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How conveyancing works

By George Hadgelias

After countless inspections, you finally find your dream home. It’s close to your children’s school, comes with a dreamy backyard, and is well within your budget.   

Now comes the paperwork.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the process of transferring ownership of a legal title of land (property) from one person, or entity, to another.

A typical conveyancing transaction consists of three stages:

  • pre-contract
  • pre-completion
  • post-completion

Fill out all the forms yourself and you could save hundreds of dollars on fees. But ensuring all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed is no easy task. And if something goes wrong, you run the risk of forfeiting your 10 per cent deposit.

That’s why it’s widely recommended you enlist the expertise of a conveyancer to oversee the legal transfer of your property. Should they make a mistake, you’ll be covered by their professional indemnity insurance.

What is a conveyancer?

A conveyancer is a licensed professional who specialises in providing advice and information about the sale of a property.

Conveyancers don’t necessarily have to be solicitors but they often undertake this work.

It’s recommended that you engage a conveyancer whenever you are:

  • buying or selling a property
  • subdividing land
  • updating a title (i.e. registering a death)
  • registering, changing or removing an easement

What does a conveyancer do?

A conveyancer oversees the settlement process.

For the buyer, a conveyancer will:

  • Prepare, clarify and lodge legal documents – e.g. contract of sale and memorandum of transfer
  • Research the property and its certificate of title – check for easements, type of title and any other information that needs addressing
  • Put the deposit money in a trust account
  • Calculate the adjustment of rates and taxes
  • Settle the property – act on your behalf, advise when the property is settled, contact your bank or financial institution when final payments are being made
  • Represent your interest with a vendor or their agent

For the seller, a conveyancer will:

  • Complete legal documents
  • Represent you in dealings with the buyer – e.g. request to extend dates, ask title questions etc.
  • How do I find a conveyancer?

    Just as you would interview prospective real estate agents, you should sit down and talk to multiple conveyancers before selecting one to oversee your settlement process.

    A good place to start is by asking your friends and family if they can recommend a good conveyancer. If nothing comes from this, do some online research and ask for recommendations from your real estate agent, accountant and lawyer.

    Once you have a list of prospective conveyancers, give them a call and ask a few questions (see below) to find one that meets your needs. Some conveyancers specialise in different types of real estate, which should help narrow your search.

    When you think you’ve found a suitable conveyancer, run a background check to ensure they are legally allowed to carry out the work and have had no complaints made against them.

    Questions to ask potential conveyancers:

    • Are you a member of the Australian Institute of Conveyancers?
    • What types of property do you specialise in?
    • How much will it cost? What are your fees and charges? What will I have to pay at settlement? What other costs are there?
    • How will you communicate with me and how often?
    • How long will everything take on settlement day? (This is important if you are arranging movers and other parties)
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