Ultimate Guide To Buying Off The Plan 

 December 7, 2020

Buying off the plan has many advantages. You can benefit from large stamp duty savings giving you more time to save before you start repaying your mortgage. Not to mention you can actually have a say in the plans and make alterations to customise the apartment to suit your style. Off the plan, purchases have been a popular option for many Melbournians looking to enter, invest, or downsize their home in Melbourne. If it’s your first experience with off the plan purchasing, it can be a little confusing. This is why we are here to help debunk any mysteries to this phenomenon and uncover the benefits of this type of property purchasing. We are here to help educate you on the matter, making you more confident with your next purchase and an off the plan apartment aficionado. 

Firstly, let’s determine exactly what buying off the plan means. In simple terms buying off the plan is purchasing a property before it has been built. In Australia, it is commonly referring to apartments but can extend to units, townhouses, and full-size homes. Buying off the plan offers a more affordable and flexible option for both potential owner-occupiers and investors. 

To decide whether buying off the plan is the right purchasing decision for you, let’s take you through the fundamentals. 

Step 1: Research

Purchasing a property is one of the biggest decisions we make in life. It is a huge financial commitment so you want to make sure you are making the right decision. A great place to start is by conducting some at home research and answering a few questions. 

  1. What is your budget?
  2. What location do you desire?
  3. What features and benefits are you looking for in a property?
  4. What size apartment are you looking for?
  5. Do you entertain?
  6. What kind of lifestyle do you live?

Once you have determined the answers to these questions it will help to streamline your research process and allow you to know which kind of development is realistically suited for your lifestyle and needs. 


Start with your budget, you should decide what you can and can’t afford, inclusive of stamp duty costs. If you’re a first time buyer a great place to start is to speak to a mortgage broker or even get some advice from your bank, to determine what mortgage repayments you realistically can afford. If you are investing determine, how much, if any, the difference you will have to pay between the loan and incurred rent. You will also need to factor into the purchase; body corporate fees, any real estate agency fees and contingency money for property maintenance. 


Once you have determined a budget the next step is to decide where you want to buy!

In terms of location, location is everything. It is important to work out what your priorities are. You may love an area but it may not be within your budget, or it may not be a realistic option, as it may not have access to amenities or transportation which is pertinent to your lifestyle. 

If the property is for investing, to maximise your rental returns, purchase a property in a high demand area with close proximity to public transportation, shops, amenities and eateries, as this is a major drawcard for many tenants. Furthermore, consider locations near educational institutions such as universities, zoned secondary colleges and many public and private primary and secondary schools. If educational institutions are a high priority, you should check out the Cornus La Frank project, which is a 10-minute walk to Deakin and within the Mount Waverley Secondary School zone. 

Alternatively, if the property is a place that you intend to live in, factors to consider are your lifestyle habits. Do you need access to education, shopping or dining options? Maybe you like to visit parks, the beach or spend your time on a golf course. Another major factor to consider is transport, do you currently need to travel to get to work?  Do you rely on public transport or would you benefit from an extra car space?

After deciding on some suitable areas that are within your budget, assess the local property market. Before purchasing any off the plan property, research the current property trends and prices by researching a variety of similar apartments. By assessing their sale price, amenities, floorplans, and ongoing owners corporation fees you can compare the project you’re interested in against the current offers and determine if it’s right for you. 


The next factor for consideration is determining which kind of apartment living style suits your lifestyle. You have two major options:

  1. A large scale development. This style of living usually offers most amenities in your apartment complex such as; shared facilities, gyms and pools, grocery shopping and liquor stores, shared communal garden areas, and/or rooftop balconies. One of the major drawbacks to these facilities is that they have high owners/body corporate fees to maintain and service these amenities and communal areas. 
  2. Smaller boutique developments. These types of apartments are usually low-density bespoke apartment living, which can range from 10-100 apartments. Residents can benefit from lower body corporate fees as there are fewer shared amenities. This type of apartment living offers residents a smaller number of apartments in the building making it easier to know your neighbours and have a community vibe. Apartments commonly sell as 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms with the added advantage of space as opposed to large scale developments. 

Finally, it is essential to research who the developer of the project is.  Spend time understanding the developer, builder, and architect and any of their recently completed projects and track record. 

When looking at developers, investigate how many projects they are selling, where they have worked in the past and how long they have been in the industry. Additionally, look for a developer with experience and with a few projects currently available. 

Try to avoid small or one-off developers as they could lack experience in navigating the complexities of property development. You want to know that your developer is trustworthy, reliable, and experienced. 

Step 2:  Understand all the rebates and incentives on offer

After spending some time understanding what kind of apartment you want, the next step is to understand all of the various government and developer rebates available. 

Developer incentives and rebates

Many developers look for ways to entice buyers in the early development stages of the project. There are often rebates and incentives on offer from developers. These types of offers can range from monetary price savings such as $5,000 off or gifts such as additional car spaces. 

Government incentives

A major drawcard for purchasing property off the plan in the government incentives. You can currently take advantage of these incentives:

First Home Owner Grant 

The First Home Owner Grant is a scheme for eligible first homeowners. In Victoria, $10,000 is available through the grant when you buy your first home and $20,000 is available for regional locations. The scheme limits the maximum price of eligible new homes to $750,000. Furthermore, it must be the property’s first sale and cannot be for investment purposes or a holiday house. 

Stamp duty concessions for first home buyers

For first home buyers exemptions and concessions may be available if:

  • The property is $600,000 or less 
  • The property is $600,001 to $750,000 
  • To maintain your eligibility for the duty exemption or concession it is important to note that you must live in the property for a continuous period of 12 months, commencing within 12 months of settlement.


The Australian Governments Homebuilder Grant is a grant of up to $25,000 for eligible owner-occupiers including first home buyers. To be eligible the contract must be off the plan and signed between 4 June 2020 and 31 December 2020 with construction commencing within three months of the contractual date. 

Stamp duty

When purchasing a property in Australia it is subject to taxes commonly known as stamp duty. When buying off the plan eligible buyers can apply for exemptions and concessions. 

50% Off Stamp Duty In Victoria

A new and exciting stamp duty discount has just been issued in Victoria, which came into effect on November 25th. The cost of stamp duty will be cut by up to 50% for new or off the plan projects worth under $1 million until June 30, 2021. 

Step 3: Purchasing 

When purchasing off the plan you are only required to put down a deposit of no more than 10% of the contract price. With property prices rising, buying off the plan could mean that the value of your property could increase before it is even completed. Potentially resulting in a profit for you before receiving the keys.

If you make the decision to buy off the plan, ask your developer for:

  1. A project competition eta 
  2. Project updates
  3. A commencement date 

By receiving this information you can plan what furniture you want to purchase and save more money, as you won’t be paying any interest on your loan. Buying off the plan can give you the ability to move into a newly built home and provide opportunities for input into the property’s design. Cornus offers purchasers the opportunity to customise the plans and turn their home into their own. With the opportunity to customise colours, finishes, and floor plan options. The earlier in the development stage you choose to purchase, the easier it may be to personalise the property to your preferences. 

Risks Associated With Buying Off The Plan 

What if the developers go bust?

There is a risk that the builder or the developer will go bankrupt and the property will not be completed, this is uncommon but not an impossible risk. Developers do go bust, however, by doing background research and selecting a developer with experience and a variety of projects available, you should have confidence in the reliability of their projects. Developers like Cornus have a good reputation, earned through experience, reliability, and the range of high quality completed projects. 

How will I know what I am buying without seeing the property in its completed form?

When buying off the plan there is a risk that when built, the property may not meet your expectations. This is why research is imperative. It’s important to know what to look for to assist in visualising the completed project. Be sure to look at all the information available to you when you are purchasing off the plan. Download plans and renders, and book a meeting with a sales consultant. Make sure to visit a display suite and look at recently completed properties by the same developers. You can also ask to view any completed interiors of their projects to assure that what they sell is what they say. Don’t be afraid to ask about visiting existing completed projects, visit the display suites, and look at reviews and comments online. There are many advantages to buying off the plan, remember the key to purchasing with confidence is research. Maximise on the incentives available to you and find the property that fits your needs. 

If you have any further questions fill in the query form below. 

Don’t forget to check out our current projects in Malvern East, Burwood, and a soon to be released, Carnegie. 

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