How Property Conveyancing Works
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The process of buying a property can be quite confusing. There are a lot of steps involved, many boxes to tick, and an inordinate amount of paperwork to complete. And one of the biggest sources of all this administration is conveyancing.
Here we look at what conveyancing involves, the professional support you may require, and how much it can cost.
What Is Conveyancing?
Put simply, conveyancing is the transfer of land ownership between people. It is a legal process that formalizes the purchase of a property and updates its ownership arrangements.
This is done in accordance with the terms set out in the sales contract. These define the rights and obligations of both the buyer and seller throughout the transfer process. Conveyancing is effectively ensuring that these conditions have been honored and all the conditions have been met.
The exact conveyancing process differs a little from State to State. While the basic steps are the same, some of the details – like the fees and timelines – change. For simplicity, here we’re going to focus on what conveyancing involves in Queensland.
Do I Need a Conveyancer or a Conveyancing Lawyer?
While it is possible to do your own conveyancing, it is an extremely complicated and time-consuming process. You also need to know exactly what you are doing as any mistakes could leave you open to legal action. As such, unless you are a property law expert, doing your own conveyancing is not recommended.
Instead, you should look to engage a conveyancing professional. In Queensland, to make sure everything is done correctly, all paid conveyancing work must be done by a law firm. However, the person you engage does not necessarily need to be a lawyer.
There are actually two groups of people who are allowed to carry out conveyancing work – licensed conveyancers and conveyancing lawyers.
A licensed conveyancer is someone who is not a lawyer but is qualified to execute property transactions. As part of this, they have to complete a one-year Diploma, then a further year of supervised training. This allows them to complete and lodge documents, run title and zoning searches, and prepare settlement papers.
A conveyancing lawyer is a fully qualified legal professional that specializes in property law. They have to have a bachelor’s degree (at least) in Law and be registered to practice. This allows them to provide advice on any legal issues related to a property purchase.
From a buyer’s perspective, the main differences between these two options are experience and cost. As conveyancers have fewer formal qualifications and can only provide limited support, their services are usually cheaper. However, if your property purchase is larger or more complex, the extra experience of a conveyancing lawyer could be worth the investment.
What Does a Conveyancer Actually Do?
In the broadest terms, a conveyancer’s job is to make sure the sale goes smoothly. They make sure you meet all of your legal requirements and that your legal rights are protected. As part of this, they are responsible for completing a number of administrative activities, including:
- Preparing and submitting all the necessary documents – your conveyancer will manage most of the paperwork for you… you will just need to sign on the dotted line!
- Conducting the relevant searches – in Queensland, additional information does not need to be provided in the sales contract, so your conveyancer will help organize all the necessary checks.
- Reviewing the contract of sale – your conveyancer will read over the sales contract and make you aware of any potential issues.
- Helping arrange the finances – your conveyancer will make sure your bank is prepped for settlement and calculate any additional payments required (e.g., partial repayment of council rates).
- Coordinating settlement – your conveyancer will make sure you are ready for settlement and represent you at the handover session.
- Providing any additional advice required – if you use a conveyancing lawyer, they will be able to advise on everything from estate planning to potential tax implications.
As a buyer, when should I engage a conveyancer?
To get the greatest benefit from their service, it is usually best to choose your conveyancer as early as possible. This is particularly important if it is your first property purchase. A good conveyancer will also be able to guide you through the process and support you at each step.
Importantly, engaging your conveyancer early means they will be able to review the sale contract for any properties you are seriously considering. As part of this, they can identify any unusual terms or things you may have missed. They can also ensure that there are no other issues, like restrictive covenants or planning restrictions.
How much does conveyancing cost?
While each company will have its own fee structure, you can expect to pay $800 -$1,500 for your conveyancing. As previously mentioned, this will likely be lower if you use a licensed conveyancer and higher if you use a conveyancing lawyer. Often, the total price will be made up of a couple of different costs, like professional fees and disbursements.
Disbursements are fees incurred throughout the conveyancing process, such as the cost of conducting searches. While the total amount of these costs will vary, your conveyancer will provide a breakdown of all the expenses involved.
Other important things to note
The timeline for the conveyancing process will be outlined in the sale contract. This will detail all the key dates, like when the deposit has to be paid and the proposed settlement date. It will also include any extra conditions, like if the sale is subject to finance.
If the contract is subject to finance, there will be a due date for these arrangements to be made. If you cannot meet this date, your conveyancer can request an extension. However, it will be up to the seller to decide whether to grant the extra time.
If you are still unable to obtain finance by the new due date, the sale contract could be canceled. In this instance, you may be required to prove that you took all reasonable steps to secure finance. Failure to do so may result in a breach of contract, leading to the loss of your deposit and potential liability for damages.
On the other hand, if you secure your finance before the due date, the contract becomes unconditional. At this point, the sale is formally confirmed and must proceed to settlement.
By engaging a conveyancer, you can navigate the complexities of the conveyancing process with confidence, ensuring a smooth and legally sound property purchase.