What Does a Conveyancer Do?

What Does a Conveyancer Do?

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The conveyancer is a licensed and qualified professional who provides advice and information on a contract to sell land, research the property and its certificate of title.

Their job is pretty important - it's essential that the paperwork is all correct so when you take possession of your new home, you have full legal ownership over it and you can use it as you like.

A guide through the legal maze of property

Your conveyancer takes care of the legal paperwork that's needed to transfer ownership of land from one person to another. They make sure that your rights are protected and all the legal requirements are met.

The conveyancer also acts on your behalf to negotiate the contract for sale with the vendor, aand takes care of transactions with State and local government like land tax and stamp duty.

As well as preparing and checking over all of the legal documentation that's need to transfer the ownership of property, a conveyancer will arrange key financial transactions, including paying stamp duty and any government taxes, and the exchange of funds on the settlement day.

Finding a Conveyancer you trust

A conveyancer plays a really crucial role in your property purchase. This means it's important that you have a conveyancer you can trust.

Ask your friends and family for a recommendation, or your mortgage broker may have a professional conveyancer they regularly work with who will have experience with your purchase type.

Each State and Territory in Australia has different laws regarding land title, fees, forms and the conveyancing process, so make sure your conveyancer holds the appropriate qualifications and has local conveyancying experience.

Will I need a lawyer?

Buying property can be a fairly straightforward transaction, but sometimes it can also become very complex.

Some solicitors handle conveyancing transactions, but a conveyancer doesn't need to be a lawyer. For most property purchases, using a specialist conveyancer is the right thing to do.

Because a conveyancer handles these transactions on a daily basis, they become experts in the local regulations, forms and process for land transfer in the area where you are purchasing.

However, if your transaction is quite complex for any reason, it might pay to seek the advice of a lawyer as well. We'll cover the circumstances where you might need solicitor during property purchase below.

When does the conveyancer start their job?

The conveyancer's role in your home purchase starts on the day that you sign the property contract, and continues until final settlement, when you get the keys to your new home.

What can I expect from my conveyancer?

Your conveyancer is a trained legal professional with a very specific role in the purchase process. You should know what to expect from your conveyancer so you know what questions to ask during the process.

Legal advice regarding the property contract

A conveyancer will confirm that the terms of the contract for the sale or purchase of the property are in your best interests.

They will also confirm the name in which you will purchase the property to make sure the title transfer proceeds to the desired result.

Land Title search

The conveyancer performs searches on land title and any strata documents to make sure the property is transferred to you free of any impediments to your complete ownership of the land and buildings.

Title searches check to make sure that no one else has any legal rights over the property that you are purchasing that could affect your use and enjoyment of the property.

Unless the vendor owns the property outright, there will usually be a mortgage registered over the property by the bank that the vendor has their home loan with.

If there is any other encumbrances registered for the property, the conveyancer will either seek to have it removed, or they will discuss with you what the encumbrance will mean if you take ownership of the property.

Land Title Office

One of the key parts of the conveyancers role is to register your purchase at the land title office at the end of the settlement process to make the property 100% yours.

The conveyancer will make sure that any existing mortgage is removed before you take title or ownership of the property, and will check for any other encumberances over the land that could affect your use of the property.

Local Government arrangements

Having someone to make all the arrangements with local goverment, including the water authority, land title office and the local council removes a lot of burden of transferring the ownership of property, and you know nothing will be missed.

Your conveyancer will find out if the property will be affected by any current or future plans or licences issued by the local government, and check the state government records for any heritage listing or effects of the environmental management register that may apply too.

Fees and Taxes

Your conveyancer will calculate and arrange payment of all the taxes, rates and fees involved in purchasing property. These include:

  • statutory and council fees
  • stamp duty
  • GST

As a guide, these fees will usually come to about 5% of your total property purchase price.

Government Grants

If you're eligible for stamp duty concessions, a first home owner's grant or other government incentives, your conveyancer will make sure these are applied to your transaction.

Negotiate contract terms

Before the final exchange of contracts, your conveyancer will review the entire contract to make sure it is fair and in your best interests. They'll negotiate with the vendor's solicitor regarding anything that can be added or changed in your favour.

Exchange of contracts

Your conveyancer arranges the exchange of contracts with the vendor on settlement day. You won't usually need to be present when this occurs.

Final Settlement

Your conveyancer does most of the work for the final settlement of your mortgage, including arranging finance approval with your lender.

The final settlement price may be adjusted to reflect each party's share of the relevant fees: land tax, strata fees, release of the existing mortgage, and rental adjustments.

Key Dates of Property Purchase:

1. Contract Date

The date of contract is the day that the parties meet and sign the contract with the agreed terms. The other key dates will be expressed in relation to this day.

2. End of Cooling Off Period

Between the signing of the contract and the end of the cooling off period, the buyer can terminate the contract if they need to with minimal consequences.

A contract can be terminated after the cooling off period, but at this stage the buyer will need to rely on breach of a term of the contract, and there's a greater risk of being charged by the vendor.

Each State has different minimum cooling off periods for private sale contracts, so be sure to find out the time frame that applies to you.

If you buy at auction there is usually no cooling off period. This means it's important to have your building inspection done before the day of bidding.

3. Finance Approval Date

If you make an offer to purchase a property 'subject to finance', the contract will contain a date by which you must advise the seller if you're finance approval has been obtained.

The lender's valuation of the property will usually be complete before this date.

4. Building and Pest Inspection

A private treaty sale is usually subject to finance, as well as satisfactory inspections. The contract contains a date by which you need to indicate whether you are satisfied with the condition of the property, so make sure you complete a building and pest inspection before then.

5. Settlement Date

This is the most exciting date of purchasing a property, because it's when you get the keys to your new home.

On this date, the conveyancer meets with the vendor and the banks to finaliase the tranfer of funds and the property title. Once this is complete, your real estate agent will contact you to arrange collection of the keys to your new home.

Do I Need a Solicitor?

The conveyancing process can be undertaken by either a solicitor or a conveyancer. Both conveyancers and solicitors will have reliable knowledge of the rules and regulations in your state or territory.

Here's some information that will help you to make an informed decision based on your personal circumstances.

The key difference between a conveyancer and a solicitor is that a conveyancer focuses solely on the process of transferring property ownership between parties, while a solicitor has the additional legal skills to navigate other matters that could arise, such as tax implications, wills, or bonds.

Use a conveyancer when:

  • the property purchase price isn't too high
  • it's your first home purchase
  • you have a fixed budget
  • the transaction is legally straightforward.

Using a conveyancer is a cost effective way to receive a highly specialised legal service.

When you choose a conveyancer, make sure that they are covered by an approved Professional Indemnity Insurance and they have the correct qualifications for your State, as well as the relevant memberships.

Use a solicitor when

  • You are purchasing a property of high value.
  • You plan to subdivide a portion of land.
  • You are buying off the plan; or
  • There are personal aspects to the transaction such as wills or divorce proceedings relating to the property purchase.

With more complex property transactions, a solicitor can help make sure all legal aspects of the transaction are addressed, saving you money and potential stress of complications.

A solicitor has a broader knowledge of Australian law beyond property transactions, and can help you ensure all the personal or commercial aspects of the purchase are in order too.

Costs for a Conveyancer

When engaging in the services of a conveyancer or solicitor, make sure that you ask for a breakdown of their fees to eliminate any hidden costs.

The conveyanacers fee will often include all of the following:

  • title search
  • valuation fees
  • registration of the mortgage
  • registration of the property transfer
  • stamp duty
  • building and pest inspection
  • levies

Make sure you are completely clear about the services that are included in the contract with your conveyancer before the property buying process begins.

If you need to find a good conveyancer, you can ask for a referral from family or friends, or use one of our tested and proven business partners. Your mortgage broker should also be able to recommend a local conveyancer.

If you have any questions about this part of the property buying process, don't hesitate to ask our mortgage brokers. They'll be able to answer your questions, or connect you with the right real estate professional.

Tom Caesar
Tom Caesar

Tom Caesar is the Managing Director of The Positive Group, a group of Australian financial services companies offering a broad range of finance to clients Australia wide. The Positive Group assist clients in the areas of car finance, mortgages, insurance & wealth management. Tom has been in car & asset finance for over 10 years. Tom regularly contributes articles on car finance, insurance, technology and business growth, drawing on his experience of starting his own brokerage in 2009.

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