’t need to be there in person on settlement day, the conveyancing teams will have taken care of everything for you and finished each step along the way to make sure everything runs smoothly with applications and funding. You will have already worked closely with your conveyancer to fill in the required forms and sign off. In most cases, new homeowners are waiting in a moving van for the call to come in that the keys are available. For home sellers, you can sit back and relax and receive an alert from your conveyancer to say the funds have been transferred successfully.
After settlement your conveyancer will continue to put the paperwork through, notifying the required authorities of the change in ownership.
While all the focus might be on the settlement date and time itself, there are plenty of steps that will take place during that overall period in order to have everything completed beforehand.
Signatures will be verified and bank figures finalised in a step-by-step progression over the settlement period to make sure all the paperwork matches (to the very last cent) in order for everything to pass each section and your application to progress with the land tax officials on the day.
Luckily there are tracking systems and alerts within PEXA so every party can see where the settlement documents are at and who is currently responsible for completing the next step.
Our office has also come up with our own tracking app so you can log in and see your progress even outside of office hours to give you peace of mind and help with some of those excited nerves.
Because you’ll be working closely with your conveyancer for documents and signatures it’s important to choose someone who has great communication, value-packed packages and you feel great working alongside. A conveyancer who has your best interest at heart will help you navigate settlement and come through smiling (and popping the bubbly) come settlement day.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here, the answer is yes: A building Inspection for your commercial property, either buying or leasing, is absolutely worth it, and to be honest, I don’t know why anyone would risk running their business from a property without it.
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