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Another option for building is to buy a block of land and build on the land at a later date. You should be aware that choosing a block of land can affect the cost of building and the design of house that will be possible to build. Making a good choice of block will depend on a number of factors, some of which are discussed below.
When choosing a block, consider:
- the location (including your budget, distance to schools, shops, transport, and other facilities);
- access to services, such as electricity, water, gas, sewer and telephone (and the cost and time it would take to connect to these utilities);
- where the sun rises and sets and climatic conditions; and
- the plans for the area, especially if the block is part of a development.
Land features (or site conditions) can affect the price of building and the layout or design of the house that will be possible to build. Site conditions will have an impact on the cost of building as it affects the amount of preparation (or site works) required to lay the foundations for the house. Site conditions include:
- the type of soil;
- how the soil is distributed across the block;
- the height of the water table; and
- any trees or rock contained in the soil.
Some of these factors can be assessed before you build. It may be a good idea to employ an expert who can assist you (as accurately as possible) to determine whether the block you are thinking of buying will involve a lot of site works.
For a copy of the Building Commission's Site investigations fact sheet, phone 1300 489 099 or visit the Building Commission online.
Requirements of the local authority
It is crucial to talk with the local authority about:
- any special by-laws, policies or planning aspects in the area or restrictions relating to the land;
- previous recorded use of the land by industry;
- whether there are any restrictions on the title that have the effect of dictating the materials you use, the style of your house and/or the timeframe for building; or
- any plans for the area that might affect your enjoyment of the property, such as any commercial or industrial activity or road construction, which may involve noise or produce unpleasant smells.
As a rule of thumb, the Dividing Fences Act 1961 requires that owners of adjoining land pay half the cost of erecting a "sufficient fence" between their properties, regardless whether the land is vacant or has been built on.
You should discuss details about any boundary fences to be erected with the owners of adjoining land. The agreed details should be confirmed in writing and signed by all parties.
It should be noted that retaining walls forming part of a dividing fence are regulated by the relevant local authority and are not covered by the Act.
The Building Commission provides extensive information on dividing fences, including the information booklet Dividing Fences - a guide. You can also contact your local government authority for relevant local requirements.
Contract for buying land
The standard contract for buying real estate and land in Western Australia is often called an Offer and Acceptance contract.
The Offer and Acceptance contract is in two physically separate, but equally important parts:
- Contract for Sale of Land or Strata Title By Offer and Acceptance (the 'O & A Contract').
- Joint Form of General Conditions for the Sale of Land (the 'General Conditions').
The O & A Contract is produced by the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA) and the General Conditions booklet is produced by REIWA and the Law Society.
Many of the details about the O & A Contract in relation to land and a dwelling apply equally to the purchase of land only.
It is important to note that the law in Western Australia does not require that contracts for the purchase of land contain a cooling off period. If the contract does not include a cooling off period, you cannot get out of a contract to buy land because you have changed your mind.
Terms of the contract
When making an offer to buy land, you will need to consider:
- whether you will be making any deposit toward the land, the total amount you are offering to pay for the land, nominating a settlement date, and stating how you will pay for the land;
- inserting any special conditions, or your terms, on the O & A Contract; and
- the terms, or general conditions, contained in the General Conditions booklet.
These general conditions include the amount of any rates and taxes required to be paid by you or the seller in the first year, what happens if either party does not go through with the contract and what happens if settlement is delayed.
General reminder about the terms of the contract
Remember that you can protect your interests by:
- getting legal advice about the contract terms;
- crossing out any terms that do not suit you;
- adding any suitable terms (legal advice is recommended); and
- having all parties to the contract initial any changes, where agreement is reached.
You will also need to consider the tasks associated with settlement or you may consider employing a conveyancer to do this for you.
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