Don't lose money in Australia

We've created a guide to help you avoid pitfalls, save time, and make the best long-term investment possible.

Understand the Contract of Sale

Last updated on 

All sources have been thoroughly verified for credibility. Furthermore, a local real estate expert has reviewed and approved the final article.

real estate Australia

Everything you need to know is included in our Australia Property Pack

When it comes to buying real estate in Australia, making sure you fully grasp the property sales contract is essential.

Indeed, not fully understanding the document you will sign can lead to financial losses, including the forfeiture of deposits, payment of penalties, unexpected costs, legal expenses, and potential poor investment decisions.

We've heard countless stories of people making costly mistakes when signing their property agreement in Australia. We want to help you avoid the same experience.

We'll give here a very brief overview regarding the property sales contract in Australia ; if you want a full checklist, please check our property pack for Australia.

What is the Contract of Sale in Australia?

In Australia, the property purchase agreement in a real estate transaction is often referred to as a "Contract of Sale."

This document is central to the property buying process and outlines the terms and conditions agreed upon by both the buyer and seller.

The Contract of Sale is indeed legally binding. Once both parties sign it, they are obligated to fulfill the terms laid out in the contract. This includes the sale price, settlement date, and any conditions that either party must meet, such as obtaining financing or conducting inspections.

For the buyer and seller, this contract acts as a guarantee. It ensures the buyer is committed to purchasing the property and obligates the seller to transfer the ownership once all conditions are met and the payment is finalized.

This mutual commitment provides security to both parties involved.

Regarding international buyers or non-residents, Australia has specific regulations. Foreigners wishing to purchase property in Australia typically need to seek approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

This process ensures that the investment aligns with Australian property laws and policies. It's essential for international buyers to be aware of this requirement, as failing to obtain FIRB approval can lead to significant penalties.

The signing of the Contract of Sale usually occurs after a verbal agreement is reached and after any pre-purchase inspections or evaluations are completed. It's a crucial step before the exchange of property can take place.

Regarding the deposit, upon signing the Contract of Sale, the buyer usually pays a deposit, which is typically around 10% of the purchase price.

However, this amount can vary and might be negotiable depending on the circumstances of the sale.

Comparing this process to other countries, there are similarities and differences.

For instance, the legal requirement for a binding contract and the payment of a deposit are common in many countries.

However, the specifics, like the requirement for FIRB approval for international buyers, are unique to Australia.

Additionally, the exact terms and conditions, the percentage of the deposit, and the timing of contract signing can vary based on local real estate laws and practices in different countries.

Get the full checklist for your due diligence in Australia

Don't repeat the same mistakes others have made before you. Make sure everything is in order before signing your sales contract.

due diligence Australia

What should be included in the property purchase agreement in Australia?

Understanding the requirements for a property purchase agreement in Australia is key to navigating the real estate transaction process.

This agreement, commonly known as the Contract of Sale, must adhere to certain legal standards and contain specific elements to be valid.

Firstly, the relevant law governing property transactions in Australia varies by state and territory.

However, a common legislative framework includes the Sale of Land Act or similar legislation depending on the jurisdiction. These laws outline the necessary components of a property purchase agreement.

A typical Contract of Sale should contain several mandatory clauses.

These include:

Mandatory Clauses Description

Identification of Parties

Full names and details of both the buyer and seller.

Property Details

A precise description of the property, including its address and any legal identifiers like the title reference.

Sale Price

The agreed-upon amount for the property.

Terms of Payment

How the payment is to be made, including details about the deposit and final payment.

Settlement Date

The date when the property will be officially transferred from the seller to the buyer.

Inclusions and Exclusions

A list of items included in the sale (like fixtures) and those that are not (personal property).

Special Conditions

Any additional terms agreed upon by both parties, like a subject to finance clause

Apart from these mandatory clauses, there are also additional clauses that can be included based on the specific needs of the transaction.

These might involve:

- Building and Pest Inspections: Conditions that the sale is subject to a satisfactory building and pest inspection.

- Early Possession: Terms allowing the buyer to take possession of the property before settlement under certain conditions.

- Sale of Existing Home: A clause stating that the purchase is contingent upon the buyer selling their current home.

Conditions or contingencies are often included in the agreement to protect both parties. These might be subject to financing, where the sale is contingent on the buyer obtaining a loan, or subject to sale, where the purchase depends on the buyer selling another property.

In terms of authentication, the Contract of Sale does not typically require notarization in Australia.

However, it must be in writing and signed by both parties to be legally binding. The role of a real estate agent is to facilitate the creation and negotiation of this contract, ensuring all legal requirements are met and that both the buyer and seller understand their obligations.

What's the signing process like?

In a real estate transaction in Australia, the signing process of the property purchase agreement, also known as the Contract of Sale, involves several key steps and requirements.

Both the buyer and the seller must sign the Contract of Sale. It's a bilateral agreement, meaning it's legally binding on both parties once signed. The buyer can be one person or multiple people, such as a couple or a group of investors. The same applies to the seller; it can be an individual, a couple, or a company.

The parties typically need to provide identification and any other documents that verify their legal right to buy or sell the property. This might include proof of financing for the buyer and property ownership documents for the seller.

Here are the signing process:

Signing Process Description


The contract is prepared, usually by the seller's agent or lawyer, and includes all terms of the sale.

Review and Negotiation

Both parties review the contract, often with their respective legal advisors, and negotiate any terms if necessary.


After finalizing the terms, both parties sign the contract. The timeline for this can vary; it might happen quickly in a competitive market or take longer if negotiations are drawn out.

With advancements in technology and changes in law, especially post-COVID, remote signing of contracts has become more common. Parties can sign digitally, without needing to be physically present in the same location.

There's no universal deadline for signing; it's subject to negotiation between the buyer and seller. However, once an offer is accepted, the signing usually occurs promptly to secure the agreement.

Once signed, the Contract of Sale remains valid until the settlement is completed, at which point the property ownership is transferred. This duration is specified in the contract and can range from 30 to 90 days typically, but it can vary.

In Australia, property transactions are registered with the relevant state or territory's land registry. This registration typically occurs after settlement and is handled by the buyer's legal representative.

Any amendments to the contract after signing require mutual consent from both parties. Such changes are rare and usually occur only if unforeseen circumstances arise.

After the contract is signed, the typical timeframe to complete all necessary paperwork and approvals (like mortgage approval, building and pest inspections, and legal checks) ranges from several weeks to a few months, depending on the settlement period and any special conditions in the contract.

Don't sign a document you don't understand

Buying a property in Australia? We have reviewed all the documents you need to know. Stay out of trouble - grab our comprehensive guide.

property purchase agreementAustralia

How is the payment handled when signing a property purchase contract in Australia?

Understanding the financial aspects of a property purchase agreement in Australia is crucial, as it involves several payments and potential tax implications.

When you sign the sales agreement, typically, you're required to pay a deposit. This is a part of the total purchase price, showing your commitment to the transaction.

The standard down payment in Australia is usually around 10% of the purchase price. However, this can vary depending on the agreement between the buyer and seller, and the type of property.

Apart from the down payment, there may be additional upfront costs. These can include legal fees, inspection costs, and application fees if you're applying for a mortgage.

However, these costs are generally separate from the down payment and are not always required at the time of signing the sales agreement.

The down payment is usually paid into a trust or escrow account, managed by the real estate agent or a legal representative, not directly to the seller. This ensures that the funds are secure until the sale is finalized.

The down payment is typically due upon signing the agreement or shortly thereafter, as stipulated in the contract. The balance of the purchase price is then paid at settlement, which is usually several weeks to months later, depending on the agreed terms.

In Australia, you may need to pay stamp duty, a tax on property transactions, which varies by state and property value. This is usually not included in the down payment and is paid closer to the settlement date.

You can negotiate the down payment amount with the seller, but it depends on the seller's willingness and the market conditions. In a competitive market, sellers might be less inclined to accept a lower deposit.

If the sale falls through, whether the down payment is refundable depends on the terms of the contract. If you have conditions, such as a financing clause or a satisfactory building inspection, and these conditions aren't met, you may be entitled to a refund.

However, if you back out of the sale without a contractual basis, you may lose your deposit.

Generally, the down payment must come from your funds, not as an additional loan. Lenders in Australia typically require proof that you have these funds available.

An attorney or real estate agent can facilitate the payment process, ensuring that all legal requirements are met and that the funds are correctly handled and transferred.

You can and should request a receipt or confirmation when you make the down payment. This serves as proof of payment and is a critical part of the transaction records.

For the buyer, apart from stamp duty, there may also be other tax implications depending on your circumstances, like capital gains tax if you sell the property in the future.

For the seller, capital gains tax can apply on the sale of the property, especially if it's not their primary residence.

What are the potentials risks and pitfalls?

You might be interested in reading our article about the common risks and pitfalls surrounding a property transaction in Australia.

In Australia, the property purchase agreement, or Contract of Sale, carries certain risks and potential pitfalls for both buyers and sellers.

Understanding these risks can help in navigating the transaction process more smoothly.

Both the buyer and seller can withdraw from the agreement under specific circumstances, which are usually outlined in the contract itself. For instance, a buyer may withdraw if certain conditions, like financing or satisfactory inspections, are not met.

In many Australian states, there is a cooling-off period for residential property sales. This period allows the buyer to reconsider their decision and back out of the contract without significant penalties.

The length of this period varies by state but is typically around 5 business days. This period usually includes working days only, excluding weekends and public holidays.

During the cooling-off period, the buyer doesn't need a specific reason to back out.

However, outside this period, withdrawing from the contract usually requires a valid reason as per the terms of the contract, like failure to secure financing or unsatisfactory property inspections.

If a buyer cannot secure financing and the contract includes a finance clause, they can typically back out of the contract. This is a common contingency in property purchase agreements in Australia.

If one party fails to fulfill their obligations as outlined in the contract, they may face legal and financial consequences. This could include forfeiture of the deposit for the buyer or potential legal action for damages by the other party.

The penalties depend on the terms of the contract and the nature of the breach. For buyers, the most common penalty is the loss of their deposit.

For sellers, it may involve compensating the buyer or facing legal action.

The process in Australia shares similarities with other countries, such as the use of a legally binding contract and contingencies like financing.

However, specifics like the cooling-off period length and the handling of deposits can vary significantly.

Potential risks include unexpected property defects discovered after purchase, changes in market conditions affecting property value, and legal disputes over contract terms. It's essential to conduct thorough due diligence and seek professional advice to mitigate these risks.

Disputes can arise over contract terms, property conditions, or fulfillment of conditions. They are not overly common but can be complex when they occur. Disputes are usually resolved through negotiation, mediation, or, as a last resort, legal action.

The first step in resolving disputes is typically through direct negotiation or mediation. If unresolved, it may involve arbitration or legal proceedings.

If defects are discovered after signing but before settlement, the buyer may negotiate repairs, a price reduction, or even withdraw, depending on the contract terms and nature of the defects.

After settlement, resolving such issues can be more challenging and might involve legal action if the seller did not disclose known defects.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial advice. Readers are advised to consult with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions. We do not assume any liability for actions taken based on the information provided.