Thinking About Buying A Property?

There’s lots to think about when buying a house – mortgages, hidden costs, ongoing costs and what even is conveyancing?

What does it all mean?

When buying a house, the person selling the house is the vendor and you are the purchaser.

The actual paperwork for the transaction of buying a house is called conveyancing – where the title of the property (the legal way of saying the ownership of the property) is conveyed to another person on the day of settlement.

The title is often referred to as the Certificate of Title – this is also a record of who has owned the land in the past, and who they sold it on to.

Conveyancing is a specific branch of law, and you’ll find that some legal firms specialise in conveyancing.

If you borrow money from a bank or financial institution to purchase a property, the loan they give you is called a mortgage. 

When you buy a property, you’ll have to pay a percentage of the purchase price up front – this is called a deposit. If you are taking out a mortgage, the bank or financial institution will want you to have your deposit already in savings – it’s very rare that the deposit is included in the amount of your mortgage.

Making an Offer

If you are thinking seriously about making an offer to buy a house, then you’ve probably already thought about how much money you are able to afford to spend – if you are borrowing the money, double check with your lender how much you are able to borrow before you make an offer.

If you are a looking to purchase a house (or property) for the first time, then you may be eligible for government support through a  first home-owners grant – check this website to see how to apply with your state government.

Check out more information about making an offer to buy a property.

Hidden Costs

Before you make that offer, make sure you’ve thought about all the other extra expenses it takes to purchase a house.

  • There’ll be a tax associated with buying a property – each state or territory government determines how much you’ll need to pay as Stamp Duty or Transfer Duty.
  • Your bank or financial institution will charge you an amount for a loan application fee, or a loan establishment fee.  Sometimes they’ll have special deals where they’ll waive the fees – check to see what they can do for you.
  • As a condition of the mortgage, your lender may insist that you have mortgage insurance (also called mortgage guarantee or home-loan insurance), which is insurance that you will pay the mortgage back. Check with your lender if it’s required, and how much it is going to cost.
  • You’ll need to pay for conveyancing – some legal firms only do conveyancing and will generally advertise a fixed cost price, but most general legal firms can also assist you with conveyancing, and will be able to give you an estimate of how much it will cost. Whoever you use, make sure to ask for an estimate beforehand so you know how much it will end up costing you.
  • You’ll probably want to get the property looked at by a building inspector to make sure that you are not buying a house with structural faults or problems – generally, there’ll be a condition to the offer you’ve made that the house will pass a building inspection, so have an idea how much that inspection will cost before making your offer – if the property doesn’t pass inspection and you withdraw your offer, you’ll still have to pay the building inspector.
  • This may seem obvious, but think about how much money you’ll need to set aside to move to your new house, and how much you will need to spend in repairs or maintenance when you move, or before you move in.

Ongoing Costs

There are ongoing expenses associated with owning your own house that you should consider.

  • You may have to pay strata levy fees if your property is in a complex or block of apartments.  Generally these fees don’t vary much from year to year, so you’ll be able to find out how much you’ll have to pay before you make your offer.
  • Strongly consider taking out home and contents insurance on your property so that you are covered if something happens – some lenders make it a condition of your mortgage that you have insurance cover on the building.
  • Unless you are buying a property completely off the grid, most likely you’ll have utility costs like water, electricity and gas bills – make sure you have an idea of how much to budget for.
  • Prepare to put aside some money for those just-in-case things and maintenance costs – your hot water cylinder may stop working, or your roof may start leaking.
  • You’ll have to pay local authority rates – these generally do not vary much year to year, so you should be able to find out how much you will be charged each year.
  • If you buy a property that will not be your primary residence (it is not where you live all the time), you may have to pay Land Tax to your state or territory government (the Northern Territory does not collect land tax). Check out information about land tax in your state or territory.

The Moneysmart website is packed with more information, or check below to see info relevant to your state or territory.

Differences between states

Northern Territory

The NT Department of Housing website contains fact sheets and general information about buying a home.


See the ACT Law Society information on buying a house.

Information about stamp duty payable is available from the ACT Revenue Office.

The Office of Regulatory Services has a book called Reality Check – a real estate guide for buyers and sellers in the ACT.

Western Australia

The Department of Commerce produces a useful document called the ‘Home Buyers Survival Guide for WA’.


For more information, check out A Guide to the Cost of Home Purchase.


Buying a home is a big financial decision and you should take the time to do your research and work out all the pros and cons of home ownership.

For more information about buying a house check out the following websites:

South Australia

Comprehensive information about buying or selling a home and the impact of the new real estate laws is available on the South Australia Consumer and Business Services website, or you can phone Consumer and Business Services on 08 8204 9516 to request a copy of the publication “It’s About The House”.