In my recent blogs I have been exploring the excitement and practicalities of moving in together. Finding the right property that is just begging you to make it a home is such a great feeling. So is signing on the dotted line.
But what about after that? All the legal stuff and bank paperwork can be a gigantic headache. While we enjoy the fun stuff, it can be easy to overlook the huge responsibility of organising ourselves for settlement, especially when you are a first home buyer.
Settling a property is a complicated process involved legal paperwork and banks – a small hold up by any one person can impact several settlements – it starts a chain reaction of problems that can affect multiple sellers and buyers. Having a good conveyancer to manage the paperwork is crucial to a smooth settlement. Choose someone with whom you can communicate freely. If you are unsure, ask a family member or friend who has recently sold, or perhaps your real estate agent can offer a recommendation. I always know exactly who to recommend to my clients. Then all you have to do is make sure you are up-to-date with your finances and paperwork. When settlement is delayed, it is usually due to an issue with the paperwork somewhere. So make sure you sign everything straight away and that you give your conveyancer the details they need as soon as possible. That’s the best way to ensure smooth sailing come settlement time!
A buyer is entitled to a final inspection of the property within the last 7 days prior to settlement. To be fair to the seller and to the agent, give everybody plenty of notice and call in to the agency a week earlier to book this in. Now for all the buyers out there, remember that the vendor still owns the property and may also still be living there, so expect that the house will probably look quite different than when you first inspected it (think boxes everywhere!) However, this inspection gives you an opportunity to ensure the property is in the same overall condition, and that everything that the property was to be sold with is still there. Take note of unruly gardens and any damage that may have occurred in the meantime. Report these to your conveyancer as soon as possible to give them adequate time to follow up. The property must be in the same condition as it was at the time of sale. Never be afraid to speak up if you have concerns.
Once you have secured a property and a settlement date is confirmed, you may find it helpful to start preparing for any renovations, maintenance jobs or even furniture purchases that you might need to do. It doesn’t hurt to ask the agent if the vendor would allow an extra inspection for you to take some measurements or obtain some quotes from trades-people. While the vendor is not obliged to accommodate this, many will, especially if the settlement is a long one. If they are kind enough to allow an extra inspection – try to get everything you need to do done at once and be mindful of not taking too long.
There are also lots of little practicalities to take care of – like arranging connections and disconnections for internet, phone, gas and electricity etc. There are a handful of companies who will arrange this for you such as Direct Connect, or you can simply take the time to call provider yourself to ensure you walk into a house that is ready to live in. Don’t leave this until the last minute as some service providers will have a short waiting period and you don’t want to be moving into your new home without heating, cooling or cooking!
While you are making those phone calls, don’t forget your insurance! You do not want to to wait until after you are in your new home to insure it. Once you have purchased the property, your bank and/or coveyancer will recommend taking out building insurance to protect your investment.
Changing your address with Australia Post is crucial to ensure you get the mail you need. Mail redirection is available for periods of several months for a small fee – you just have to fill out some simple paperwork that you can access in your local post office. I recommend getting six months of mail redirection – you will be surprised at just how many places send you mail! It’s hard to remember them all.
During settlement week, you should also be on the ball. Contact your financial representative and conveyancer – do they have everything they need? Contact the agent and check out the process for collecting the keys. Will they meet you at the property, or at the office? If you will be working, perhaps a family member could help you out? Is the agency ok with that? Check out what time the property settles, so you know what time you may legally take possession. This may be important in terms of arranging removalists. Also remember that these times assume everything goes to plan, so it can be wise to have a back-up plan. If settlement does get held up, try to be patient. Take a deep breath and trust that the conveyancer you so carefully chose is taking care of things for you.
Last of all, pay it forward. If you have sold your property, think about the kinds of helpful things you could leave the next property owner. A folder with receipts and warranties for appliances, alarm codes and small details like the dates for rubbish collection can really make a difference. And pop the bins out! Nothing is more frustrating that a full bin and nowhere to dump your packing materials.
Finally, have a chat to the neighbours, and let them know when someone new will be moving in.
Settlement week can be one of the most stressful parts of purchasing a home if you are not properly prepared. Follow these tips for careful planning and preparation and you will find that all there is left to do is crack open the champagne!