You’ll typically find that the average person requires finance from a bank or lender when buying a property, especially when it comes to first home buyers.

If finance is not approved at the time the contract is signed or the purchaser is not a cash buyer, a finance condition is included in the contract as a measure to safeguard the purchaser. This condition states that the contract is ‘conditional’ on, or ‘subject to’, the purchaser being lent a specific minimum loan amount.

By having a contract of sale drawn up with a ‘subject to finance’ clause included, it enables the purchaser to withdraw from the contract if they are unable to obtain the necessary finance to purchase the property. Read on to learn more about what this condition entails or speak to one of our experienced conveyancers if you have any questions. You can also check out our tips on buying your first house.


What is ‘subject to finance’?

‘Subject to finance’ means a contract of sale is pending the approval of the purchaser’s home loan (aka finance). If the purchaser’s loan is not approved, they can back out of the sale. Obtaining finance is one of the critical first steps in buying a house.

Is pre-approval still subject to finance?

It’s important to note that pre-approval does not mean your loan has been approved. It merely means that your financial institution is likely to approve your finance after you’ve applied for a home loan. So in your contract of sale, you should still include a subject to finance clause for security.

How to tell if finance has been approved

“Has finance been approved yet?”

This is the question key parties (the purchaser, the vendor, the real estate agent, and the conveyancers) want answered when a contract for sale includes the condition of ‘subject to finance’.

For this to happen, the purchaser needs to obtain finance approval in writing, on terms and conditions acceptable to the purchaser. This could include ‘conditional’ or ‘unconditional’ approval, depending on the agent’s contract template used.

Once finance has been approved by the lending institution or bank, notification will be given in writing to the purchaser, conveyancer and agent. Once this happens, finance has “officially” been approved and the contract becomes unconditional—meaning that the purchaser can no longer rely upon the finance condition and must proceed with the purchase (subject to any other conditions being included).

Unconditional approval is then usually granted once the banks have met their standard for supporting documents (payslips, ID etc) and have conducted a valuation of the property/acceptable security, and are satisfied with it against the lending amount.

How long does ‘subject to finance’ take?

This depends on several variables such as the workload of the financial institution, the complexity of the transaction and the time it will take for them to arrange their valuation. It is best to check with your financial institution or mortgage broker so that you can apply the right time frame to the contract condition.

If a purchaser becomes aware that finance is unlikely to be approved in the ‘subject to finance’ timeframe, it may be possible for them to try and see if the vendor and/or their agent will agree in writing to an extension or variation of the finance clause.

Can finance be unconditional, but still have conditions?

One point we’d like to draw your attention to, is that when a purchaser receives a finance approval in writing, the ‘subject to finance’ condition is deemed satisfied and it doesn’t matter whether there are conditions included in the approval or not.

In other words, once ‘subject to finance’ approval has been received in writing, the purchaser will be bound by the contract and obligated to fulfil the requirements therein, notwithstanding that the lender may subsequently withdraw the approval.

South Australian real estate agents should also note that it depends on which contract template is being used for the contract:

The REISA (Real Estate Institute of South Australia) contract states that it doesn’t matter whether it’s conditional or unconditional approval (even if it includes numerous conditions) it is deemed to satisfy the condition of the contract.

The Society of Auctioneers and Appraisers contract isn’t as specific as the REISA contract and simply mentions that approval received in writing satisfies the condition. So it comes down to what conditions the purchaser is willing to accept in the approval. I believe that conditional written approval provided by the purchaser or their bank or loan broker would be taken as satisfying the finance condition.

When ‘subject to finance’ can’t be used

Some purchasers incorrectly presume that if they include a ‘subject to finance’ clause, and are then unable to obtain finance for the property purchase, that the contract is simply cancelled and that they will have the deposit they paid refunded to them.

‘Subject to finance’ clauses typically contain a special condition stating that the purchaser will use their best endeavours to apply for and do everything necessary to obtain the loan. In the event that the purchaser fails to meet this requirement, for example by not even trying to apply for a home loan, the vendor may then choose to take legal action against the purchaser. Trying to use the ‘subject to finance’ clause to get out of an unwanted purchase is not what this clause is intended to be used for.

Of course, everything discussed above only applies to sale by private treaty. When buying a property via auction, purchasers are buying the property on an unconditional basis and need to make sure they have their finance in place prior to bidding.

If you are buy-side and have any further questions about ‘subject to finance’ clauses in South Australia or you’re a vendor and need assistance with selling a property, speak to the expert conveyancers at Eckermanns. You can also take advantage of our Eckermann Assist service for any questions out of hours.

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