What does a conveyancer do in Australia?

A complete guide to conveyancing and why you need it.

Home Ownership
Erin Howell

If you’re considering buying a home, you’ll likely come across a conveyancer. We’re here to explain what they do and why you will need their services when buying or selling a property.

First off, let’s start out with a definition: a conveyancer is someone who specialises in transferring ownership of real estate property between buyers and sellers. They ensure that all legal requirements are met during the transaction process, while also making sure that both parties are protected throughout the process.

When it comes time to buy or sell your home, you will want someone who has experience handling these types of transactions so that everything goes smoothly—and so that no one gets hurt financially along the way!

This guide will explain, in detail, everything you need to know about conveyancing when buying a home. So whether you are looking for what a conveyancer is, what the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer is, what you can expect from them or the costs involved - you're in the right place.

So, what is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the process of transferring the legal ownership of the land to the new owner. The process of conveyancing needs to go through land title offices and formal procedures to change ownership. A conveyancer is a person who undertakes the legal work involved in a purchase and makes sure these checks and obligations are met.

Your conveyancer or solicitor can help initiate and undertake the conveyancing process. They make sure you tick all of the boxes in the purchasing process. Contracts of sale and the legal jargon involved with purchasing a home can be challenging to understand, especially if it is your first purchase. We have broken down some of these terms in our 'Ultimate 60 Terms To Know When Buying Your First Home.

When you sign a contract of sale to purchase a house, that kicks off the beginning of the process. Many legal and operational considerations need to be looked at, and checks, like title searches, should be undertaken before the sale is finalised, otherwise known as "settlement".

What is a conveyancer?

The role of a conveyancer is to ensure that the certificate of title is transferred from a seller to the purchaser. They oversee the entire legal process. They will also advise the vendor or purchaser of any legal issues along the way relating to the purchase.

A seller and a buyer will have a conveyancer. Their job is to communicate and take care of the process once the sale has been agreed. Including negotiating contract terms, facilitating settlement and ensuring funds have been settled concerning the purchase.

A conveyancer undertakes property transactions daily and knows what to look for in contracts and how to structure legal negotiations. It is essential to engage a professional in this process because without someone who has extensive knowledge of the industry to guide you, it can be complicated to navigate your rights and obligations when you come across issues with the purchase. DIY conveyancing can end up being a painful process, but also one which can take up significant amounts of time and carries a considerable risk if things aren't completed correctly.

What does a conveyancer help with?

As mentioned, your conveyancer will help with all the paperwork and legal obligations involved with your purchase or sale.

If you are purchasing with someone, your conveyancer will also help with the legal structures of this process, like the set-up of a 'tenants in common or 'joint tenants' relationship. They can also set up your home as an investment or a self-managed super fund.

You will need a conveyancer during the selling process too. They will facilitate the transfer of property, transfer of ownership, property settlement and mortgage discharge from your lender.

A conveyancer will help with the Contract of Sale Preparation if you are selling.

  • Prepare and lodge all the legal documents needed for the sale, including drafting the contract of sale.
  • They will help facilitate the discharge of the mortgage with your bank or financial institution.
  • Organise the release of the deposit to you from the purchaser
  • Secure title documents from you to allow for the transfer of the home to the buyer
  • Handle all contract negotiations, delays and extension requests. They advise on all communications with the buyer within the purchase timeframe.

A conveyancer will help with the Contract of Sale Review if you buy.

  • Review, prepare, negotiate and lodge all the legal documents, such as the contract of sale and the Transfer of Land documents.
  • Research and advise on property titles; check for any third-party rights to enter or use the land, such as easements that affect the block of land or upcoming developments with the local council.
  • Help you understand exactly what you're purchasing and the terms in which you are doing so. They will support you in completing all your checks within the cooling-off period.
  • Hold funds on your behalf in their trust account and disburse trust funds according to your instructions, for example, the settlement process.
  • Deal with the vendor and real estate agent on your behalf, including negotiations concerning the contract (not negotiations on purchase price)
  • Deal with your bank or financial institution and coordinate payments at settlement and ensure this happens on time (they will not negotiate with your lender on interest rates or help you get the loan)
  • Support with the payment or waivers of stamp duty fees

How do I find a conveyancer?

It is vital to ensure that you are engaging a licensed conveyancer.

The conveyancing laws and processes will differ from state to state. For example, Sydney and Queensland and Victoria have different laws concerning purchases, so OwnHome has a state-based professional conveyancer to ensure we have the most accurate and up-to-date legal advice.

The Australian Institute of Conveyancers NSW Division provides a free tool so consumers can find a conveyancing business in the locality that suits their needs. You can search for a conveyancer on their website. The Victoria division also has a search tool to find a conveyancer.

How much does a conveyancer cost?

Conveyancing fees can depend on the complexity of the sale or purchase as well as the provider you choose to go with. It is crucial that you find a good conveyancer and one that is well-trusted to ensure the process of purchasing your home goes smoothly.

A conveyancer typically costs $1000-$2000 when purchasing a home. 

There are now digital providers of the conveyancing process alongside more traditional conveyancing services.

Other costs come up within the conveyancing process that aren't fees paid to the conveyancer but ones owed to the seller. This is called the statement of adjustments. For example, these can include:

  • Pro-rated council rates for the period of the quarter that you own the home
  • Pro-rated strata levies (if applicable)
  • Disbursements

These typically add up to a few thousand dollars extra at the time of settlement.

Check out our summary of the expected costs that can come up when buying a home, including the cost of deposits in Australia.

Arranging and attending settlement

Settlement used to be a physical event at a court, but nowadays, it is done digitally. 

Settlement is the process of paying the remaining sale price of the home and becoming the legal owner. Generally, in NSW, this occurs around six weeks after contracts are exchanged, but this will depend on the negotiations with the vendor.

Settlement is attended by the conveyancer of both parties and lenders. Your conveyancer will inform you about the time and day of settlement shortly after the purchase.

At the time of settlement, your lender will distribute the remaining balance of funds for your home loan to the real estate or conveyancers trust account. This is the purchase price of the property, less any deposits paid. Once this occurs, it is paid to the owner's account.

At this point, once funds have been settled, you will receive the keys to your new home!

At OwnHome, we help all customers navigate home purchases and get onto the property ladder, without needing hundreds of thousands up front in deposit savings. We support on all of the legal obligations and help guide you to home ownership. If you’re considering buying a home and would like to learn more about rent-to-own, you can use the buying power calculator online.

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