Conveyancing is one of the most crucial steps in the purchase and sale of a home – and just like other procedures, it entails a myriad of legal and administrative processes that require proper knowledge and sufficient attention to successfully navigate.

There are two ways to about this this task – you can either do it yourself or enlist the services of a licensed professional. If you feel, however, that you do not have the time and capability to deal with the complex work and possible issues that may arise, then taking the latter route may be a better option.

How does the conveyancing process work?

Conveyancing is defined as the branch of law concerned with the preparation and processing of documents required in the purchase or sale of a property. The steps involved vary depending on whether you are a buyer or a seller, but typically include the following:

For buyers

  • Property and land title searches
  • Arranging purchase order financing and reviewing mortgage contract
  • Deposit payment
  • Reviewing and preparation of legal documents, including the contract of sale, vendor closure, and transfer certificate
  • Working out rate and tax adjustments, stamp duty, and other financial obligations
  • Completing final checks prior to settlement
  • Exchanging the signed contract of sale and attending settlement

For sellers

  • Completion of legal documents
  • Reviewing the contract of sale
  • Checking the property’s compliance with state and local laws
  • Arranging payments of deposit and stamp duty
  • Completing final checks prior to settlement
  • Exchanging the signed contract of sale and attending settlement

What’s the difference between a conveyancer and a solicitor?

Should you choose to hire a professional, you can enlist the help of a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer. People often use the terms interchangeably, but it is important for you to be aware of the distinction.

Solicitors and conveyancers generally perform the same tasks. The difference, however, is that solicitors are legal professionals who have a deeper knowledge of the law and can guide you in transactions that require attendance in Australian courts.

One important thing to note is that the Australian Capital Territory and the state of Queensland do not recognise conveyancing licenses, so your only option if you are buying or selling a property in these locations is to hire a conveyancing solicitor.

Where does the process start?

When purchasing a property, you have to pay attention to all the legal aspects carefully. Once you decide you'd like to purchase a specific property, it's probably a good plan to consult a conveyancer. Put plainly, the conveyancing process starts even prior to the drafting of the contract with the seller.

A conveyancer will be the one to prepare and lodge all legal documents on your behalf, from the contract of sale to the memorandum of transfer.

First and foremost, the conveyancer will review the contract of sale and check the terms and conditions indicated. When you and the seller have both signed the contract, the transaction comes into a cooling-off period (and then the settlement period), giving you the time to inspect the property and finalise financing options.

During this period, the conveyancer will research the property and do background checks which include title search and certificates check. The conveyancer will also compute settlement adjustments after considering land tax, council and water rates, and other fees. He or she will also furnish the document for the Transfer of Land. It is also the conveyancer's job to lodge a caveat to ensure that your interest over the property is secured.

Before the settlement date, your conveyancer will provide you with a statement which details the amount needed to proceed with the agreement.

The conveyancer will also be in touch with your bank, making sure that they are ready to settle on the specific settlement date.

On the settlement day, the conveyancer will represent you in the exchange of transfer documents, stamp duty forms, mortgage files, and other legal documents with the vendor's representative and both parties' respective bank persons. The conveyancer will ensure the completion of all the necessary steps to get you the key to your new home.

After settlement day, the conveyancer will also submit the transfer documents to the Land Titles Office. This will officially transfer the ownership of the property to your name.

Some conveyancers also offer assistance on first home buyer grant application or stamp duty assistance. However, additional assistance might result in higher professional fees.

What are the costs associated with conveyancing?

Hiring professionals to do the work for you does not come cheap, but with the ease and peace of mind they can give you, the investment is definitely worth it.

One thing you should note is the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer. Solicitors, which are legal professionals that can practice many areas of law including conveyancing, usually charge higher professional fees than licensed settlement agents or conveyancers. Their professional fees may range from around $500 to as much as $1,000.

Aside from professional fees, conveyancers typically charge disbursements. These outgoings and incidentals cover certain processes that the conveyancer will have paid for on your behalf, and may include various searches related to title, land tax, council and water rate, and planning.

What questions should you ask a potential conveyancer?

Conveyancing is a painstaking process that requires keen attention to detail and hard work because one mistake is enough to derail your progress. Conveyancers are responsible for ensuring that the process goes as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.

But not all conveyancers are created equal and the key to finding the one who best fits your needs is to ask the right questions. Here are seven interview questions that can help you with the decision:

1. What are your qualifications?

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a conveyancer are their qualifications, which can vary from state to state. Some states require conveyancers to complete an accredited course, while others impose continuing education requirements. There is also a huge skills difference between a conveyancer with years of experience and a newly qualified one. Talking to potential candidates about their work experiences and qualifications will give you an idea about their knowledge and expertise.

Additionally, it is vital to make sure that the conveyancer you will be dealing with is registered with the Australian Institute of Conveyancers (AIC). This ensures that your conveyancer upholds certain professional and ethical standards. The AIC also has local offices in each state, which provide support and training to its members.   

2. What properties do you specialise in?

Some conveyancers specialise in handling certain types of clients or properties in specific locations. Some professionals, for instance, deal exclusively with first home buyers rather than property investors, or homes in city centres instead of regional areas. When selecting a conveyancer, it pays to check if they have relevant expertise working with clients with the same circumstances as you because this often means they are well-equipped in handling contract negotiations on your behalf.

3. How much does your service cost?

Cost is among the biggest deciding factors on your choice of a conveyancer. Knowing how much their services cost also allows to prepare for the expenses, so do not hesitate to ask this question upfront. Typically, a conveyancer can provide you with a detailed quote, which includes their professional and search fees, along with other disbursements such as administrative expenses and stamp duty charges. These professionals can also help you in applying for the different state-sponsored grants but often at an additional cost.  in Here is a breakdown of some of the fees you need to pay:

  • Conveyancer’s fee: $500 to $1,200
  • Title search: Up to $50 per search
  • Council searches and certificates: $100 to $1,000
  • Title registration and transfer: $50 to $200
  • Settlement fees: Up to $80
  • General clerical work: Up to $50

4. How long will the conveyancing process take?

Most settlements for an existing property take between one and two months after contract signing, depending on the terms and conditions. It is important to ask your conveyancer about the timeframe, so you will have an idea on how much time you need to prepare the necessary documentation and financial transactions before settlement.

5. How often will I expect to hear from you?

Like in any profession, the ability to communicate effectively is among the top soft skills one should possess to be successful. This is especially true in real estate, where poor communication can result in missing out on massive opportunities. It is advisable that you discuss with your potential conveyancer what your expectations are regarding acceptable communication. These include when they are expected to give updates and the best way for your conveyancer to reach you, be it through text messages, e-mails, or phone calls.

6. Do you have insurance coverage?

No matter how experienced a conveyancer is, you cannot discount the fact that mistakes can happen, so it is important for you to know if you are going to be covered. Accredited professionals often carry indemnity insurance to protect you in case something goes wrong, but it always pays to ask.

7. Do you offer online conveyancing services?

A growing number of conveyancing professionals are now offering their services online and for a good reason. The use of electronic conveyancing or e-conveyancing allows both you and the conveyancer to monitor transactions and share documents online, resulting in a faster and more efficient communication. This service is especially valuable in instances when face-to-face transactions are restricted.

In every property transaction, it is vital that you pick the right professionals to represent your best interests. A conveyancer plays an essential in the success of the purchase or sale of your home, so due diligence must be taken before settling on a choice. Just like when you were searching for the right real estate agent, you should consider multiple candidates before arriving a decision. The questions above can help narrow down your list and hopefully lead you to someone who you can trust and develop a good working relationship with.