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What comes next? Buying off plan and the phases of construction

September 30, 2019

The experience of buying off plan is different from an established property purchase. Because you're purchasing something that doesn't exist when you exchange, there’s a lot more time between exchange and settlement.

Think of your off plan purchase as the start of a journey. There are milestones along the way and important things to look out for. Some of these are stages of construction that tell you the build is on its way. Others, like the certification process, make sure that the building complies with relevant standards. Lastly there are the things you need to be involved in. These include valuation and pre-settlement.

Understanding what happens when is crucial to making sure you're prepared for each stage.


As the name suggests, this is the stage before building construction commences. During pre-construction, the developer submits a development application, obtains building approvals and then meets with the building team.

Development application

Developments in the ACT are required to go through a Development Application (DA) process in order to ensure the development meets the Planning and Development ACT 2007. The process can take between 20 - 45 working days depending on the complexity of the development. Our In-dependent project marketing team works closely with the developer to ensure that the DA is final-ised prior to putting the project on the market.

Building approval 

Once the DA is approved, the developer can obtain building approval. A development requires both DA approval and building approval before any work on the site can begin.

Pre-construction planning

Once the approvals are in place, the developer will work with the building team to outline the en-tire scope and timeline of the development construction. These can include any preliminary planning, engineering and feasibility.

Site preparation and excavation

Depending on the location, pre-existing structures may need to be demolished before excavation begins. This is when you’ll see the first visible signs of progress as the site is prepared for excavation.


Once the site has been prepared, construction can begin. This is the exciting stage! If you find yourself driving past the site every week to see what's new, nobody will blame you. Just make sure you stay off the site itself as unauthorised entry is trespassing.

You’ll encounter a lot of terminology during this stage. If you want to be able to talk about your build with confidence, check out our glossary:

Footings - Electrical and sewage lines are laid first, alongside other utilities.

Concrete Sla- Once the utility lines are down the slab can be poured.

Frames - The structural frames form the skeleton of the building. These are generally prepared before being delivered to the site and laid out according to the specific floorplan.

Top out - This means reaching the roof level of the structure.

Exterior - Once the outer brickwork or concrete is completed, the building really starts to take shape.

Rough ins - Electrical and plumbing wiring and pipes must be installed before the internal linings.

Internal linings - After the rough in is complete, the insulation will be installed into the wall and ceilings and then the plasterer will start on lining the walls and ceilings.

Waterproofing and tiling - The wet areas will be waterproofed in preparation for the tilers to start work.

Joinery -  This stage involves the carpenters installing the skirting boards, architraves, door jams and doors and kitchens.

Internals - The flooring is laid and the interior painted

Lock up - When all external doors including garage doors are on, the development is at lock up.

Finishes - Tapware, bath, mirror, vanities and other accessories are installed at this stage.

Practical completion

The development is complete and structurally sound. The construction phase is at an end. Various certified contractors, including electricians and plumbers, will come in and validate that the building meets the appropriate requirements.

Once the development reaches practical completion it will be issued a ‘certificate of completion’.

Typically at this stage, some finishing touches may still be being finalised. Although these don’t prevent the property from being lived in, the developer will generally attend to them during this period so that they are completed prior to settlement.

Final inspections and paperwork

The building may be finished and ready to live in, but there are a few final boxes to be checked before you get the keys.


This is a detailed report of a property’s market value by a certified valuer.

If you are buying the property with a home loan, your lender is required by law to conduct an official valuation as part of the approvals process. The valuer looks at comparable sales, the current market and the qualities of the property. They then provide your lender with an official opinion on how much the property would be likely to sell for.

Certificate of Occupancy

A certifier has deemed that the building is to standard and safe to be occupied.

Pre-settlement inspection

Your agent and a representative from the developer will walk you through the property. This is an exciting time as it is your first opportunity to view your new property!

Unit Plan Registration

Each property is given its own legal title. Settlement is now very close. Depending on your contract, settlement will take place either ten business days or two full weeks after the Unit Plan Registration.


Your solicitor liaises with your lender and the developer’s representatives to pay the balance of the sale funds and the title of the property is placed into your name. If you are not a cash buyer, your lender will also register a mortgage against the title at this stage. You have 14 days from when the title is transferred to pay your stamp duty and ensure that the  title is registered in your name.

Now you can collect the keys and enjoy your new property!

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