Offers on a property aren’t just about price. Sellers also look at the conditions.
So what conditions should you be adding to your offer when you’re buying a property?
If you ask most agents this question, the answer will be none! Just make it cash unconditional and show us the money!
Jokes aside, the conditions you choose to add or leave off, your offer can make all the difference to how attractive it is to a seller.
Conditions can be anything you want them to be, but they need to be written in a way that they can be legally satisfied. It’s always best to seek advice from the agent, or an independent settlement agent, rather than attempt to write them yourself. And some of the worst written conditions I’ve seen are from lawyers, so don’t get me started on those!
The six most common conditions we see on offers are:
- Subject to finance – you need to apply for and receive finance approval from a lending institution to buy the home
- Building inspection
- Termite and timber pest inspection
- Working order clause that confirms that gas, electrical and plumbing fixtures and fittings will be in working order at settlement.
- Fixtures and fittings – what’s included in the purchase price and remaining with the property.
If your offer is accepted, you’ll be required to make a deposit within a nominated number of days of acceptance. The deposit is held in trust, you’ll get a receipt, and it will go towards the purchase of the property. Usually the selling agent will suggest a deposit amount. Too low a deposit and you don’t look serious. If you’re in competition for a property, increasing your deposit can increase the attractiveness of your offer. And if your offer is cash, it’s common practice to ask for a higher deposit. Check with the selling agent if you’re not sure what to nominate. Deposits are refunded providing the contract comes to an end for valid reasons – ie your offer is subject to finance and your application for finance is declined. If you try to terminate the contract for non-valid reasons, your deposit may be at risk and you’ll need to seek legal advice.
Subject to finance
Aside from a deposit, subject to finance is the most common condition added to contracts when purchasing. REIWA’s standard contract of offer and acceptance (O&A) requires you to indicate if an offer is subject to finance or cash – the latter meaning you’re not reliant on the bank providing approval for funds to purchase. The second page of the O&A includes a comprehensive explanation of what the subject to finance condition means and what your obligations are when you make an offer subject to this condition.
Building and termite inspections
Building and termite inspection conditions typically vary from Agency to Agency. There are standard REIWA conditions, but most agencies and settlement agents have their own version. Read what you’re given thoroughly to see what is, and isn’t, included.
There are a few things to note:
Building inspection conditions normally only cover major structural defects – any maintenance items the building inspector identifies won’t need to be rectified by the seller.
If a structural defect is found and the seller agrees to remedy the defect, the contract stays in full force and effect – you won’t be able to terminate.
The same goes for termites. If live termites are found in the main residence, the seller’s obligation is to treat those. In Perth, it’s very common to find evidence of old termite activity. If no structural damage was done, the seller isn’t required to make repairs to old termite damage.
If you’re purchasing a strata property, the seller won’t be required to rectify a structural defect if the defect isn’t part of the actual lot being sold or its on common property. The responsibility for the defect falls to the strata and the repairs will need to be pursued with the strata seperately. If in doubt, check with your selling agent and settlement agent.
There are alternative conditions, like due diligence, that allow you to undertake whatever inspections you like, to your satisfaction, on a property within an agreed number of days from acceptance. Inspections to a buyer’s satisfaction are essentially ‘get out of jail free’ cards – they’re disliked by sellers and agents alike. They open the doors for all sorts of renegotiation and I refer to them as ‘Clayton’s Offers’ – the offer you make when you’re not really making an offer. It essentially means the property is off the market for the agreed period while you decide if you’re going to buy it or not.
You can also add pool, plumbing, and electrical inspections. Each inspection adds to your purchasing costs because you as the buyer are normally paying for them.
Working order clause
Unless the property is being sold in “as is” condition, offers also usually have a standard seller warranty that gas, electrical and plumbing items will be in working order at settlement. Sometimes a seller might choose to exclude an item from this clause, such as an old alarm system that they no longer use. You have the opportunity to check the working order of warranted items at a pre-settlement inspection prior to settlement.
Smoke alarms and RCD’s must also be compliant or else the seller risks a $10,000 fine – this latter obligation is a legal one and applies to every home sold in WA.
Fixtures and fittings
Properties are usually sold with all their fixtures and fittings included, so another thing to think about is if there are any particular non-fixed items, such as non-fixed window treatments, pool equipment, dishwashers, garden ornaments or large pots, etc. that you want to stay that might also need to be included. If you’re not sure about any of these, check with the selling agent.
Sellers look for the easiest route to the result
My best advice, when it comes to conditions, is to be fair and reasonable. See if you can satisfy some of your queries BEFORE you make your offer, that way, you won’t need to add as many conditions to the contract and can negotiate with more confidence and certainty. The more conditions you add, the less attractive your offer will be. If you’re that unsure about a property – don’t buy it.
And if you’re in competition with other buyers for a property, think very hard before you start adding anything above what is generally seen as standard conditions. Sellers will choose a simpler, slightly lower offer all day every day over one with excess conditions.
With that in mind, remember you can also try to make your offer more competitive by amending your conditions. A larger deposit, quicker finance approval period or earlier settlement date might give you the edge when it comes to the seller considering and accepting an offer.
Last but not least, remember that we, as selling agents, are acting in the best interests of our sellers. Yes, we have a duty of care towards buyers, but we’re not acting on your behalf. If you want independent advice on your purchase and contract, speak to a reputable settlement agent.
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Natalie Hoye is the Founder and Licensee of Red Fox Property Group – a boutique agency doing things differently in the suburbs surrounding Beaufort Street. We call what we do ‘real estate alchemy’: a genuine blend of science and intuition, marketing and magic, head and heart. The Red Fox Way. We’d love to chat with you about your local real estate needs.