An exciting journey 

If you’re a first time home buyer, buying a home is likely to be the biggest single purchase you’ve ever made. It’s a big deal and can be stressful and overwhelming. Knowing what’s involved in the process, will make you feel confident as you move through the motions from inspecting properties to signing a contract and receiving the keys. 

You’ve found the one, now what?

When you’ve found a home for sale you’re ready to make an offer on, it's time to review the contract of sale. The person selling the property must have a contract of sale prepared and available for inspection for potential buyers. You’ll possibly find a few copies of these on the kitchen bench or other obvious places within the property. If none are readily available, ask the real estate agent for a copy. Once you obtain a copy, take it to your solicitor. They'll review it closely with you before signing to ensure it’s acceptable. Next we’ll talk about making an offer. Keep in mind that having pre-approval for a home loan is ideal before making offers, to ensure you know exactly how much you can afford to borrow. You'll be able to make a realistic offer on the property. Pre-approval also streamlines the process of finalising your finance before making an offer.

Making an offer

Once your solicitor gives you the go ahead that everything in the contract looks OK, you’re now ready to put an offer in writing to the real estate agent or seller. An email to the real estate agent will usually suffice. Your offer should include how much you’re willing to pay and any conditions to the sale such as inclusions, repairs, deposit amount or timeframe for moving in. Ask your solicitor to help you prepare your written offer so you don’t miss any important details.

Let the negotiations begin

If your first offer is accepted straight away congratulations! However, the seller may also enter into negotiations with you over price. Keep in mind that the seller is also free to take written offers from other potential buyers and can even exchange contracts with them. Paying a small deposit as an expression of interest lets the seller and real estate agent know you’re serious. If your offer is not accepted and you’ve paid a holding deposit, this will be refunded.

Exchange and signing of contracts

Once the sale price has been agreed, you’ll sign the contracts and your solicitor will facilitate the exchange. At this point you’ll need to pay the full deposit which is usually 5-10% of the purchase price. From the date the contract is exchanged, you become the owner of the property. Now is the time to consider getting it insured. Check out our information on home and contents insurance.

What you need to know about the cooling off period

When you buy a residential property in NSW, you have five business days called the cooling-off period after you exchange contracts. During this period, you may get out of the contract and withdraw from the sale as long as you give written notice. The cooling-off period starts as soon as you exchange and ends at 5pm on the fifth business day after exchange. Keep in mind that if you do withdraw during the cooling off period, you’ll have to pay the seller 0.25% of the purchase price. These five days can be a good time to check the condition of the property and, if necessary, arrange pest and building inspections.

*Take note: the cooling-off period does not apply if you buy a property at auction or exchange contracts on the same day as the auction after it is passed in.


Settlement usually takes place about 6 weeks after contracts are exchanged (although a longer or shorter settlement period can be negotiated with the seller). This is when you pay the rest of the sale price and stamp duty using your home loan and become the legal owner of the property. Your solicitor and lender will work together to keep you informed about settlement and when you’ll need to start making loan repayments. It's a good idea to inspect the property one last time on the morning of settlement day, to ensure it is in the same condition as when contracts were exchanged. After settlement, you’ll receive the keys and you’ll be able to move in! Happy days!

Get in touch with the friendly team at Horizon Bank to discuss your home buying options.

Horizon Bank has a branch network spanning the NSW South Coast and Illawarra. Horizon Bank branch locations: Albion Park, Bega, Bermagui, Berry, Merimbula, Moruya, Nowra, Thirroul, Ulladulla & Wollongong.

The content in this article has been prepared by Horizon Bank for general information only and it is not intended to be professional advice. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should seek your own legal, accounting, financial or other professional advice where appropriate, and consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and Terms and Conditions before deciding whether to acquire any products or services offered by Horizon Bank and/or its affiliated partners. We do not recommend any third party products or services referred to in this article unless otherwise stated and we are not liable in relation to them. Any links to third party websites are for your information and we do not endorse any content on those sites. Horizon Credit Union Ltd ABN 66 087 650 173 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence Number 240573 trading as Horizon Bank.