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How to re-sell your off plan property prior to settlement

August 23, 2019

Sometimes circumstances change. You might have put down your initial deposit with every intention of moving into your new off plan apartment. But then perhaps you got an overseas job offer that was too good to refuse. Or you found out you were going to become a parent and want to trade that inner-city pad for a place in the suburbs.

If you’re still waiting for settlement, this presents a unique problem. You’re selling a property that doesn’t yet exist. And if the developer is still selling units in the development, you have a lot of competition.

However, all is not lost. Marketed correctly, your re-sale could prove very popular and you could come out even—perhaps ahead!

We have decades of experience selling off plan so there’s no one better places to guide you through what needs to happen to make your re-sale go smoothly and point out potential pitfalls.

Smart strategy for re-selling before settlement

The formula for a successful re-sale is simple

Time + marketing = successful sale

Time

Sometimes circumstances change suddenly. In most cases, however, you’ll have a good idea whether you can settle six months from expected completion date.

The longer you give yourself to resell the property, the better. As the development isn't finished, you can’t style the unit or conduct open inspections. That means that finding the right buyer might take longer.

If possible, we recommend that you allow up to six months for the re-sale so that it can happen before settlement.

Marketing

If you bought your off plan property early in the development process, chances are that you snagged one of the more desirable units. Unsurprisingly, units with a great view, higher floor level or corner position usually sell first. In fact, the developer often offers a few of these premium offerings at lower prices when the development commences. It piques buyer interest and gets some cash flow rolling into the development.

That means that when you come to re-sell, you might just be offering something special.

Independent agents are all too familiar with the following scenario: A development is a few months from completion, and a would-be buyer comes into the office. They were reluctant to put down a deposit back when the building was just a twinkle in the developer’s eye. Now that it’s a tangible building, they want in. Of course by now, the more desirable units are long gone. The stock that is left has been on the market for well over a year.

That’s where your re-sale comes in. The agent can offer them something that they wouldn’t otherwise get from the developer. It can be marketed as a unit that was snapped up the first time around and the buyer would otherwise have no chance to buy. Best of all, they don't have to wait two years to move in!

From the buyer’s point of view, a desirable re-sale offers the best of both worlds. They don’t have to wait two years for the settlement to be completed. There's little to no risk that the development won’t go ahead. Yet they’re not stuck with the units nobody else wanted.

What are you selling when you re-sell an off plan property?

First of all, it's important to understand what you’re selling. Because you haven’t yet settled, you don't have the title to the property. What you're selling is instead a promise to immediately sell the property on. Your contract with the developer remains in place through the process. You’ll settle with the developer and then immediately afterwards, settle with the new buyer.

In practical terms, this doesn't make a difference. As long as your contract is unconditional, you can legally resell the property.

There is an exception to this.

Some developers expressly disallow re-sales prior to settlement. This is so that they don't have to compete with you while selling the remaining units. If you haven’t yet signed a contract, look out for re-sale conditions in the fine print. If you’re not sure whether you can or can’t re-sell, it's a good idea to get some legal advice before to clarify this before you sign the contract.

If there is no restriction on re-sale, you proceed as you would with any other real estate transaction.

The new buyer and you exchange contracts on the same basis as your original contract. The terms and conditions stay the same, as - of course - does the time frame.

The only difference is that you might sell for more or less money than you agreed to pay as a buyer. If you sell for more, you keep the difference. If you sell for less, you are still obliged to pay the initial amount to the developer and will therefore make a small loss.

What costs should you consider?

If you’re considering this course of action, it's important to run the numbers. There's no way around it: you will incur some costs if you re-sell.

Stamp Duty

It may not feel like you’re ever the owner of the off plan property in question. The law, however, says otherwise. You’re taking ownership of it from the developer, even if you’re only the owner for about half an hour. This means that you still have to pay stamp duty on the purchase.

Commission

The developer will not market the property for you, so you will need to use a real estate agent. You’ll have to cover their commission and any marketing costs involved. Some real estate agents specialise in off plan properties and will have come across your scenario before. Don't be afraid to ask for advice.

Capital Gains Tax

If you make a profit by re-selling, capital gains tax (CGT) is payable on that profit at your current marginal rate. Check with your accountant to find out how that will play out if you’re not sure.

The good news is that developers generally don't charge a penalty for re-selling an off plan property.

If you’re coming to Independent for help with a re-sale, we’ll take those costs into consideration when discussing sale price with you. As a rough guide, if you bought a unit for $400,000, you’d need to achieve a re-sale price of $425,000 to break even.

Other considerations

You’ve signed a contract with the new buyer, but your contract with the developer remains in place. That means that if the new buyer pulls out, you’re still obliged to settle with the developer.

If you’re thinking of re-selling your off plan property before settlement, talk to an Independent agent. We’ll go through the process with you and help you develop a smart marketing strategy to get the price you need.