Buying Off Plan Property: The Ultimate Guide

Buying Off Plan Property: The Ultimate Guide

There are several ways to buy a home, but did you know it is possible to buy one before it has even been built? Buying off-plan is a great way to get ahead of the crowd to secure your dream home and can even save you some money, so here is everything you need to know about buying your home off-plan.

What does buying off-plan mean?

Buying off-plan means buying a property before it has been built, which might sound like a risk but comes with many potential benefits, especially at new developments in a highly competitive property market for buyers and where house prices are rising fast.

What are the benefits of buying off-plan?

As mentioned above, the main benefits of buying off-plan include the purchase price potentially being less than the value of the home when you move in. You could also get offered a discount on the purchase price, meaning that off-plan can be a great way to save money on buying a new build.

It can also end up being the difference between actually buying the home and not, especially when properties at a new development are being bought up quickly. Waiting for it to be built and ready to move in could mean missing out and needing to being your search again.

At Laurus Homes we offer our Early Bird scheme where you can reserve a plot (available on limited developments and selected plots) for a reservation fee of £250 before it has been released for sale. Before it goes on sale, you'll get 48 hours to decide to proceed with buying it or not. If you decide not to buy, you'll get the early bird reservation fee back.

Another advantage of buying off-plan can be that the developer might allow you to have extra say over the fixtures and fittings being used because they haven't been put in yet. This additional customisation could save you a lot of time and money further down the line because you could have your home exactly how you want it before you've even moved in.

What are the risks of buying off-plan?

Buying something before it even exists yet does of course come with some risks. One of the most significant of these is that while your off-plan property could rise in value between your purchase and actually taking ownership, there's also the chance that it could lose value instead.

What can seem like a safe bet at the time of sale when the market is on the up and up can seem like an overpayment six months later when the financial situation has changed. Of course, there is always a potential risk when making a big purchase like this and housing markets can rise and fall at any time, but it is an important factor to think about.

Another aspect of buying off-plan that can be a risk is that the property developer could go bust before the home is completed, which could mean not only losing the property but also potentially your deposit. Equally, if you change your mind and decide not to buy the off-plan property, you will also lose your deposit.

Questions to ask when buying off-plan

Buying a home in any circumstances is a big decision and requires research and careful consideration. This includes asking important questions at the right time. Buying a property off-plan certainly requires research and the right questions to be asked to make sure you are making the right decision and have protections in place.

One key factor needs to be the reputation of your developer, which you can find out from online reviews or social media. If they have a poor reputation and ratings, particularly when it comes to off-plan properties, clearly buying from them would be much more of a gamble.

You will also need to talk to your solicitor before you pay your deposit and exchange contracts to make sure there is insurance in place to safeguard against the developer going bust.

When talking to the developer, you should ask questions about what the development will look like at the completion date, when your property is due to be ready to move in, because if you are going to be living in a building site for a while, you need to take this into consideration and need to know what access will be like.

Getting a mortgage when buying off-plan

One issue you can face when planning to buy off-plan is that mortgages can be harder to arrange. Some mortgage lenders are more cautious about lending money for off-plan properties as they are seen as more of a risk.

Another problem can come if the estimated completion date is more than six months in the future - or if there are unexpected delays - as most mortgage agreements are only made for six months, so you may need to re-apply for your mortgage if this is the case.

However, while there are very few mortgage deals created specifically for buying property off-plan, several mortgage lenders now offer deals that last up to 12 months, so these will certainly offer more protection against any slippage in completion dates for your finished property.

As with any other kind of home, getting advice from a specialist mortgage broker is essential before making any big decisions as they will be able to recommend the right kind of mortgage lender for buying off-plan.

Can you make money "flipping" off-plan properties?

One aspect of buying off-plan that might appeal is using it as a way to play the property market and 'flipping' the property. This means taking the risk that property prices will have risen by the time the home is nearly complete and there will be demand from other buyers to pay you for your right to buy it - at a higher price than the deposit you have already paid the developer.

If this goes to plan, you could even end up doubling your money, giving you a larger deposit to put down on another home. However, it is a strategy that is very reliant on property prices going the way you hope, otherwise you stand to lose money and have to deal with a new property that you didn't intend to own.

How to buy a property off-plan; step-by-step

When you have decided to buy off-plan, the process for doing so is clear:

  1. Firstly you need to find a development that is in the right location and has the right kind of properties being built there.
  2. Talk to the developer about what options they have in terms of off-plan sales and whether there are any show homes that you can view to get a real sense of the home you would be buying.
  3. Speak to a mortgage broker about your circumstances and options and get advice on the types of mortgage lenders you could approach.
  4. If you are happy to proceed, reserve the property you want to buy off-plan and pay the reservation fee.
  5. At this stage you need to appoint a conveyancer to help with the legalities.
  6. With the help of your broker, arrange a mortgage. The lender will get the property valued - based on the plans as there is nothing physical to inspect.
  7. If your application is approved, you can now complete the paperwork, exchange contracts and pay the deposit for your new home.
  8. When the build is completed, arrange to have a snagging survey undertaken to check for any defects that need fixing before the home is handed over to you.
  9. When all of this is complete and your home is ready, you can move in and celebrate the success of having bought it off-plan.

Conclusion

Buying off-plan can be a great way to get the home of your dreams at a better price than if you waited until it had been completed, as well as helping you make sure you don't miss out on it. It is a way to buy a home that does come with some risks but also plenty of benefits. If you want to find out more about buying off-plan with Laurus Homes, get in touch with our team at the development of your choice today.

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