This guide is designed to help you understand what happens near completion of your new home, often referred to as ‘settlement’.
The period between signing a contract for your home and it being ready to move in is full of anticipation. This guide is designed to help you understand what happens at the end, near to completion. Many people refer to this as the settlement process, but there are a number of different steps in the lead up to and as part of settlement. This guide will go through those various stages, what you can expect and what will be required from you as settlement approaches.
Timing is hard to predict as there are many factors at play in the construction and completion of new buildings which are out of our control. We will do our utmost to keep you updated throughout the process.
What is settlement?
Property settlement is a legal process that is facilitated by your legal and financial representatives and those of the seller (also known as the vendor). It’s when ownership passes from the seller to you, and you pay the balance of the sale price.
What is practical completion?
Once the building work is complete (or substantially complete as explained below) then ‘practical completion’ has been reached. Practical completion does not require all of the building work to be finished to a point that builders or contractors do not need to come back. Rather, it is when the building work has reached a stage where the home can be used or occupied.
What are defects?
Defective work is work that does not comply with the construction contract. Some examples may include realigning a lighting fixture, rectifying misaligned joinery or removing a stain. Some of these will be identified by the builder, e.g. something they are aware they need to complete or fix but does not make your home uninhabitable. Others may be identified by you during the so-called pre-settlement inspection. These will be recorded in an inspection report. Once this report is signed off by yourself and the builder, the defective or incomplete work should be fixed within a reasonable time.
Around the time the building is nearing completion, the development managers of your building, in conjunction with the builder, apply for a ‘certificate of occupancy’ from the building surveyor and lodge the ‘plan of subdivision’ with the Victorian Land Titles Office. This is when the building is legally converted from one lot into multiple lots, i.e. your and everyone else’s individual apartments. It can take up to ten business days from when the subdivision is lodged and when it is cleared. This is one of those factors which makes the exact date of settlement difficult to predict.
The date of settlement will be notified to you by Nightingale, as per your contract of sale, which is a 14 or 21-day period.
A formal notification of this date being set will go to your solicitor or conveyancer. They are effectively your agent for the settlement process. We will also communicate with you directly, letting you know that your home is almost ready to move into! This is the first date we can give you with absolute certainty — this is typically when people will give notice if they are renting, or start to look into scheduling moving assistance. Please do not schedule your move for the day of settlement. While you will get the keys that day, it may not happen until the close of business, and you will need to book your move in time.
We will share with you a move-in guide as settlement approaches. This will detail how the move-in process will be coordinated. As you can imagine, having many residents all moving in at the same time would be logistically chaotic. The move-in guide will explain the details of how the owners corporation manager will coordinate this process, including how you can book your move-in time.
Once the settlement date is set, you will be invited to undertake a pre-settlement inspection. This is your opportunity to walk through your apartment and check the final build matches up with the contract of sale. It is also your opportunity to measure up for any appliances or furniture you are planning to place, so we recommend you bring a measuring tape. Sometimes the inspection time flies by and as we have allocated an hour maximum for each apartment, it’s helpful to bring a second person to be a second set of eyes.
During this inspection, there still may be minor aspects of the apartment that are unfinished. Anything the builder is aware of will already be noted down in their defect logging system. This is your opportunity to raise anything the builder may have overlooked. Please note that sometimes a final product may differ from your expectations, but it may not mean it is defective. It is helpful to attend your inspection with a good understanding of what details are specified in the contract of sale as this is the reference point for whether an item is considered defective or not. After the inspection, the defects you raise will be noted in an inspection report which will be shared back with you.
On the settlement day, the exchange of documents and funds happens electronically. The transfer of land and mortgage is lodged digitally with the relevant government agency. Your lender will register a mortgage against the title of your new property and provide the funds for the balance of the purchase price.
For your legal representative to proceed with electronic conveyancing, you will be asked to complete a client authorisation form. This gives authority for documents to be signed and lodged on your behalf, including transfer documents ensuring all third party rights are removed, and there is clear title. There is no requirement for you to be physically in the room for settlement as it all happens electronically.
As a buyer, you need to ensure you have enough funds available on the day to pay all the settlement costs down to the very last cent. Before settlement, your legal representative will provide you with a breakdown of these costs — usually known as a ‘settlement adjustment statement’. Bank fees, stamp duty concessions or government rebates like the First Home Owner Grant can all affect the size of the final bill.
You might also need to pay for any property-related costs we, as the seller, have paid in advance: council rates, body corporate, water, utilities. We will provide you with a summary of those costs as early as possible, but no later than five business days before the settlement date.
When both the lodgement of documents and the transfer of funds are complete, you will be able to collect your keys. Closer to the date of settlement we will be in touch about scheduling a handover of keys and the owners manual for your new home.
Your first point of contact for clarification of the settlement process are the professionals you have engaged to assist with your settlement, including your conveyancer or solicitor and your mortgage broker or mortgage specialist at your bank.
If you have any questions for us, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to welcoming you to your new homes!
Disclaimer: This document has been produced by Nightingale Housing as a guide for Nightingale purchasers. The information provided is subject to change. It is not financial or legal advice and is not intended to replace the services or advice provided by solicitors, conveyancers, lenders, mortgage brokers, or other professionals.