Should we wait for finance approval to be obtained before opening a workspace for the transaction? If a workspace is opened and contract falls over for non-fulfilment of a special condition, is any fee still payable?
No fee will be payable if you open a workspace and then need to withdraw due to the matter not proceeding.
However, if you are in NSW, the standard 2018 contract sets out the timing obligations (irrespective of special conditions), Generally, the vendor pursuant to clause 30 creates the workspace within 7 days of the "effective date" as defined (when the parties agree it is to settle via an electronic transaction usually upon exchange).
I appreciate that this may be before or after the expiry of the 'subject to finance' clause but in NSW, clause 30 sets out when to create a workspace and timing for a purchaser to accept (or create where the vendor defaults).