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I don’t understand the contract of sale. Help? 🏠 FIRST HOME QUESTIONS 🤷‍♀

November 14, 2020

Hey Samara,

I’m glad you said you know you have to read your contract, because just quietly, I think a lot of people don’t. It’s a bit like those pages and pages of fine print you get when you sign up for Facebook or Netflix. You just skim it, click the ‘I agree’ button and hope you haven’t literally agreed to sell your first-born child.

Please don’t do that with the contract of sale. It has real life consequences. Well, so do the Facebook terms and conditions. I mean, I assume they do. I haven’t read them.

  1. Don’t be put off by the legalese. Take it step by step and it’ll make sense.
  2. It’s literally your solicitor’s job to explain it to you so that you understand what you’re signing

But because I know you, and there’s no way you’re going to wait until you meet your solicitor before you go through it, let me help.

Andrew Potts, Licensed Agent & Auctioneer
Andrew Potts, Licensed Agent & Auctioneer

A standard contract includes:

Particulars

This is a fancy word for the details of the sale. The first part of the contract lists:

  • Your name and the name of the seller
  • The details of the agent and the solicitor or conveyancer
  • The address of the property
  • The certificate of title for the land (this will include volume, folio, lot and plan).

Check that they’re correct. You don’t want to end up accidentally buying the place next door.

Inclusions and exclusions

This details what’s included in the sale. The kitchen is obviously part of the sale, but what about the dishwasher? If there’s a pizza oven in the back garden, will that be staying? It might also specifically exclude something that you’d otherwise expect to stay, like a designer light or a water fountain.

In your case, I’d be making sure that greenhouse is included (although it looks like a permanent structure so you shouldn’t NEED to include it, but it can’t hurt to).

Purchase price

This sets out the amount you’ve agreed to pay. It also specifies the amount you’ve agreed to pay as a deposit, any monies already paid (i.e., as a holding deposit) and the date that it’s due. This latter might be an actual date, or it might say ‘on exchange’.

Settlement date

This sets the date on which ownership is transferred to you. You’ll need to come up with the balance of the purchase price by this date, so make sure you’ve given yourself long enough to get your loan sorted and take care of the paperwork.

Special conditions

This is the longest part, and arguably the trickiest. The standard contract has a number of special conditions, which you can cross out if they don’t apply to you. There’s also space to write in your own conditions if you need to.

Special conditions might cover things like:

Subject to lease. If the property is tenanted, you will either need to take over the lease on settlement or notify the seller that you require vacant possession. Details of the lease should be set out in the contract.

Subject to sale. If you’re selling a property as well as buying, you might want to include a clause that says you’re only willing to buy the home if you can sell the other one.

Subject to finance. This is more common in parts of the country where you don’t get unconditional approval before exchange. It says that you’ll only settle if you can get your loan approved.

Still overwhelmed? Don’t be. This is why it’s a good idea to appoint a solicitor as soon as your offer is accepted.

They’ll go through the contract with you and help you understand it. You don’t need to know the definition of every word. They’ll tell you what each paragraph means in real speak. They’ll also suggest any special conditions you might want included and negotiate with the seller to get their agreement. And the reason you want a conveyancing solicitor is because they’ll have gone through enough of these contracts that they’ll be able to spot something unusual in a heartbeat.

Mate, congrats on the purchase. Very excited for you.

TAKEAWAYS
  • It’s important to read and understand the contract of sale
    Take it step by step and check that it’s accurate
    Appoint a solicitor early so they can go through it with you and make any changes you need.
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