In New South Wales, the risk of the property passes at settlement. However, the practice is still, once it’s signed, as a matter of prudence, you should take out your own insurance for a number of reasons. You don’t know that the seller has got their insurance up to date. They may cancel the insurance on signing. If something happens during the time between when you sign or exchange and settlement, you want some coverage. In Western Australia, you need to take out insurance on settlement, and in Queensland, it becomes necessary on contract date.
If you let your solicitor know as many details of the property as you can, they know what to concentrate on. Your solicitor will do the typical ones of just checking that what is described is what you’re actually getting. They will do title searches to ensure that the property does indeed belong to the person selling it. They will do checks on the seller to make sure that they are not bankrupt or in liquidation if it’s a company for all sorts of reasons. They will check for contamination. If it’s a site where it was previously a service station or something like that, they will check that there are no remedial works to be done that attach to the land.
The searches that are done depend on the interaction between the lawyer and their client to try and understand what is being bought. This drives the search inquiries.
Quite often it’s a good idea to get a boundary search done. This is where the surveyors come out to the property to find out where the actual boundaries are, particularly now in some of the newer estates. Recently, there was a case where the whole street was built a meter out. All the houses were built meter into the adjoining properties. The boundaries actually ran a metre into all of the houses. They all agreed to just move all the boundaries, but, the guy at the end got a bit of a bonus and the guy at the other end got a bit taken off.
There was also a case on Magnetic Island where the house was built on the wrong block. These things do happen. They may be the exception to the rule, but you don’t want to be that exception.