Advice when buying or selling property

Buying a home or investment property will probably be the most expensive thing you ever do.  It is important to understand what is involved in the process. Consider the following before you commit to buy.

Use a Solicitor or conveyancer

Doing your own conveyancing is risky. You can't get the same insurance available to a licensed conveyancer or solicitor.  If you make a mistake, and suffer loss as a result, you will be unable to get financial compensation.  If you use a solicitor or conveyancer and suffer loss as a result of their negligence, you may be able to take action against them.

Independent financial advice

Get your own independent financial advice about insurance, getting a mortgage and the fees you are likely to have to pay. It is illegal for real estate agents to give financial advice.

'Cooling off periods'

Be sure the property you are buying is what you want.   ‘Cooling off’ periods for residential property sales are not recognised in Tasmanian legislation.  Also, there is no legal obligation for a purchaser to disclose defects in the quality of the property for sale.  This is known as vendor disclosure.  Asking the right questions could save you money and trouble.  “Buyer beware” is the position you should take.

Qualified inspector/surveyor/architect

Some properties might have significant faults that lead to major repair costs.  Without a pre-purchase inspection, this information might be unknown to purchasers. Some contracts allow for negotiation on the price or to get out of a contract if there are substantial repairs required. A qualified building inspector, surveyor or architect will determine if there are any:

  • faults with the property; or
  • unsafe/unauthorised renovations or extensions.

Other information about the property for sale

A consumer can ask the Council if it there are any relevant records in relation to the property for sale.  A Land Information Certificate (often called a 337 Certificate) can reveal:

  • whether completion certificates have been issued for building and plumbing permits;
  • whether there is an occupancy permit for the building;
  • if there are any outstanding enforcement on the property; and
  • what the zoning of the site is.

There is a fee of around $200 for this search (Hobart City Council, November 2016).

Other searches are usually started after a contract has been signed unless legal advice recommends otherwise.

Contracts

The Tasmanian Law Society and the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania publish a standard form contract.  This type of contract is used for the majority of property sales in this state. Standard sale contracts contain limited ‘get out’ clauses.  The most common ones are conditions to get finance and building inspection clauses.

Consumer can take some simple steps  to see if there are restrictions or obligations involved when buying residential property. Make sure you read and understand all the terms, conditions and 'fine print' before you sign a contract. Keep a copy of all documents you sign.

Legal Reforms

The Tasmanian Government has supported the Law Society of Tasmania and the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania in a recent review process of the standard form contract.  Vendor disclosure and cooling off periods have been added as an option for purchasers and vendors to use in the contract for the sale of residential property. This contract will be released in early 2017.

More information and/or complaints about property agents is available from the Property Agents Board - Tasmania

Land valuers

The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) administers the Valuation of Land Act 2001.  Further information can be obtained from the Office of the Valuer-General.

The Director of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading may receive complaints against a land valuer and may investigate and determine whether or not there are grounds for disciplinary action and may:

  • prohibit the land valuer from carrying on business as a land valuer;
  • prohibit the land valuer from being employed or otherwise engaged in the business of a land valuer;
  • prohibit the land land valuer from being a director of a body corporate that is a land valuer;
  • reprimand the land valuer; and/or
  • require the land valuer to pay the reasonable costs of the hearing or any investigation conducted for the purposes of the hearing, or both.

If you are unsatisfied with the Director's decision you can lodge an appeal in the Magistrates Court (Administrative Appeals) Division within 28 days of the date of the decision.

Related information