Why you should ask a lawyer to look over a contract of sale before you sign

It is always preferable to prevent problems, rather than try to fix them after the event.

Here are some examples of some problems I’ve come across that could have been avoided by a thorough review of the contract and discussion with a solicitor prior to buyers signing the contract to purchase a property:

  • What goods come and what goods go?Man Signing Contract
    It is critical for buyers to have any agreements about goods written and recorded in the purchase contract.
    An oral agreement with the real estate agent may not be enough to protect your interests.
  • Get in touch with a solicitor before signing the contract so your solicitor can draft a special condition to protect your rights.
  • A warehouse loft conversion?
    While it can be a savvy move to buy and convert commercial properties to residential housing, you need to make sure you are on the same page as the council, as some zones don’t allow new residential use.
    If you aren’t sure about the particular zoning of a property and what it can be used for, your solicitor can help you make an informed decision.
  • Early access to the property?
    Some vendors will allow purchasers early access if they sign a licence agreement (and pay a weekly amount equivalent to paying rent).
    However, if early access provisions are not specifically written in the sales contract, a right to early access cannot be assumed.
  • What’s down the road?
    A vendor’s statement includes information about any approved proposals affecting the land, including any plans by VicRoads for the area.
    A quiet urban fringe block may not be so serene once there is a freeway next door.
    A comprehensive contract review ensures there are no nasty surprises down the road for your property.
  • Complicated covenants?
    There are many kinds of encumbrances that can feature on a certificate of title that appear relatively harmless, but can delay settlement on a property, result in extra fees and cause a lot of stress.sign_contract
    These include covenants, easements and caveats over properties.
    If your lawyer has the opportunity to read and identify these potential problems before you sign, she can either fix the problem before you sign or advise you on likely outcomes.
  • Subdivision registration time frames?
    A real estate agent may assure you that a plan of subdivision is on the cusp of registration but the contract may actually allow the vendor a significant period of time before a purchaser has any rights in this respect.
    Don’t rely on verbal representations about this – ask your lawyer to confirm where you stand before you sign.


Want more of this type of information?

Mira Stammers


Mira is a solicitor and CEO of Legally Yours, has been working as a lawyer since 2007 in both Melbourne and London, and founded Legally Yours with the aim of make the law more accessible and affordable for all Australians. Visit Legally Yours.

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