A Guide to Property Conveyancing

Picture this – after numerous property inspections, you’ve finally found your dream home. It’s close to shops, public transport, and your workplace! You’ve made an offer on the property and the seller has accepted. So, what now? The next step of purchasing a property calls for conveyancing. This is the stage of the home buying process where financial, administrative, and legal works converge.


Let's talk conveyancing


Conveyancing is the process of transferring the legal title of land to a new owner. This may be used when buying and selling property, subdividing land, updating a title, or when dealing with easement. The process involves:

  • Preparing and reviewing legal documents such as a contract of sale or memorandum of transfer.

  • Researching the property and carrying out searches to check for easements, encumbrances or any other relevant information.

  • Making enquiries regarding zoning and titles.

  • Calculating shortfall funds and organising the transfer or funds to trust or offset accounts for settlement.

  • Calculating adjustments in council rates and taxes, body corporate fees, water etc.

  • Settling properties on behalf of buyers/sellers and liaising with banks and financial institutions when final payments are being made.



Who does it?


While buyers and sellers can undergo the conveyancing process themselves (in some states/territories), it is recommended to use a Conveyancer or Solicitor instead, as they can provide legal assistance, and help overcome any complexities in the process. Conveyancers are licensed professionals that specialise in property transfers. Alternatively, Solicitors are practicing lawyers and are conveyancers by default – a conveyancer cannot be a solicitor, but a solicitor can be a conveyancer.



Conveyancers vs. Solicitors


Both do the same baseline of work like reviewing legal documents, checking contracts of sale, assessing tax involved in the purchase and ensuring payments are made by the settlement date. Solicitors tend be higher-priced, but on top of these duties, are more acquainted with the law and can offer legal advice to clients outside of conveyancing. For instance, if a buyer was undergoing a divorce during the transaction, a solicitor can also handle the matrimonial break down. Alternatively, the role of a Conveyancer in the home buying process is more transactional and straightforward. Since they only specialise in this area, they cannot provide legal assistance or advice in other areas like the property transaction itself.


Ultimately, your choice of a Conveyancer or Solicitor comes down to factors like personal preference, financial situation, and purchasing circumstances. For example, a first home buyer is tight on a budget and looking to purchase a $250,000 apartment. Since the property is ‘low-value,’ and the transaction does not involve any complexity, a conveyancer will likely be suitable for this scenario. Alternatively, if a transaction is decorated with complexities like purchasing off-the-plan, or if a higher-value property purchase (which has more risks) is involved, using a solicitor may be more appropriate. At the same time, a Solicitor could be useful for first home buyers that want to ask questions and strengthen their understanding of the conveyancing process. Furthermore, they would be useful for reviewing documents such as a body corporate disclosure.



Exceptions


Licensed Conveyancers and Solicitors are available in most states/territories except for QLD and the ACT. In 2010, the QLD Government decided not to licence conveyancers and restrict licensed conveyancers from other jurisdictions to operate in the state. While these professionals exist in QLD, they must be employed by a law firm and supervised by a licensed Solicitor. As such, it is important to consider personal and situational factors, and seek out a law firm that best meets your needs. There are a range of firms that use conveyancing differently. Some firms may be comprised of one solicitor that supervises a large team of Conveyancers, meaning you will likely only deal with a Conveyancer. Other firms may offer Paralegals that practice conveyancing, where there is lower legal experience but high property experience. In these circumstances, you may potentially pay higher fees without the advice of a Solicitor. Alternatively, you can choose to deal with firms where you can work one-on-one with Solicitors throughout the whole process.



So what?


Overall, conveyancing is an extremely important process, and selecting who you use during this stage is no small decision. Not only should you consider cost, property value & transaction complexity, but also the current and potential future legal matters surrounding the property transaction.


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