Top things to look for when buying off-the-plan

The information available for an off-the-plan property very much depends on the stage at which you buy. There are pros and cons to each stage: early purchasers could be allowed to make changes to design elements and even the layout, whereas buyers who are late to the game might have the opportunity to see  a display home or even a completed apartment before making their decision.  No matter the project you are considering, here are some key things to look for when buying your new home.


When you are looking at a floorplan, some people find it very difficult to visualise how big a room will actually be. Measure your existing rooms and compare them to the figures from the plans. That way there won’t be any surprises when your new apartment or house is ready.


For people who enjoy cooking and entertaining, kitchens are the heart of the home. If you are a budding chef or love entertaining having a ‘U’ shaped kitchen or a kitchen island is essential. Some apartments have a single sink and small oven; if you cook regularly, look for designs with a larger oven and two sinks. If you aren’t a cook opt for a bench style kitchen which will maximise your living space.

Artist's Impression of a Curlean Kitchen

Artist’s Impression of a Curlean Kitchen

Make sure the plans have practical and efficient storage such as pantries, big cupboards and deep drawers. Also make sure that there are plug sockets in logical places for your mixer, toaster, coffee machine etc. Most appliances in new homes are good quality, but check which brands are included and the length of the warranty periods.


The best bathroom layouts and position within the property will vary depending on the size and intended use of the house or apartment. In an apartment – do you need two bathrooms, or would one bathroom and an extra toilet be sufficient to save more space for your living area? In a house – do you want the ensuite bathroom to have dual doors making it usable for other members of the household? How much storage is there? Do you want a bath? Should you get dual sinks?

These are all important questions to ask yourself. In terms of floor plans, using the bathrooms as a way to separate the bedrooms is a great design feature if the bedrooms sit side by side.

Lounge room

Whether you have an open plan kitchen/lounge room or they are two separate rooms, the design can truly make or break the space. It is important, particularly in Queensland, to integrate the living area with outdoor decks or balconies. Pay attention to details, such as how wide the doors to the balcony open and what the flooring will be like both inside and outside. Some properties have seamless integration between the two so that when the sliding doors are open it feels like one space. Inside the living space, it is important to have TV antenna ports, internet ports and power points in the right spot so that you don’t have cables running all over the room.

There are two things that make a living space enjoyable: the first is plenty of natural light and the second is ceiling height.


First look at the bedroom sizes – will the dimensions, position of the built-in robes, and location of the power points allow you to use the room as intended? Make sure there will be enough built-in storage, this will save first-time buyers money on furniture and save apartment buyers space. What is this property for? For rental properties, ideal floor plans will have the bedrooms at either end of the house/apartment. For families, you want your bedrooms grouped together and separated from the rest of the property so that your children can go to bed and you can still use the living area. Have a look at the position of the doors and windows – what view will you wake up to? Is there any natural light? What size bed can you comfortably fit in there?


Laundries may be out of sight but they form an essential function in every household. A laundry must above all else be functional – what size washing machine and dryer can you fit in there? Will there be space to hang clothes? Can the ironing board stay out?


Look at the number of spaces you will get with your apartment or the size of the garage and driveway for houses. Is there any visitor parking? What is the street parking situation? How busy is the road? Will it be easy to get in and out? For both apartments and houses check if the spaces are side by side or one behind the other; side by side is obviously much more functional for two people using two cars, but if you have a boat or caravan one behind the other will be preferable. Is your carpark or driveway secured with a gate? The ability to add a storage cage in your apartment carpark whilst keeping it functional is also highly desirable.

Privacy and security

Apartment buildings have to have solid security as this as a major benefit of apartment living. Security features to look out for are key fob entry and security cameras in common areas. Privacy screens are also important to have, particularly for inner-city apartments in close proximity to other buildings. Moveable screens are best so that you can position them according to how you set up your balcony space. For houses – what is the fencing like? Will there be security lighting, security cameras or burglar alarms?

If security is a big concern for you, opt for a building with an onsite manager.

Outdoor areas

Outdoor living is a key part of Queensland life. As such, it is important for property design to accommodate this. Are there power points and a gas outlet in the plans? This makes outdoor entertaining much easier – whether you have a one-bedroom apartment or a four-bedroom house. How big is the area? Is it protected from the sun or rain? A great design feature on some new builds is a balcony or deck that can be closed off to essentially become another indoor space.

Waters Edge Kitchen and Living

Waters Edge balcony

Climate control

Brisbane is a warm and humid place so climate control is important. Which way does the property face – will the sun come in through the windows in the morning? Will the positioning of the doors and windows allow for adequate cross-breeze and ventilation? With the ever-increasing electricity costs, a design that facilitates good natural airflow is important. Are there ceiling fans and/or air-conditioning? Is the air-conditioning split system or ducted? For split systems have a look at where they plan to put the condenser unit – some developers put them on your balcony which can take up space, make a lot of noise, and be unsightly.


City living is going to come with some noise, that is unavoidable. Noise reduction is achieved through building insulation, thicker windows, and good architectural design which funnels acoustics through the building. The noise reduction builders have to include by law is minimal so make sure you check the plans for your property before buying; especially if you are close to roads, train lines or buying an apartment on a lower level.

Look and feel

The design options, colour palettes, tiles, flooring, taps, and light fittings are all styling elements you should ask about. Look and feel doesn’t just apply to inside your apartment either – what will the outside of the building, the communal areas, entranceway, hallway
and lift look like? Once you have moved in you will be stuck with it, so make sure you know what you are getting.

Written: 19 June 2018, Updated: 22 January 2020

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