10 Tips for Making an Offer on an Australian Property as an Expat
So, you’ve explored everything the Australian housing market has to offer, found the perfect property, and you’re ready for making an offer on a house. How do you secure your dream home against the competition while not paying more than you need to? Will being an expat affect your position?
Don’t worry; this guide will explain everything you need to know about making an offer on a house. Plus, pay attention to our tips to improve your bargaining power and negotiation skills.
What Does Making an Offer on a House Mean?
Making an offer is an exciting part of the buying process. Essentially, prospective buyers offer a purchase price to the seller. If the seller agrees, then the property transfers ownership (of course, the process is a little more complex, but this moment sets it all in motion).
In Australia, house sales are made by private treaty, meaning that the vendor sets the asking price. However, prospective buyers might choose to offer a lower price. Alternatively, they might offer more than the asking price in high-demand areas.
Making a formal offer should be submitted in writing to the real estate agent, who will inform the seller. While you can make a verbal offer, a written offer holds more weight – the seller is more likely to value you as a serious buyer. The form of the offer depends on the vendor’s preference. It could be an email, signed document, or a signed contract.
What Do I Need for an Offer?
A written offer in on a house needs the following:
- Names and addresses of the vendor and buyer
- The offered purchase price and property address
- The settlement date
- Details of the deposit
- Any inclusions you wish to purchase with the house, such as large fixtures and white goods
- Conditions of sale, such as building inspections
- Any additional contract clauses, such as subject to finance
Before making your offer, it’s sensible to seek conditional approval on a home loan and get professional advice.
Get a free Australian mortgage assessment today.
How to Make an Offer on a Property in Australia as an Expat
While you’re living overseas, making an offer on a property in Australia as an expat isn’t as challenging as it might seem. Make sure you get a team of professionals to assist you and follow our top tips to secure your dream home.
1. Get Finance Approved
Firstly, you need to sort out your home loan. It’s never too early to apply for pre-approval on a home loan.
Not only will conditional approval on a loan amount help you house hunt the property market, but it will also make you look like a serious buyer. To get a home loan as an expat, speak to a mortgage broker. Expats are eligible for the same home loans as Australian citizens. However, your borrowing power may not be as great.
To improve your chances of securing the best deal, save a 20% deposit, organise your financial documents, and ensure your credit score looks good. Lenders assess your financial situation by looking at your net income, previous debts, and genuine savings. They’re more likely to offer you better rates if you meet their eligibility criteria.
As an expat, you may need to deal with specialist lenders. Many banks in Australia don’t offer home loans to expat home buyers anymore.
Remember that conditional approval is not a guarantee that you will get the loan, so beware of making an unconditional offer on a property.
2. Get Legal Advice
Having a legal advisor at your side is essential. The buying process involves many contracts, legal terms, and negotiations. If you have an expert solicitor or conveyancer at your side, you’ll be in a stronger position to purchase your property.
You can find lawyers that specialise in expats by looking online. It’s best to enlist an expert in your situation to save you time and money. Your solicitor or conveyancer will read through your contract and help you make your offer.
Top tip: you want to find a conveyancer who will efficiently read through your contracts. If they don’t complete the work in a timely manner, you could miss out on the opportunity to make an offer.
3. Enlist a Buyer's Agent
If it’s easy for you to get to Australia, attending the first open inspection is a good idea. It shows interest, and you might even get a chance to make an offer if there aren’t many other buyers. While you’re there, ask the vendor for further information about the property.
Of course, if you’re an expat, popping over to Australia to view a property isn’t easy. Unless you have the time and can get temporary accommodation, it’s likely unfeasible.
However, all is not lost. Aussies living overseas manage their house-hunting by enlisting a buyer’s agent. Unlike real estate agents, they work solely in your best interests. They’ll save you time, negotiate with vendors, and secure you the property you want.
Of course, buyer’s agents are an added cost. But, it’s worth it if you’re living overseas.
4. Research Similar Properties
Once you have found a house you like, you need to look at similar properties on the market to know if your offer is reasonable. Just because the seller sets a specific price, it doesn’t mean it’s the actual property value.
To determine what the property is worth, you need to compare it with houses of a similar size, sold within the last six months, with similar features. Compare like for like. For example, don’t compare a five-bed with a two bed.
The best way to do this is to search your postcode online. Take an average of similar properties. If the seller’s asking price falls within this ballpark, then you can accept it’s relatively reasonable.
Remember that the bank conducts a professional valuation to ensure the property is worth the loan amount. If your offered purchase price is higher than the bank’s valuation, they may not loan you the whole amount.
5. Decide on Offer and Conditions
While you might want to put forward your highest price to get an edge over the other buyers, that’s not always the best course of action. A sensible offer is a mix of price and conditions attached to the sale contract. In the eyes of the vendor, fewer conditions are better. However, don’t disregard them just to beat other potential buyers.
You should consider various conditions:
- Subject to finance
- Building and pest inspections
- Settlement terms
- Cooling-off period
The conditions are to protect the home buyer in a legally binding contract. Carefully consider your personal objectives and financial situation before waiving.
If you decide to waive all conditions attached, this is called an unconditional offer.
Remember that the vendor isn’t expecting to receive a range of high price unconditional offers – all other potential buyers will have a similar mix of price and conditions.
Get a free Australian mortgage assessment today.
6. Put in an Early Offer
Time is of the essence in house buying. If you or your buyer’s agent attend the open inspection and find little other interest, the temptation might be to wait until the seller becomes desperate and lowers their price. However, this strategy allows other buyers to find the property and make an offer.
The best way to secure the property is to make your best offer early – don’t wait for auction day. Ask the seller for a quick answer. This is a fantastic way to begin negotiations. If the vendor takes too long to get back to you with an answer or counter offer, it’s okay to put a little pressure on them.
7. Offer Your Best Price
You might want to go as low as possible when making your early offer. Most of us who make a pre-auction offer do so to beat the competition and get a good deal. However, lowball offers in a private sale are rarely successful.
While you don’t want to pay more than the property is worth, offering a low price might suggest to the vendor you’re not serious and damage your future negotiations.
Try to be upfront and genuine with the seller. After all, if it’s a home you love, then you shouldn’t shy away from paying slightly more. Who knows when you’ll find another property like it.
8. Pay the Deposit
Depending on which state you’re buying in, you might have to pay a holding deposit to make a formal offer. The deposit usually is around 10% of the property price. The real estate agent holds it in a trust account.
However, this isn’t a guarantee that the property is yours. If the vendor rejects your offer, they will return the deposit. Additionally, the real estate agent must tell you if another home buyer puts in a bid after you.
9. Get a Response From the Vendor
Now you sit and wait for the reply. If the vendor accepts your offer, you’ll have until the agreed settlement date to carry out any of the conditions in the contract. This should be enough time to organise your home loan and any inspections.
If the financial institution doesn’t formally approve your home loan application, you can withdraw from the current property with the subject to finance clause. However, if you waived this clause and cannot secure finance, you may be legally bound to buy the house anyway.
On the other hand, if the property fails the building and pest inspections, you can opt out of the purchase. However, you may choose to go ahead with the deal and lower your formal offer to account for the cost of repairs.
10. Sign the Contract
Now it’s time to sign the contract and make the house purchase official. Once the vendor signs the agreement, the house is yours.
How Do I Make My Offer Stand Out?
Here are our tips for ensuring your offer stands out against the competition:
- Do your research: if you offer lower than the seller’s price, ensure you can justify why in negotiations.
- Find a good real estate agent: working with someone who can communicate well between the buyer and seller is valuable.
- Get pre-approved finance: it’s never too early to approach the bank for pre-approval. Real estate agents and vendors will take you more seriously if your financial situation is sorted.
- Talk to the seller: house buying doesn’t have to be completely formal. Tell the seller what you like about the property and why it suits your personal circumstances. You’ll be surprised by how much sway this has.
How Do I Negotiate Buying a House?
Negotiations can be intimidating, especially when demand is high and supply is low. However, it’s a vital step if you want a property you can afford. Use the following guide to help you negotiate the right price.
- Have your deposit ready.
- Know your limits before entering negotiations.
- Research similar homes within a 1km radius – use your knowledge to justify your offer.
- If buying at auction, attend others to understand the auction process ahead of time.
Get a free Australian mortgage assessment today.
Can I Withdraw an Offer on a House?
Formal offers are not legally binding contracts. You have a few chances to withdraw from the sale before it becomes official. For whatever reason, you can revoke your offer with written notice to the real estate agent before the seller accepts.
If you decide to withdraw your offer, do it as soon as possible. It’s a lot harder to get out of the sale after the offer is accepted.
That said, don’t worry if you miss your chance. Most states have a cooling-off period.
The Cooling-off Period
The cooling-off period is obligatory in most states (except Western Australia and Tasmania). With this, you can pull out of the sale without offering any evidence for your choice. You won’t face any legal or financial retribution. Although, you may need to pay a small amount to the seller, usually around 0.2 – 0.25% of the property value. The period differs in each state.
- ACT: five business days
- Northern Territory: four business days
- New South Wales: five business days
- Queensland: five business days
- South Australia: two business days
- Victoria: three business days
It typically starts on the day the seller signs the contract and ends at 17:00 on the last business day. Buyers can negotiate more extended cooling-off time frames if they wish. However, the vendor might be less amenable.
Moreover, you can waive the period if you choose. However, this comes with the risk of being stuck in a property sale you don’t want.
Time moves fast when you make an offer on a property. Within the space of a few days, you may have found your dream home, made an offer, and signed the contract. It might feel like there isn’t enough time to think things over. That’s why it’s best to prepare yourself for the property search.
Ensure you get pre-approval on a home loan, research the market, and get yourself a team of professionals.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Rules for Making an Offer on a House?
To make an offer on a property, you need to give a written offer. Verbal offers aren’t taken as seriously. Make sure you know your limit and conditions attached. Go in with your best offer but be prepared to negotiate.
What Is an Acceptable Offer on a House?
The seller’s asking price isn’t necessarily the property’s actual value. Research other recently sold homes in the area to determine how much you should offer. Remember not to go too high or too low. If you offer significantly lower than the seller’s price, make sure you have reasonable justifications for your offer.
How Do You Make a Strong Offer on a House?
Getting pre-approval on your home loan will put you in a stronger position to purchase a property. With knowledge of your budget, you can enter negotiations more confidently. Your offer should be a mix of high price and conditions, but don’t go with your highest price first.
What Shouldn't You Do When Making an Offer on a House?
Don’t make a lowball offer. A lowball offer is less than the property’s worth. While you want to save as much money as possible, offering too little may indicate you’re not a serious buyer and sabotage your later negotiations. Plus, it’s a waste of time for you and the seller.
How Much Should You Offer Over Asking Price?
You shouldn’t offer more than the asking price unless it’s a very competitive property. If you think you might need to offer more than the seller wants, seek professional advice.
Remember that the bank will conduct a property valuation and only lend you the property’s worth. If you offer more, you might need to make up the shortfall out of your funds.
How Do You Make an Offer on an Overpriced House?
You need to research whether the property is overpriced. Look at other properties in the area – if their selling prices are vastly different, bring this to the negotiation table.