Buying into a Body Corporate – First Home Buyer Edition

By Abbie Riddell

I have been living in the suburbs, about 30 minutes from the Brisbane CBD, for the past 2 years. While I was close to friends and family, I really missed being in the hustle and bustle of city life. Recently it became time for my husband and I to purchase a place of our own and given the current market in Queensland, we decided buying an apartment was the right move for us and started our first home buyer journey.

Both my husband and I are dreamers, and of course this meant starting our buyers journey by looking at the $5-million-dollar penthouses on realestate.com.au. After coming to the realisation that a top floor penthouse was not the realistic option for two first home buyers, we narrowed our search results and filtered the units by cost. After a few months of searching, we found an apartment in the heart of Hamilton, 6kms for the Brisbane CBD.  

After viewing the property, we knew it was the right place for us and asked our real-estate agent what the next steps were to secure the property. We signed a contract to say that we would like to purchase the property the same day we viewed the property while we waited for the sales contract to come through just to ensure we secured the unit. After receiving the sales contract, we were required to sign within 24 hours due to the high demand of the unit.  

What was included in the sales contract?  

The main things the contract specified were: 

  • Settlement would occur 28 days from signing the contract. 
  • We had 14 days from signing the contract to get our finances approved. 
  • The cost of our body corporate levies (for maintaining the scheme and facilities etc.)
  • Who the body corporate management company for the scheme is. 

After reading the contract, the first steps we took were to contact our mortage broker and solicitor. They then provided us with some guidance for what we should do next. They advised us to wait until we had signed the contract before organising building and pest. Our mortgage broker also advised us that he would start the process for our mortgage approval once the contact had been signed.

Signing the contracts 

Once we signed the contract, we contacted our solicitor, mortgage broker and Building and Pest company. 

Our solicitor sent us the relevant forms we were required to fill out and sign. As it was our first time purchasing a property, we called her after filling out the forms to answer a few questions we had before sending them back to her for processing. 

We already had pre-approval with our mortgage broker so he started the process immediately after letting him know we had signed the contract. I would 100% recommend getting pre-approval as we did not have to submit any new information (e.g. payslips, bank statements) as the bank were happy with the ones that were send during the pre-approval process (our pre-approval had a 3-month expiry). This took away a lot of time and stress when purchasing the apartment.  

Our solicitor recommended a building and pest company as we did not have a contact lined up. The building and pest company contacted our real estate agent to organise a time to conduct the inspection as they would also need to attend for access purposes. Both my husband and I also attended on this day to ensure we could pick up on anything the building and pest company may have missed. After 24 hours of conducting the building and pest, we received the report and sent this to our solicitor so she could go back to the owner with everything we would like to be rectified.  

The waiting game 

The second week after signing the contract was a bit of a waiting game. Our Mortgage Broker informed us he was waiting to hear from the bank regarding our approval and our Solicitor was waiting to hear back from the current owner about fixing a few things that were outlined in the building and pest report. 

By the end of week 2 we had obtained our finance approval and our Solicitor advised us that the Seller had agreed to fix everything we had asked for from the building and pest report.  

Everything was tracking along well so we asked our Solicitor and Mortgage Broker if there was anything we were required to do or if there was anything they required from us. They both advised us that everything was tracking well, and they were certain there would be no complications before the settlement date.  

Settlement and moving in  

As the four weeks from making an offer to settlement drew shorter, we were starting to get really excited and also a bit overwhelmed with the amount of stuff we had to pack. As we were living in 3-bedroom town house and moving into a 2-bedroom apartment we knew not everything would fit. We made the decision to sell a lot of our furniture and buy new furniture that would better fit the space. *Top tip – check on Facebook Market Place when buying furniture. We picked up a TV cabinet for half the price we almost bought it from in store.  

The day before settlement was an exciting one. Our solicitor and mortgage broker advised us that everything was on track to settle for the agreed time of 2PM. We contacted our real estate agent to organise a meeting time after settlement to collect the keys to our apartment. All that was left to do was to wait to hear from the bank that the sale was settled.  

Getting the email to say the sale had settled and we were officially homeowners was the most exciting day of our lives. Owning our own home was something we had always dreamed of and it was now a reality. 

Last week was our move in date and we could not be happier. We live in apartment complex that has 5 towers meaning we have access to 4 pools, 4 gyms, 2 libraries, and bars, restaurants, shops and more on our doorstep. This is something we couldn’t have achieved if we stuck to our original plan of buying a house in the suburbs. We are so excited for our new lifestyle change and can’t wait to explore our new community.  

First home buyer tips and tricks 

Buying our first home was daunting, as it was something neither of us had done before. We weren’t really sure where to start and what was required of us through each stage of the buyers process. All we knew was we wanted to own our own home. If you are in a similar situation, I have put some tips below to help you secure your first home. 

  • Obtain pre-approval – Pre-approval makes potential buyers look more appealing when purchasing a property as there is less risk due to the finances being conditionally approved. This is also peace of mind for you as the buyer and ensures you know what lender you are going to use once you have secured your property. It also saved us time after we submitted an offer on our apartment as the bank already had the documentation they required.  
  • Find a solicitor before you start to view properties – When you agree to secure your property, your real-estate agent will ask for the details of your solicitor as they will include their details on the sales contract. This was something we were unaware of. We therefore recommend you find a solicitor before you start to inspect properties to purchase. A good place to start is asking friends and family who have recently purchased a property for recommendations. 
  • Find a building and pest company before you start to view properties – Although we did not do this, we wish we had. Luckily, we asked our solicitor and she recommended a great company that were very thorough and picked up on many things that we had overlooked.
  • Be open to new options – When first looking to buy a property, we automatically thought a house in the suburb would be the path we went down. The current market in Queensland quickly changed that game plan for us and we now couldn’t be happier with our purchase of a 2-bedroom unit in Hamilton, just 6kms from the CBD. 

If you have recently bought into a strata property, congratulations! Comment below your favourite part of community living. My favourite part is meeting our friendly neighbours and being within walking distance of bars, restaurants, and cafes.

*Please note, the information in this article comes from an individual experience of buying a property. Please obtain professional advice specific to your individual circumstances.

If you have bought into a scheme where SSKB is your Body Corporate Manager and you would like to contact us, click here 

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