Buyers: what you need to know before you purchase

The Real Estate Agent’s responsibility is to the seller, not the buyer

An agent’s responsibility is to the seller, but they are obliged to act responsibly and ethically when dealing with both buyers and sellers.

You can expect an estate agent to:

  • take your details and provide advice about relevant properties for sale
  • answer questions about listed properties
  • arrange inspections
  • provide a copy of the Section 32 statement (also known as a vendor’s statement)
  • communicate genuine offers to the seller
  • organise the signing of the contract.

Section 32 statement

This is also known as the vendor’s statement. Before a property is sold, the seller is required to provide the buyer with a Section 32 statement. 

This document is called a Section 32 statement because the information the seller must provide is outlined in section 32 of the Sale of Land Act 1962

The Section 32 statement is:

  • usually prepared by the seller’s legal practitioner or conveyancer
  • signed by the seller
  • attached to the contract of sale
  • made available to prospective buyers along with the contract of sale, usually by the estate agent and before the sale or auction.

It is a legal document and must be factually accurate and complete. If it contains incorrect or insufficient information, a buyer may be able to withdraw from the sale or take legal action. 

The Section 32 statement contains information about the property’s title, including:

  • mortgages
  • covenants
  • easements
  • zoning
  • outgoings (for example, rates)
  • declaration if located in a bushfire-prone area.

It does not include any information about:

  • the condition of buildings
  • whether they comply with building regulations
  • the accuracy of measurements on the title.

It is your responsibility to get any information that does not legally have to be included in the Section 32 statement.

Section 32 statements are sometimes prepared up to 12 months before the sale of the property, so buyers should either:

  • ask for a new certificate before settlement, or
  • make a time to inspect the owners corporation register and records.

We strongly recommend you send us a copy of the Section 32 statement for review before you sign any documents.

Contract of sale

A prospective buyer makes an offer to buy a property by signing a contract of sale. The offer is accepted when the seller signs the contract. A property is sold when both buyer and seller have signed the contract of sale. 

The contract of sale contains: 

  • details of the property
  • names of the seller and buyer
  • details of the seller’s estate agent, if they have one
  • details of the seller’s and buyer’s legal practitioner or conveyancer, if they have one
  • the price
  • the deposit
  • the balance owing at settlement
  • any special conditions such as ‘subject to finance’.

The contract must clearly specify whether the sale price includes or excludes the goods and services tax (GST) and, if it is included, how the amount will be calculated.

Generally, the GST only applies to the purchase of new homes. It does not apply to established homes unless the seller is registered for GST.

You can check a seller’s GST status on the Australian Business Register.