Buying or selling a property is an exciting venture, but it can also be a financial and legal battlefield. That's why it's important to have a competent and trustworthy team of professionals around to help.

One of the most important members of that team will likely be a conveyancer or solicitor - they're the ones in charge of ensuring all the financial, administrative, and legal pieces converge to become a successful property transaction. Some of their responsibilities include:

  1. Preparing documents needed to transfer ownership of a property

  2. Making sure there are no legal issues related to the transaction or a property's title

  3. Ensuring the sale is finalised, with the buyer walking away with their new home and the seller with the monies promised

And it's not only in property transactions that the help of a conveyancer can be useful.

They can also help to iron out the intricacies of subdivisions, changes to easements, and the updating of property titles.

But what is a conveyancer? What is a solicitor? Do you need both? Is one better than the other?

All these are reasonable questions, especially for a homebuyer already fatigued from filling out dozens of forms and making some major decisions - both tough and exciting ones.

We've created this guide to explain, in simple terms, what conveyancers and solicitors do, how they differ, and how to know if you're in need of one over the other.

What is a conveyancer?

The ultimate job of a conveyancer is to ensure a property's transaction is settled.

Conveyancers are licensed professionals who specialise in property transfers. That means making sure all necessary legal documentation is completed correctly, the financial side of the purchase comes together smoothly, and nothing else stands in the way of a happy sale.

They can prepare and review legal documents such as contracts of sale and memorandums of transfer.

That might even mean liaising with local councils to ensure a property is zoned correctly and with a buyer's bank to make sure the funds will be available on the day keys are exchanged.

On top of that, they will look out for any zoning or permitting issues. That means checking whether additions like sheds or extensions are permitted or if they might need knocking down.

All in all, the conveyancer's role is to uncover and scorch any loose threads in a transaction and let a buyer know if anything smells fishy, potentially saving them thousands of dollars and plenty of heartache.

What is a solicitor?

Confusingly, a solicitor is actually a conveyancer - one who is also a fully fledged lawyer.

Think of conveyancing as a task and a solicitor as a person with a law degree who offers conveyancing as a service. A solicitor can do conveyancing, but a conveyancer (without a legal background) cannot be a solicitor.

Because of said backgrounds, solicitors can typically give more detailed legal advice than a bare-bones conveyancer can.

Solicitors, for instance, can help you with advice on issues such as tax implications and can connect you to relevant professionals.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they also typically charge more for their services. Many even charge customers on an hourly basis, while conveyancers tend to charge per job.

In some states and territories, such as Queensland and the ACT, conveyancing in a property transaction must be done by a solicitor. Thus, all conveyancers operating in QLD and the ACT are actually solicitors, or at least supervised by one.

Which should you choose: Conveyancer vs solicitor?

If your property transaction is particularly complex, or you need extra legal advice during it, it might be in your best interest to employ a solicitor over a conveyancer. For instance, you might have tax concerns regarding your purchase or other interests that need to be considered by a legal professional.

On the other hand, if you're watching your bottom line and are confident your purchase won't bring about additional hiccups, a conveyancer will likely be your best bet. Conveyancers generally charge less for their services than solicitors do, largely due to the latter's legal background.

We've broken down the pros and cons of conveyancers and solicitors in the table below:



Services offered

Coordinate transaction details ensuring a smooth transfer of property ownership

Prepare and review of legal documents

Liaise with councils and banks if needed

Offers all conveyancing services

Can provide additional legal advice

Handling of complex legal issues


Generally charges a flat fee

More cost-effective for straightforward transactions

May charge an hourly rate or a flat fee

Typically more expensive due to broader legal expertise

Legal expertise

Specialised in property law

Licensed for property transactions only

Fully qualified lawyer

Can offer comprehensive legal advice on property law and tax implications, for instance

Best used for

Straightforward property transactions

Standard buying or selling without additional complexities

Complex property transactions

Legal complexities or disputes

States requiring solicitors for conveyancing

If you're extremely confident in your abilities and particularly worried about costs, most states and territories allow a person to do their own conveyancing. However, as we'll get into below, doing your own conveyancing can be extremely risky and the potential reward simply might not be worth it.

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Can you DIY your conveyancing?

If neither professional sounds like a good fit for your home buying journey, you might consider doing your own conveyancing.

Beware, however, that property transactions are notoriously complex and a mistake could delay your purchase or even see the whole thing forfeited, potentially along with any deposit paid.

Not to mention, in some states all conveyancing has to be done by a professional.

If that doesn't worry you, or you're willing to take the risk in order to save money, DIY conveyancing kits can be purchased for a fraction of the price of a professional's help.

If it goes wrong, though, you might be the one to bear the brunt. Conveyancers and solicitors will, for the most part, be insured against any potential mistakes they might make. You mightn't have that luxury.

How do you find good a solicitor or conveyancer?

Just as you would do when looking for real estate agents or properties to purchase, you might want to approach multiple people before you hire a solicitor or conveyancer.

These are some of the people who will guide you through what is probably one of the most important transactions of your life, after all. You want to make sure you can trust their judgement.

Referrals are also one of the ways you can find the right professional for you.

Asking a friend who recently purchased or sold a property whether they know someone who can help you with your transaction could prove worthwhile. You could also try looking at online services and property forums.

The most important thing is to look for someone who you trust and feel comfortable working with, and who can make your journey into or out of the market as smooth as possible.

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash