Now that contracts are exchanged, can I start renovating?

Gaining access to your recently purchased property to commence renovations can provide you with an opportunity to save time before moving into your new home or alternatively, reduce any time your new investment property remains vacant. However, there are inherent risks involved and the potential benefit can be outweighed in the event that there are complications with the settlement.


The ownership of the property does not actually change hands until settlement (also referred to as completion).  But if you want to gain access beforehand to paint, lay new carpet, or even upgrade the toilet, you must first negotiate with the vendor or their representative.

The vendor is under no obligation to provide access to the purchaser prior to settlement. The vendor’s only obligation under the Contract for the Sale and Purchase of Land (clause 12.3 of the 2014 edition) is to do everything reasonable to enable you to make one (1) inspection of the property in the three (3) days before a time appointed for completion (subject of course to the rights of any tenant who may be living in the property).

Whilst a vendor may allow access to take measurements, it is unlikely that the vendor will consent to allow the purchaser access between exchange and completion to undertake significant renovations as the vendor remains responsible for the property and its insurance during this period.  There are also other considerations which will have an effect on the vendor’s decision such as:

  • whether there is a tenant in the property,
  • whether the vendor is currently occupying the property and
  • whether the vendor is unwilling to take on the risk that the purchaser may not be able to complete the transaction after undertaking the renovations.

In the event that a vendor does allow access, the terms of such access should be determined prior to undertaking any work. The purchaser must ensure any appropriate building or planning permits are in place before commencing any work. This is especially relevant where substantial work is being undertaken.  Also the purchaser should ensure that adequate insurance is in place before commencing any works.

As a purchaser it is crucial that an agreement is in place as you are taking on risk that the time and money spent on improving this property prior to settlement will be wasted in the event that the sale does not proceed.

Whilst getting a head start on your renovations upon purchasing your new home seems like a great idea, the potential downside of investing time and money and energy into improving what is essentially someone else’s property (up until settlement) is significant.

There are alternatives which we can explore including:

  1. Negotiating with the vendor for a shorter settlement period to get you into your new property sooner; or
  2. Negotiating for you to take possession prior to completion (which usually involves paying a token rent or licence fee to the vendor) – although if you want to renovate during this time, you will still need to negotiate this with the vendor.

Contact Andrew Morris, Solicitor, on 9524 3444 if you have any questions about buying or selling property.


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